Want to Bring Your Business To The Next Level?

While we are currently living in volatile times in terms of the global financial markets and very uncertain times in Ireland politically, most financial advisers that I speak to are still constantly trying to work out how they are going to bring their business to the next level. They know that markets will settle down in time and that eventually (whenever that might be!) we will get a government again.

Advisers are determined to build real value in their business, to move it from being a one-man advice shop to being a real professional services business. So what are some of the big challenges that advisers looking to make this shift are grappling with today?


Focus on your business

Time is one of the biggest enemies of financial advisers. You just don’t ever seem to have enough of it! And as a result, you use this precious resource fixing the problems of your clients, constantly battling deadlines of getting advice reports out, carrying our review meetings with clients, while also trying to drum up new clients.

While at the same time your own business actually gets very little of your attention.

We’ve all heard the well-worn phrase, “Work on the business, not in it”. While it might be over-used, it still has a lot of merit. Moving your business in a structured manner to the next level will take energy, focus and time. So the first step is a backwards one away from the day to day work within your business and instead allocating this time to plotting out what you need to do to take your own business forwards.


Delegate relentlessly

It’s all well and good to talk about taking a step back. It’s much harder to do this in reality… And the reason for this is because all SME owners such as ourselves believe that no-one can look after our clients as well as we can ourselves. And maybe we are right – maybe no-one can look after them as well. But this is only our own fault. Because we haven’t created the skilled teams around us.

Until you build a team around you that you can delegate your day to day activities to, you are always going to be constrained as you try to grow. You will never have the space to spend time on your own business, instead you will be constantly up against client deadlines. Yes this can feel good being flat out, fighting fires. But you’re not moving your business forwards.

The great thing today is that there are so many flexible options in terms of building a support network around yourself. You can hire people today in a way that suits your needs; full time or part time, in the office or working remotely, indeed most tasks can be fully outsourced if you don’t want to employ someone at this point in time. The main goal though is to free you up to work on the business.


Look at your own skills

And then we all need to get honest with ourselves! While you might be a brilliant adviser and look after your clients really well, do you have the skills to actually build a business? If not, what do you need to do? For most people, it may be that some outside help is needed, either in terms of management support, business coaching or other supports. For other people, maybe you are just not the person to bring the business to the next level and you actually need to employ someone to do this for you.

I personally know one (extremely) successful entrepreneur who recognised this very early on his own growth path. A great ideas man, he built a great “early stage” business but quickly recognised that he didn’t have the skills (or the interest) to follow a structured growth plan. So he hired someone to do this, while he “went again” with another business idea. While most advisers are probably not looking to build a number of businesses like this, you might still need help in bringing your business to the next level.

Thankfully there are many examples in the financial advice industry of individuals who have started financial advice business that became successful based on the advice they were giving, and who managed to step back and build strong teams around them. These individuals are now acting like the conductor of an orchestra, leading these businesses forwards on steep growth paths, having removed themselves out of the day to day client facing work.

Of course there are then all of the challenges of developing your propositions, having structured processes in place and communicating more effectively with clients. But if you start by allocating time to your own business, building the team around you and recognising your own strengths and shortcomings, you will be a long way down the road to bringing your business to the next level.

How to Beat a Competitor Offering a Lower Price

You’ve all been there… You meet a very promising prospective client, you have a brief introductory chat but you can see there is an immediate issue niggling away. You probe the client and they say something along the lines of, “Let’s cut to the chase, what do you charge as I’m talking to another adviser who will manage my assets for 0.15% p.a.”?

Assuming you charge 0.25%, 0.5% or even 1% p.a., what do you do?


1. Acknowledge but don’t start negotiations!

The fatal mistake is to start negotiating your price now. After all, the client has absolutely no idea what they are paying for at this stage, and the value that they will get from working with you. Obviously you can’t ignore the question, but the answer needs to be along the lines of, “I can hear that our price is a key consideration for you. Let me set out what we do first as there are a range of different options available to you”.

Don’t let yourself get dragged into a price war at this stage!


2. Go through your normal initial meeting process

This is where you take control of the meeting again. Rewind the meeting to understanding the client’s objectives (through careful, open questioning) and then presenting how and what you do. This is where you set out your advice process, your annual review meeting process and the ongoing service packages that you offer. Assuming you offer differentiated service levels for different segments of clients, your client will now see what you have to offer at different price points. If the client wants rock bottom pricing, well then he / she will see that they won’t be getting a premium service at that price level.

In order for your competitor to offer such a low price, they are probably not promising anything! So the other advantage of taking the client through your approach is that it will demonstrate the significant advantage of working with you as opposed to your competitor.


3. Be firm and brave!

Stand by your pricing as a premium advice provider. Acknowledge that you are more expensive; your client will actually respect you for this. Yes you can have lower cost packages, but within these the client should be left in no doubt about what is included and what is not.

What if the client looks for your premium service package for a lower cost? Well then you’ve a choice to make! Yes, you can be flexible, but I suggest only if there is a good reason… maybe the client is an important access point to an attractive target market, maybe you see broader opportunities with them. Don’t just agree without a reason, or otherwise you will simply start dropping your price at the first hint of a push-back. Sometimes it’s better to walk away, rather than agreeing to a price that doesn’t make economical sense to you.


4. Make sure you can deliver… and prove it

If you want to charge higher prices than your competitor, you have to able to deliver more. So it is very important that you can actually deliver what you promise. The last place you want to end up is the dreaded “over-promising and under-delivering”.

Of course your prospective client won’t have experienced your service at this stage of your relationship. So this is where you need to be able to call upon the experiences of other satisfied clients to add validity to your promises. This is where those client testimonials, LinkedIn recommendations and case studies of previous work come to the fore. They paint the clear picture of what your prospective client can expect.


5. Add value beyond the sale

Finally look to add value beyond the sale. Are there services that you can offer to your client that sit outside of your service packages? Maybe you can provide a willing 2nd opinion on any broader issues they might have in relation to financial planning? Maybe you can give them access to a broad network of business professionals that can help them in running their business? Or maybe you can refer some of your contacts to them as potential clients?


At the end of the day, you’ve a choice to make. Is your competitive advantage based on offering your services at the lowest price, which ultimately will be a race to the bottom? Or can you offer superior value and build your business around delivering this value, at a higher price? The choice is yours!