Spring Clean Your Sales Approach

Every Financial Broker I talk to is back with a bang at this stage. Most are really upbeat about 2016; all are constantly on the lookout for activities that will help them drive their business to new heights this year. So here are a few ideas that you can start to implement immediately that will help you deliver those all-important sales.

Set activity targets

Activities drive sales, so set yourself clear activity targets. Set monthly or even weekly targets for the activities that work best for you. These might include;

  • Sales calls made
  • Sales emails sent
  • LinkedIn connections made
  • Networking events attended
  • Client meetings arranged
  • Client reviews carried out etc etc.

And then track these targets carefully and measure your progress against them. We all know that “what gets measured, gets done”…

Get to work on your pipeline

A credible pipeline is a really important asset of your business. It’s no use if this is just a list of names of people that you’ve spoken to over the last few years. So it is well worth spending a few hours going through your pipeline from top to bottom. Here are some suggestions as to how you might improve the quality of your pipeline

  • Remove the dead wood – get rid of all those old prospects that you know in your heart are going nowhere. Don’t waste any more time on them.
  • Review recent additions to the pipeline that you added in Quarter 4 2015. Are there people here that may have simply been delaying action unto the New Year? Are they now worth a call?
  • Qualify your pipeline prospects. Prioritise them by their likelihood to become clients or transact business with you.
  • Understand and capture the stage you are at with each prospect, exactly where they are at within your sales funnel. This will help you to ensure your next activity / approach is the right one.

Review your marketing supports

I know this one regularly raises its ugly head… But it really is so important, as old (even worse if it is actually out of date) marketing collateral can be pretty damaging. It can show you as out of touch, or even worse, not caring about your business. The main supports to review and update include,

  • Your client value proposition – have you updated this, your process, your service supports and your remuneration structures in line with your changing business model?
  • Your website – does this really reflect your proposition? Also make sure you read through every page and remove / amend any time sensitive information.
  • Your LinkedIn profile – is it fully up to date in relation to your skills. Remember that when someone googles your name, your LinkedIn profile is often the first search result that they will click on.
  • Your sales presentation and reports – many advisers use templated reports. These make a lot of sense, but need to be reviewed regularly. Make sure that the information in these is bang up to date.

Get updated testimonials & LinkedIn recommendations

Research has shown that approx. 80% of people trust peer recommendations, while only about 14% trust advertisements. So talk to your satisfied clients about providing you with a testimonial that you can show on your website and in sales presentations. The key here is getting their permission to use their full names to make the testimonials fully credible. Better still, if your client is a connection on LinkedIn, ask them to make the recommendation through LinkedIn, with you also displaying it on your website. That way it gets even more visibility.

Work hard on referrals

All Financial Brokers know the value of referrals, however some don’t have a clear process for getting them. Develop a process, make it a part of every review meeting with clients and use the likes of LinkedIn to help you identify the people that you want your clients to refer you to.

Put extra effort into networking in 2016

Some advisers really struggle with networking; they really don’t enjoy it at all! However it is a very necessary marketing activity – the old adage springs to mind that if you want to get knocked down, you must stand out in the traffic! Identify relevant networking groups and then set yourself clear objectives – these might simply be the number of meetings you attend and the number of people you make the effort to meet at these meetings. Again you’ll get out of them what you put into them!

Work out what your introducers need

Introducers are also identified as a very rich source of potential clients. However the days of ringing a local accountant, agreeing to split commission and then sitting back and waiting for the clients to roll in are long gone… Introducers today need to be crystal clear themselves about what you do and the value that you offer to both them and their clients. So spend time developing your proposition for introducers and then develop marketing activities to stay top of mind with them.

Are You Worth More Than a Glass of Lemon Water?

When you read a headline like that, some of you might be forgiven for thinking that I’m finally losing it completely! Well please stick with me, because this article is based on a situation in another industry, the restaurant / café business.

This all started with a link that was kindly sent to me by a financial advisor (thanks Eamon!) of an article that highlighted a great response by a restaurant owner to a negative Trip Advisor review. It’s worth reading this article and in particular the response here.

What has this to do with financial planning? A lot really… This response highlights the amount of work that goes into seemingly straightforward tasksthat clients think they should not be paying very much for, if at all. And this is one of the most common issues faced by Financial Brokers today. Your clients simply don’t know the amount of work that you for them.

So what do you need to do? You need to tell them exactly what you do for them. That is, at least all of the things that you do that add genuine value for them!

Then they can start to get a sense of what you are doing on their behalf, and they can start to get a sense of the value they are getting for the charges they are paying. Surely this is better than them not knowing what you do, challenging your costs and you then having to defend and justify your charges?

This applies at every stage of your engagement with a client…

Before they become a client

A prospect lands in your door as the result of a referral or another of your marketing activities. They don’t know what to expect, in fact they may very well be shopping around.

Now is not the time to start diving into solutions for them. Instead now is the time to start building trust with them by talking them through your advice process from beginning to end. To my mind this is best achieved by showing a graphic of your advice process and then talking through every step within the graphic. This will demonstrate the professionalism and rigour of your approach. It will also clearly demonstrate to them what your costs (whether by paid by fee or commission) are for, should they engage you.

When products are put in place

Now this is a stage that is very similar to the glass of lemon water! Clients think there is very little involved here and can’t understand why they are charged for you simply posting a form to an insurance company who do all the work…

With some of the clients that I’ve worked with, we have developed out detailed process maps of each and every step involved in putting products in place. Do you tell your clients about the 25 steps that could be involved in putting a pension in place? If you do, they are now going to fully appreciate what they are being charged for. It will also kill off any thoughts that they might have of taking your advice and trying to implement the solutions themselves…

The ongoing service that you provide

It really makes little sense for you to provide a brilliant ongoing service to your clients, and then not to gently remind them of what they are getting. They need to be constantly reminded of the value that you are providing to them day in and day out, as this is what they are paying you for.

This is really important today as many advisers are moving their clients towards a trail commission based model. As funds increase and the transparency of charges increases as it inevitably and rightly will, clients will start to do the sums as to how much they are being charged. If they are not aware of the value that they are getting for your charges, you run a very high risk of losing them to another Financial Broker who is clearly articulating the value that his/her clients enjoy.

The annual review meeting

This formal meeting offers a fabulous opportunity to cement the relationship, again through reminding clients of the value that you are providing on an ongoing basis. This can be achieved by having a structured, valuable agenda for these meetings and also by setting out all of the “touchpoints” you had with them over the previous 12 months. You might remind them of meetings you had, queries that were dealt with, seminars they were invited to, newsletters they were sent, portfolio rebalancing you did for them etc.

If you do all of these things, can your clients really argue over the price of your services?

The Goals to Achieve in 2016

Time is marching on… we’ve now only a few weeks to go before we start re-setting the business clocks as we enter a new business year. As Christmas approaches, this is a time when many Financial Brokers turn their attention to their aspirations for the New Year.

Some will do this in a very effective way, going through a structured business planning process, drawing up goals for 2016 and ensuring that everyone in the business is focused on the same outcomes. For others, this is all a bit of a struggle! They give a bit of thought to the upcoming year, but find it difficult to capture meaningful goals.

So here goes with a few thoughts that will hopefully make the task a bit easier. We’ll take a look at constructing goals and also what areas of the business you might want to set goals for.

SMART Goals are effective goals

The first point to consider is what an effective goal looks like. Effective goals will help to drive effective behaviours, giving a better chance of better results. I don’t think that you can go far wrong if you check that each of the goals you set display SMART characteristics. SMART goals are ones that are:

  • Specific – The goal must be clear and not ambiguous at all – it must be clearly understood what is expected to be achieved.
  • Measurable – The goal must be capable of being measured so that you can clearly see the progress you are making in achieving the goal.
  • Attainable – The goal must be realistic and fair. If it is completely unachievable, no-one will be motivated to achieve the goal.
  • Relevant – The goal must make sense in terms of the “bigger picture”. There needs to be a clear purpose and reason behind the goal.
  • Time-bound – There should be a specific time period (often the calendar year) in which the goal should be achieved. It can’t just be left open-ended.

So now you know how to set good goals, what are the areas within your business to measure? When you think about it, there are lots of them!

Financial Measures

There is a range of measures that can be used to monitor the financial health of your business. Some of the key ones include:

  • Overall income: Yes turnover can be just a vanity figure, if your costs are exceptionally high. However your turnover gives a sense of whether your business is capable of getting customer traction in your chosen markets.
  • Profit after business expenses and remuneration: This figure is far more informative of your business health, as it takes account of your remuneration and all of the costs associated with running your business.
  • % of income coming from trail / fee/  recurring income: The traditional method of valuing a Financial Broker is as a multiple of recurring income. This metric gices a clear sense of the value of your business.

However beyond the financial metrics, there are many other metrics that you can use. Here is a sample of some of them.

Client metrics

There is a range of metrics that can be used to measure the success of your client activities. These include:

  • Number of clients: this can be measured at an overall level and also within segments of your target client groups.
  • Average revenue per client: this will give you a sense of whether you are building greater value into your propositions and whether you are reaching your ideal clients. Again this may be carried out at a segment level.
  • Average recurring revenue per client: this will give you a good sense of the future health of your business.
  • Number of new clients: always a good measure of whether you are growing as a business or not!
  • Client satisfaction: this will give you a sense of your likelihood to hang onto your clients into the future. Again this can be carried out at a segment level. The Net Promoter Score is a very simple but useful measure of client satisfaction.
  • Risk register: Are there problem cases that need to be monitored? If so, a firm oversight needs to be maintained, both in relation to the number of cases and progress of these cases towards a solution.

Staff measures

Again, there is a range of measures that you can use to ensure your staff are performing to their maximum potential. These include:

  • Sales Performance: This may be based on volume, margin or other relevant measures.
  • Activity: This may be the number of new clients secured, first meetings secured, financial plans completed etc. It is always useful to get a good sense of the activity levels of each of your sales team.

Marketing Metrics

Most marketing activities can actually be measured! Here are a few of the key ones that will help inform your marketing activities:

  • Contact data quality: This might be as simple initially as tracking the number of client email addresses you have secured. Email offers you a no cost method of getting marketing messages out to your clients.
  • Numbers and source of leads: Tracking the numbers and source of new lead is one of the best inputs into decision making around future marketing activities. If it worked before, it might be worth repeating!
  • Website analytics: Google analytics will give you a wealth of data in relation to your online marketing activities and can tell you the likes of;
    • The number of people finding your website
    • Where website visitors came from – Search terms, social media, directly accessing your website.
    • The content that attracts people to your site…. and also drives them away.
  • Social media interactions: Likes, comments, Retweets! These terms are “Double Dutch” to some people, highly valued endorsements of your content to others!

So there are many potential areas to measure! It’s a case of identifying the most relevant ones for your business, setting SMART goals around them and then getting stuck in and achieving those goals…

3 Ways to Transform Your Sales in 2016

Most Financial Brokers are now going through that very busy period of trying to ensure a really strong finish to the current year while also planning for the new one. We’re working with lots of great firms, helping them to get structured plans in place to guide them through 2016 and beyond.

We’re often asked what are the one or two really “big” things to do to try and ensure success next year in client acquisition and retention. While of course there is no silver bullet, here are three critical initiatives that will make a huge difference, and that are often overlooked or not treated seriously enough by Financial Brokers.

Recruit and retain brilliant people only

It usually all comes back to the quality of your people, and in particular your financial advisers. Very successful businesses rarely have poor people in the frontline and only recruit the best. Yes, they end up paying more for the best people, but they tend to get the results back in spades. Getting good people takes a lot of time and effort and there’s often a temptation to settle for someone who you can recruit quicker and cheaper. Don’t – it’s a mistake…

If you’ve managed to achieve getting the right people in place, it’s even more important that you then manage to hang on to them and maximise their talents. To do so, you’re going to have to think outside the box a bit… Yes, money will be important to them, however money alone won’t be enough. Good people want to grow; they want to have great careers. You need to help them achieve this through insightful mentoring (either by you or an external consultant) and through facilitating them build their knowledge and qualifications. Do they want to qualify as a CFP, or even consider an MBA? Find out, and then help them achieve it.

Develop clear client activity plans… and then deliver them

You need to know who your top clients are; they are the lifeblood of your business. I haven’t met an advice firm yet that only has paying clients, as most have vast numbers of clients who are in fact single historical transactions. Those clients that are paying you year after year, through trail, renewal commission or fees need to be minded very carefully.

You need to have clear line of sight of all the touch points you will have with these clients throughout the year. These might be review meetings, planned phone calls, structured emails, client entertaining events, seminars – whatever! You need to plan who will receive which of these, and then ensure that they are delivered.

Capture your client data effectively, and then use it!

Many advice firms are running into problems year after year because of the poor quality of their data. While you might know your clients well, it’s pretty near useless if this information is only in your head. Capturing data is hard… but it shouldn’t be considered too hard. Apart from the compliance benefits of capturing your data in a very structured way, it will also play a huge role in you knowing your prospects and clients better, engaging them more appropriately in a targeted way and ultimately leading you towards greater numbers of new clients and product cross sales with existing clients.

If you have good data on prospects, you can target them more effectively, making them feel that you are reaching out specifically to them, rather than talking to the world at large. We all prefer to receive communications that we believe were designed with us in mind!

So there you have it! Three areas that I believe will make an enormous difference to your sales in 2016. None of them are easy… but each of them is hugely worth the effort.