Jul 01 2022
23 ideas presented at the Annual Meeting about communicating, mentoring, marketing, referrals and work-life balance
By Mike Beirne
Give the referral process a push
One of the reasons good clients don’t give referrals is they don’t know what we’re looking for. If we don’t know, how can they know? I started networking myself by telling 10 to 20 of my best clients exactly what kind of prospect I was looking for from their personal networks. Before prospecting, identify what your ideal client looks like in detail. Once your ideal client profile is broken down into the smallest particulars, prospecting will become much easier.
The two-seminar strategy
I host two types of seminars. One gathering is a two-hour weekday meeting for business owners, doctors and lawyers. The other is a lunchtime seminar on the weekend for clients to bring their family and friends. During the seminar with professionals, I ask attendees to exchange business cards and talk about what they do so they become more comfortable with each other. In the weekend seminar, I ask clients to give testimonials about our services for their guests to hear. Both sessions aim to educate about the value and benefits of financial and tax planning, but no selling occurs. I don’t want attendees to feel pushed to buy. Rather, I follow up later for feedback and ask if they need more information. About 75% of attendees and clients buy something within two weeks of every seminar I do.
The power of the pause
Not being aware of our lack of brevity is one of the biggest mistakes we make that diminish our influence. When I get off track, my speech coach reminds me to commit to a lane and land the plane. Start thinking and speaking in bullet point sentences. You will have more impact when you pause to find your next thought because that allows your clients to follow your message every step of the way. Comedians call this “pause for a cause.” After they share the punchline, they pause so you can catch up and experience laughter. If comedians don’t pause, they are stepping on the laughter. Don’t step on your thoughts. Especially don’t step on your clients’ thoughts. Sometimes silence is the right answer. This permits you to ask the right open-ended questions and adapt your message in the moment to your clients’ expectations.
Future-proof your success
Success doesn’t make you happy. Being happy creates success. Have you ever heard a positive idea come from a negative person? Those people shut down mentally and emotionally consume today’s energy by focusing on yesterday’s mistakes. A positive state of mind releases dopamine to the brain and lights up the neurotransmitters across your synaptic nerves like lights on a Christmas tree. Research proves that positive thinking expands creativity, increases energy, raises intelligence and even closes more sales.
What a story is not
Storytelling can illustrate value and what you have to offer. However, a story is not compelling data. I often see leaders point to the data during a presentation and say, “As you can see, the numbers speak for themselves.” Numbers cannot speak. You must speak for them. Behind each number is a human, and with each human is a story. The most important data you are tasked to deliver should always come with a story that brings that data to life.
The Meta client conference
Instead of using video conferencing, I invite clients to meet me as a holographic avatar. I use my virtual reality (VR) headset to shape the environment and meet them in my virtual executive office, the Oval Office in the White House, or even on the space station in outer space. I use floating 3D holographic presentations and can extend a virtual handshake or high-five the client without needing to worry about hand sanitizer. My clients can participate without a headset on their computer or phone with a free app called Engage VR (engagevr.io). Other free VR apps include VRChat, Spatial and Horizon Worlds. By branding yourself as an advisor ahead of your time, you’ll give clients an experience they will never forget. I’ve met many high-income clients in the VR world.
Unleash your brand
You are your own brand, and your individuality will set you apart. Your uniqueness will be your key strength in being the agent of choice for many, and your authenticity will make you a cut above the rest in this industry. The moment you embrace this mindset is the moment you unleash this power within you.
Mentoring with a purpose
Finding and being a mentor has to be deliberate. To be successful, it is very important to have mentors and people who are supportive and believe in you. Give and receive mentorship. I tend to mentor female entrepreneurs because, as a young ethnic woman in a male-dominated industry, I have tackled a lot of negative influences around me over the last 19 years. So, I gravitate toward women to help them think outside the box, break that glass ceiling and start or grow a business they are passionate about.
Recover your joy
How many of you used to sing, dance or act when you were younger? Why did you stop? You don’t have to quit your job and do it for a living. If it brought you joy, then pick that instrument back up or join that church choir! Do it just because you enjoy it, and that joy will bleed over into other parts of your life.
A script for client reviews
During review interviews, I always remind my clients “You said this during our previous meeting. Do you feel the same now?” This question helps clients remember why they purchased their plan and consider adding additional coverage, particularly if a close friend or relative has been diagnosed recently with a serious disease. Repeating what the client said from the last review shows that I was listening to them. You will have to keep a good record of the interview to do this.
When your succession plan hits a bump
You created a succession plan for your practice, but it’s not going as planned. How do you course-correct? Even though people generally don’t like conflict, you should courageously enter a conversation with your successor. Be open to their viewpoints. The only answer to feedback is “Thank you, tell me more.” Courageous conversations are just that — conversations, not emails or text messages. A clear yet non-threatening way to open the dialogue is, “I would like to review our agreements and our plan. I feel like we are not in sync, so it’s important we have a positive and productive conversation to get us back on track.” Then ask, “What do you believe is working well? What do you believe is not? How do we find a way forward together? I’m fully committed to making this work; however, it seems bumpier than I expected. Here are some examples where I believe we can do better. Let’s talk.”
Simplification can lead to buying
Simplification entails the language, process and questions we use to eliminate friction points from our prospect’s perspective. That means providing the prospect with the ability to see the results that their choices are likely to create or prevent them from achieving. The financial planning world can be confusing to navigate, so providing a simplified experience for our prospects quickly helps build trust. Simply put, they buy what they understand. Present to them in a way so they feel empowered to make an informed decision.
Objections can be the accelerator
Objections typically are perceived as an obstacle, but they can be the gasoline to connect with your prospects and speed the way to a sale. But don’t wait for the end of the meeting to address their objections. By then their minds are closed, and it’s too late. Instead, put the most frequent objections you hear on the table and answer them early during the meeting. Doing so will make people open up, and they’ll be more comfortable trusting you.
Team culture yields client retention
A collaborative team culture will establish a rhythm throughout your practice and result in higher client satisfaction. When you establish a block of months to conduct annual strategic meetings and tactical year-end calls, have clients understand they will be meeting or talking with their advisory team. By ensuring two advisors attend each client meeting or call, the clients understand they have a team — not just an individual — working for them. This perception can improve retention because client questions can be addressed in a timelier manner by a member of the team, not just the lead advisor.
Documenting the work
Documenting the time we spend with client work is important because it helps me to justify my fee. When I work with a client or anyone else in the office, we log the time spent and the cost at an hourly rate. These notes give the client an idea of how much time is spent and the work done on their behalf. We call this an AAA: Action Activity Audit. It certainly helps put fees into perspective.
What can beat AI?
Do you know that the only trait in us that can outsmart artificial intelligence is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence helps us be visionaries, make decisions, have the right motivation, improve our work ethic and create the impact we want to have in the world. Our emotions are our signature in the world and managing them wisely can help us leave a mark, wherever we may be.
Harnessing the power of social media
I never imagined that social media would account for nearly half of my annual business. I’ve had numerous walk-in clients who are ready to invest their trust in me even before we meet in person. Using a combination of social media sites is encouraged but start with the one you are most comfortable with. Remember, people want to see authenticity, so what you say matters more than how it looks. The beginning is always the hardest. Get your first piece of content out, and you’ll definitely gain momentum as time passes. Building your presence may not be an overnight affair; however, with enough consistency, it will be a sustainable and lasting tool as you build and scale your business.
It’s important for advisors to be part of the community they serve. Identify where your client base is and engage in those activities. If your client base is primarily business owners, spend time with your local Rotary group or similar organizations. I am involved with the military and serve as an honorary colonel, so I spend time with military personnel in the field and in the community. Those engagements are not times for selling but to be present. But, if a client or potential prospect approaches me and is interested in what I do, I get their contact information and follow up later. Thus begins their engagement with our firm.
Don’t just chase cold calls
When I started as an advisor, I focused on increasing my client base through cold calling and paid little attention to my case load. I achieved MDRT status five years after starting in this industry and attended my first MDRT Annual Meeting. There I learned that I also should have a strategy to focus on my existing clients by providing optimum insurance planning. Now, my business is growing by getting more referrals from my existing clients, and I can spend less resources on cold calling prospects.
Finding centers of influence
One step toward recruiting centers of influence is to make lists. Choose which professions you want to work with, and make a list of everyone you know in that field who you can contact. If you don’t have contacts, then ask your existing clients for four to six names of people they know in those professions and for their centers of influence. Upon contacting that influencer, tell them you want to understand their business to see if you can refer your clients to them. Ask who their ideal client is. After the first meeting, ask for a second meeting so you can explain what you do to help your clients.
Tapping an untapped market
Want to connect with the fastest-growing segment of the insurance market? Talk to women like businesspeople. Use language that resonates, but do not be condescending. One of women’s biggest fears is outliving their savings or becoming financially dependent on their children, followed closely by their kids being OK. But don’t assume this is your client’s fear. Ask and verify. Depending on her answers, proceed with more traditional planning, such as cash flow planning, insurance or asset management. If you make recommendations without explaining your reasoning, you will lose your female clients. The plan and the math should support any recommendation for a product, not the other way around.
We need to tell prospects in a very straightforward way: “Mr. Prospect, you don’t hire me to work in the world of probabilities. You hire me to work in the world of consequences. The consequences of being wrong are catastrophic. If you’ve taken a cruise, do you remember the safety demonstration by the crew before leaving the port? Do you think that’s required because of the probabilities of an issue happening at sea or the consequences? When you put your child in a car, are you buckling them in because you’re thinking about the probability of an accident or the consequences?” Then look them in the eyes and say, “I can control the consequences. That’s what you hire me to do.”