Are you actively making your sales happen?

Sales in the life and pensions market have fallen off a cliff in the last 5 years. It is estimated at the end of 2012 that the new business market has fallen by up to 70% from the peak. This has been felt by every financial adviser in the country, both in terms of building relationships with new clients, and also in terms of additional product sales from existing clients.

While there are undoubtedly some who haven’t changed their sales development practices to reflect this new world, there are many advisers who have really dug in and changed their approach to maximise their opportunities. So what are these advisers doing differently today than they were doing 5 years ago to maximise their potential sales in this extremely difficult trading environment? Here are a few ideas;


Get active!

One feature in common of all the brokers I’ve spoken to, who are best dealing with the new sales environment is how pro-active they all are. Each of them have spoken to me about how they’re working harder now than they ever did, trying different activities to drive sales. They are not sitting in the office, sending off the odd email and making a few phone calls! These people are out putting themselves in the way of traffic; meeting people for coffee, networking, attending events, organising events, as well as putting their effort into a whole range of marketing activities.


Plan your activities

Another feature of these successful brokers is they are planning out their sales activities, not just going about them in an ad hoc fashion. Most of them have pretty limited financial resources for their sales activities so they are putting in the time and effort to plan in order to ensure they maximise their bang for buck.

These advisers are getting very clear on the target groups of new customers they believe offer the greatest opportunity for them and in relation to their existing clients, are identifying those individuals that offer the best chance of success. They are then mapping out the optimal set of sales activities for each and then religiously recording and measuring as they progress.


Be valuable

Another characteristic of advisers who succeed in this difficult market is that they’re seeking out every opportunity to add value. Typically this is through investing their time in order to build new relationships or further cement existing ones. These people are putting their hands up to speak at conferences, to give presentations to Chambers of Commerce, even in situations where there is no obvious benefit for them. They are also seeking out all opportunities to refer their clients to other clients. They are working on the premise that “what goes around, comes around”.

One adviser that I’ve been working with used to host a golf day for clients each summer. He has now replaced this with more informal games of golf, spread throughout the year. He fills the fourball with 3 people who potentially will transact business with each other. This has been really appreciated by clients, who recognise him as working in their interests and not his own. This approach costs less money, but does take up more time. However the goodwill to be gained makes it very worthwhile.

These people look to add and show value at every opportunity. When meeting with clients, communicating with them and when trying to build new relationships. They don’t focus on products or their own services; instead they are working out the issues their clients are grappling with and helping them address these. Their own sales opportunities inevitably follow.


It doesn’t have to cost a fortune!

These successful advisers are also putting their time into low cost but effective marketing channels. There are now loads of examples of brokers who are using email marketing and social media really effectively to get their sales messages out there. There are now thousands of financial advisers in Ireland with a presence on LinkedIn. However only a very small number are actually using it and getting value from it. There are also a growing number of examples of brokers who are using Twitter effectively, connecting well with hundreds (& sometimes thousands) of people who are following their insights. If these large groups of people find your musings valuable, there is a better than even chance that they might consider actually doing business with you in the future.

At the end of the day, it comes back to your deep desire to actually make it happen. Are you one of those whose energy is dropping in line with the economic environment or are you out changing your world yourself? Thankfully most of the advisers I meet are in the second camp!

If you’ve any thoughts or comments, I’d welcome them below.

How tuned in are you to High Net Worth clients?

A number of advisers that I’m working with have put a lot of legwork into getting crystal clear about both their business proposition and their own particular areas of expertise, and as a result are actively changing their business model to work exclusively with a relatively small number of High Net Worth (HNW) clients.

While this approach of course will not work for everybody, there are very few who will disagree with the attractiveness of it, assuming that the adviser can build a strong enough revenue stream around it.

However before you can decide whether you and your business are the right fit for this attractive segment of the market (either to concentrate exclusively on it or as part of your client base), you need to understand some of the drivers behind this group of people. This article sets out some of the characteristics of HNW clients, what they look for and some thoughts on engaging successfully with them.


Who are they?

Well first of all, as a result of the economic turmoil, there are fewer HNW individuals around today as many have seen their investments decimated and of course, some now are saddled with significant personal debts.

However there is still a great swathe of people who fall into this category. While there is no strict definition of this group, a good rule of thumb might be individuals with between €100,000 and €1m in investible assets and a net worth of between €500,000 and €2.5m. Their investible assets will usually be held in a mix of pension funds, shares, property investments and some cash too.

While this group recognise that they have well-above average wealth, they usually identify a recurring number of financial challenges;

  • They don’t feel wealthy: Yes, they have assets but they actually still recognise the financial challenges ahead and don’t take these lightly.
  • Educating their children is a recognised challenge: Many HNW people will desire a private school education for their children (at least in secondary school) followed by a minimum of an undergraduate degree. With doubts about college fees in the future, many now recognise the need to plan for education fees for each child for a minimum of 10 years. A not inconsiderable sum.
  • They worry about retirement: This is probably their biggest financial concern (and an obvious area of opportunity for financial advisers). They have a realistic sense of the asset base they need to build up in order to be able to maintain their desired lifestyle throughout their retirement.
  • They want to leave an inheritance: On top of the above, they want to be able to leave an inheritance behind them, recognising the need for building their asset base, as well as having the required levels of life assurance in place.


What do they look for?

First and foremost, HNW people need to absolutely trust you. This won’t be achieved by messages on your website of honesty and integrity, instead it will be achieved by what others say about you, what you say and how you act, and your business proposition. They won’t want to deal with you if they feel they are being “sold to”.

Indeed in addition to the above point, they want someone who will recognise them as an andividual by getting a clear understanding of their financial goals and objectives, building a financial plan based around these and then implementing this plan in a transparent and collaborative manner.

Developing a financial roadmap for the client as opposed to simply recommending some products is a critical approach with HNW people.


How do you engage HNW people?

Picking up on the above points, there are a number of requirements in dealing with HNW individuals.

  • Build trust: Spend time at the outset gaining their trust. Have client references that they will value, focus on testimonials, and show case studies of approaches you’ve used in the past to develop innovative solutions for other HNW clients. Show them how your business proposition places them at the core of how you advise and that products are merely a part of the solutions.
  • Concentrate on financial planning: Very clearly divorce the development of the financial plan from the product sales piece. Spend time clarifying their financial objectives and structure the plan clearly around these. Jumping into products will only drive these people away.
  • Recognise their concerns and address them: One of their big concerns is outliving their assets in retirement. Show them what this means in terms of the war chest they need to accumulate. Build into this picture their other concerns of funding education and leaving a legacy. Show them the size of the challenge – they will appreciate your candour!
  • Be knowledgeable: HNW people are usually quite smart and have knowledge of a broad range of areas, as well as an ability to research topics on the Internet etc. They need to feel they are dealing with an expert. If there are highly technical areas in which you are not an expert, you need to build up your own trusted network of experts that you can seamlessly tap into for specialist advice, to ensure you are the conduit for your client gaining a holistic solution.
  • Add value: Add value to them, when you are not “on the clock”. If you see an article that would be of interest to them, send it to them. They will appreciate your ongoing and continuing interest in their affairs.
  • Be transparent: HNW individuals will expect full transparency from you in relation to all areas of their dealings with you. If they feel you are not being 100% open with them, they will quickly lose trust in you and will go elsewhere for advice.

These are a few thoughts in relation to increasing your chances of success with this important segment of the market. Is there anything else that you’ve found? Please feel free to leave your comments below.