LinkedIn for Financial Advisers – Part 3: Driving your Business Forwards

This is the third of 3 articles about LinkedIn, and in this one we examine how you get LinkedIn actually working for you to help drive your business forwards.

In the first article we looked at how you build up an excellent profile, to position yourself to get LinkedIn working for you. In the second, we looked at how you expand your network to build audiences to allow you leverage the real power of LinkedIn. Now we look at how you actually use the platform.

 

Don’t Sell!

The key to using LinkedIn successfully is to realise that it is not a tool for selling. If you sell, you lose! Instead LinkedIn is all about building engagement… and this engagement in turn helps you build stronger relationships, establishing you as a valued expert, which in turn can lead to significant sales opportunities.

You see, as you build influence, you actually don’t need to sell. By positioning yourself as an expert and making people aware of the breadth of your services and the quality of your opinion, your audience will automatically gravitate towards you when they have a need in your space.

 

Add Value

To build engagement, you must add value. The value that you can add is through influencing your network, through the provision of expert, valuable content. By becoming the spokesperson in your network about all topics relating to financial planning, advice and personal financial services. By becoming the go-to person when your network has any query in relation to your areas of expertise.

 

Is that it? It’s all about content?

Well actually no, there are more opportunities than that. But content does sit at the heart of adding value through LinkedIn. There are really two types of content that you need to consider and both are equally required.

First of all there is original content. This is content that you write yourself. Like this article, you might not be the first person to write about a topic, but crucially you are putting your own spin on the subject and trying to make it relevant for your particular network. As a financial adviser, you could consider writing about market changes, developments in the investment world, helping your network to make sense of legislation changes that will affect their personal finances. You can help them improve their business, solve a problem or it may be as simple as helping them improve their personal financial habits! There are endless subjects to write about. You only need to write short articles, maybe 700 – 1000 words, house the articles on your website and then share the articles out via LinkedIn.

The second type of content is curated content.  This is content that you come across on the web, written obviously by someone else that you believe your network would be interested in reading. Sharing this content can make you a valuable conduit within your network, educating them, providing them with useful information, further establishing your position of value and positioning you as the person to talk to when they have a query or issue in the financial services space.

However a word of caution; I suggest you can’t have one without the other. There are many users of LinkedIn who only share curated content and never write anything themselves. While this is obviously better than nothing, their connections will wonder – what do these people actually think themselves, are they an expert or are they only good at spotting other expert writing? As a result, while their intentions are good, these people will struggle to build up a position of influence, as they are not really putting their own heads above the parapet at all…

 

It’s about more than content

Beyond sharing content, LinkedIn offers you lots of opportunities to engage your network and further build your role as an expert voice. There are a number of ways of increasing your visibility, while also adding value;

  • Comment on your network’s updates: When you see an update posted by member of your network that was particularly interesting or useful, leave a comment! So many people just don’t bother and miss a great opportunity. In the same vein, if you disagree vehemently with an update, don’t be afraid to leave a comment. Once you leave it respectfully, you are further positioning yourself as a person of opinion and your views worthy of consideration.
  • Introduce people within your network: An example – someone in your network is looking for a marketing specialist. Introduce them to me! I will be forever in your debt and will make sure I return the favour many times over. And the same will apply to others. These are referrals you provide without being sought, and will earn you significant engagement with people in your network.
  • Be visible in groups: There are approx. 1.8 million groups now on LinkedIn with over 4,000 of these in Ireland alone. Surely there is an opportunity in there for you to become an influencer?  Find a group that potentially will be fertile ground for you to build connections (and in time new clients) and then start participating in the group. Post content, comment on discussions, ask questions. Be an active participant.

 

These are some of the ways that you can use LinkedIn to build influence, create engagement, build stronger relationships and ultimately help ease your path to sales. LinkedIn offers huge opportunities for financial advisers, and more and more of you are demonstrating your commitment to this platform every day.  Consumers at the end of the day don’t want to be sold to all of the time and LinkedIn offers you that chance to build a relationship with them, with a view to developing sales opportunities in the future. Oh and don’t forget, it is free – all it costs is some of your time.

If you have any comments about this article or indeed the earlier articles about LinkedIn, please leave them below.

5 Sales Tips to ignore in Quarter 4

Quarter 4 is here, the year is coming to a close. You’re running out of time to turn a good year into a great year or a bad year into a good one. You’re probably hearing a barrage of ideas to help you this quarter, so I’m going to swim against the tide a bit. Here are 5 ideas that you might hear that I suggest you ignore in Quarter 4! Hopefully these will help you and your team of advisers achieve the results you’re looking for.

 

“Focus on driving your strugglers up to the benchmark”

It happens every year… A few of your “stars” shoot the lights out yet again, a big group in the middle will be there or there about and a (hopefully) small group of your team are really struggling and quite a bit off the pace. The usual reaction is to spend time focusing on them, analysing why they are struggling and then hopefully helping them to make the changes and turn their year around.

However this is often done at the expense of the rest of the team, who are left to continue under their own steam. Does this make sense? If through your intervention you are going to achieve (say) a 10% uplift in performance, the impact on your overall number will be bigger if this comes from your stars, rather than your strugglers. The time to work with your strugglers is throughout the year before it becomes a problem.

 

“Fill that vacancy immediately at all costs”

You’ve a gap in your sales team, it’s really hurting you in one area of the country and you’re struggling to get the right person – a problem faced by many financial advice firms today. A potential candidate emerges but you know in your heart they are not the right person… but they might just deliver some short-term results. Be very careful. This situation can be very difficult to undo as this person builds up relationships inside your organisation and more importantly with your customers. If they have negative traits, these potentially can rub off on other members of the team and as the saying goes; bad breath is worse than no breath…

 

“It’s all about getting sales in the door”

Well yes it is, but is this not the case throughout the year? Unfortunately what often happens in Quarter 4 is that thinking gets very short-term. Money starts getting diverted from marketing budgets which are building up long-term engagement and brand equity into shorter term and one-off sales enhancements – incentives, pricing campaigns etc. While these undoubtedly have a place in the overall marketing mix, they shouldn’t be introduced out of desperation. They should be part of an overall well-thought out sales strategy.

The downside of these short-term initiatives is that sales seem (naturally) harder to come by when they are removed and also if your longer-term marketing initiatives have been undermined, you might find the start to the following year has been made even more difficult by your short-term thinking in the past.

 

“See more customers, your internal work can wait”

This is one that raises its head quite frequently. The boss wants the sales team out seeing more customers. The sales team complain about the amount of internal work that needs to be done such as keeping the CRM system updated etc. To deal with it, the boss agrees to temporarily turn a blind eye to the system being updated. Now you’re on the slippery slope! Wait until you try and turn this back on again, get ready for a struggle! Sales people want to spend their time out with customers and as a result will begrudge having to carry out this “internal” work. I suggest if you get the team engaged in doing this important work, never let this slip! I’ll be watching my back with all the broker consultants in the country after this point!

 

“Pick up the 1:1 meetings again in the New Year”

In the same vein as the above point, another activity that is often let slide as the pressure mounts is 1:1 meetings as everyone tries to stay busy, out chasing up every tree. However this is a time for clear leadership and direction for your sales team. The experience and capability of a manager to stand back and survey the situation, and then being in a position to influence and tweak the activities of the sale person is invaluable. The 1:1 meeting is the best opportunity to display that cool head and influence your team and it is really important that these happen regularly and consistently throughout the year, in good times and difficult times.

Is there any other advice that you’ve got that you think has been very important to ignore? Please leave your comments below.

 

by Eamonn Twomey

LinkedIn for Financial Advisers – Part 2: Building up a valuable network

 

In this second of three in-depth articles about LinkedIn, we take a look at best practices in building a strong connection base and set out some tips for financial advisers to develop a valuable network. This is a really important step in actually using LinkedIn to deliver value, the subject of the final instalment coming up in a few weeks time!

 

LinkedIn will help you!

To start building up your network, take all the help that is available. The bigger and better our LinkedIn networks become, the more we will use it as a platform and the more valuable LinkedIn as a company will become. So LinkedIn help you broaden your network in a number of ways.

First of all, you can download your email contacts into LinkedIn. This is very straightforward if you use Gmail, it can be a bit trickier to download directly from Outlook. An alternative is to download your contacts from Outlook into a .csv (excel) file and then upload this into LinkedIn which will then identify which of your email contacts have LinkedIn profiles. This saves you going searching for each of them individually. You then have the option of inviting each of these email contacts to join your LinkedIn network.

LinkedIn will also identify from your profile your school, college and previous employers. Using this, it will suggest alumni and ex-colleagues that you can consider connecting with.

On an ongoing basis, LinkedIn will examine your connections and your 2nd & 3rd level connections and will suggest people for you to connect with. This is extremely useful, in fact many people express to me how impressed they are by the intuition of this feature! This is on your homepage and well worth checking out regularly.

 

Think what you’re trying to achieve!

At this stage, start thinking about why you are going to all of this trouble. At the end of the day, you want to build up a valuable network of connections that ultimately may be helpful to one or both of you in a business context. You are looking to connect with clients, potential clients, business partners, introducers etc. And this works both ways – sometimes you are the client! Through your network, you are looking to provide value to your connections and/or indeed receive value from them.

So does it make sense if the lion’s share of your connections are other financial brokers? There is definite benefit in connecting with other advisers who you collaborate with or bounce ideas off for your mutual benefit. However I think that competitors should make up the minority of your connections, particularly where neither of you in reality will be looking to add value to each other. LinkedIn is not a glorified address book, it is far more valuable than that! But more about that in my final post on the subject of LinkedIn….

A question I’m often asked is, “Should I accept every connection request?”

There are many different views on this one. My own approach is to accept connections where I believe that there is some chance, even remote of one or other of us providing value to the other. I also consider how the approach was made, whether I think the person wanted to connect with me or was just spamming out invitations – see the section on manners below.

Groups are another rich source of potential connections as they offer opportunities to interact with people with common interests, challenges etc. Add value here and you will quickly build up a broader network.

If you have accepted connections in the past that you now want to remove, LinkedIn have made this very easy. You can now break the link with a connection, and the good news is, they are not even aware that you’ve done so. However, if you want to re-awaken this connection in the future, you will need to re-invite them to connect again.

 

Have a process to grow your network

It is really important to have a clear process for growing your network that you then carry out consistently. I think it’s all about striking while the iron is hot! After you have met someone who you would like to have in your network, you should straightaway check if they are on LinkedIn and if so, look to connect while you are still fresh in their minds. Once connected, you have opened the door to a value adding relationship in the future, even if you don’t see them again for some time. I encourage advisers to set aside even 10 minutes a day to reflect on who they met in the previous 24 hours, and then connect with them.

 

Don’t forget your manners!

My biggest bugbear with LinkedIn? This is when I receive a connection request where I don’t know the person, just receive the bog standard invitation request and I get a sense that the person was just spamming / firing out connection requests in all directions. So I’ve a few rules…

  1. Never send out the standard LinkedIn connection request. Personalise every invitation, even if it is just a reminder of where you met, a suggestion to meet for a coffee or some general business observation. The point is to show the person that you want to connect with him / her and are not just trying to drive up your connection numbers. Yes, this is slower as you have to send out each connection request individually, but definitely worth it.
  2. It is ok to look to connect with people in your connections’ networks, after all this is a key benefit of LinkedIn and what makes it tick! However there is a way to do it. As an example, let’s assume I’m connected to Joe who in turn is connected to Sam, who I don’t know. I want to connect with Sam to build a business relationship. Yes I can go directly to Sam and say why he should connect with me etc. However there’s a strong chance that he may just ignore me, as he doesn’t know me. Instead, do what you do offline. LinkedIn has a facility by which I can go to Joe and ask for an introduction to Sam. This is very powerful. Now Joe is doing me a favour (which I hopefully can reciprocate) and now Sam is much more likely to connect, both as a favour to Joe and also because of the professional approach used.

These are just a few thoughts on growing your network. In my final post on LinkedIn coming up in 2/3 weeks time, we get to the real meat of this series – using LinkedIn to add value.

If you’ve any thoughts on growing your LinkedIn network, please feel free to leave comments below.