I’ve been lucky to spend the last couple of years working with a broad range of financial brokers and planners, and as a result have been fortunate to gain great insights into some really great advice firms operating in the Irish market.
A question I’m sometimes asked is; “What’s different about the winners?” Now there’s no easy answer to that, but there is one theme running through the successful firms and that is a clear client proposition. These firms tend to be clear about their target markets, their ideal clients, what they offer (and don’t offer), what makes them special and how they get paid. And very importantly, they are also very good at articulating this to clients.
The whole area of client propositions is very broad though and can encompass many different elements. So here are 5 activities that I believe will help advice firms to really differentiate themselves from the rest in 2014.
No more chats!
Spend some time over Christmas developing a presentation for delivery at your first meeting with prospective clients. If you get a new iPad for Christmas, even better still! Use that to deliver the presentation. Meeting a prospective client and having a chat is fine and maybe not hugely damaging. But it’s hard to make it memorable. However if you have a well-crafted (and short) presentation, that you walk through in an engaging manner, and that includes some provoking questions for your client to ponder later, you’ve a much better chance of leaving a positive impression and getting that prospect coming back for more.
Spend time on income and expenditure
One of the unfortunate traits of some of the less successful firms out there is their rush to “get to the money”. While their intentions are noble, in that they want to sort out the investments for their clients, in fact what happens is that the client gets forgotten as the focus is on the money. And once you forget the client, your future with the client is inextricably linked to the performance of the money. Which is difficult if markets go against the client.
The successful firms out there tend to focus more on the client and one way they demonstrate this is through helping clients really examine their income and their spending. And then going through a rigorous process to help them balance the personal books better! They don’t do this in a superficial way, but in a way that is really valued by clients, most of who are very poor at doing this themselves!
Build future cashflow planning into your proposition
My prediction for 2014 is that there will be a steep increase in the use of future cashflow planning by financial advisers. Why? Because more and more clients will become aware of the value of it by those financial planners already offering it, and those clients will demand it.
Future cashflow planning completely changes the conversation. It lifts the conversation out of the past and the present and focuses both the adviser and the client on the future objectives of the client. And it gets them really working together on trying to achieve those objectives.
However the real benefit of it to me is the reliance on the annual review happening every year to track progress. Clients demand their reviews – do your clients?
Develop powerful review meetings
Again, another observation… Lots of financial brokers and planners have recognised the importance of a compelling client proposition and are furiously working on developing a compelling one at the point of sale with the client. However relatively few are working on developing a compelling review proposition, to deliver to their client year in and year out. And most of these brokers are attempting to justify a trail commission basis!
If you want to receive an ongoing payment from your client every year into the future, you’ll need to develop a review proposition that the client values and that they demand actually happens every year. This is achievable – there are many clients out there who experience a truly valuable review service and these clients happily pay ongoing fees as they recognise the value they are receiving in the review meetings.
Do your clients demand their reviews with you? Do they feel the meetings are worth more than the ever-growing trail commission that you are receiving? If not, you’re at real risk of losing these clients in the future, just as they become very valuable to you.
It is so important to engage your clients on an ongoing basis, outside of your sales and review meetings. You need to stay in their minds through gently adding value throughout the year, so that when an unexpected financial challenge or opportunity arises for them, you are their first port of call.
Yes it’s hard work and takes a lot of time. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to do it, pay someone else to do it for you. If you don’t, someone else will begin to engage your clients and leapfrog you as a financial expert worth talking to.
If you make these changes to your client proposition, I can pretty much guarantee that they will have a material impact on your business. You’ll value your own proposition more and as a result, your confidence will increase, enabling you to communicate your value better. And your clients will love it!
Very best wishes in developing your proposition in 2014! If you have any comments in relation to my suggestions, please leave them below.