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How to become more referable
How to become more referable

Sep 01 2022

How to become more referable

Achieving total client engagement elevates advisors from salespeople to stewards.

By Duncan MacPherson

Topics covered

There are many referable advisors who don’t get many referrals. That is because they are not articulating their value and consistently communicating how they differ from other advisors to their clients and strategic partners. Advisors who reap meaningful breakthroughs in the quality and quantity of referrals did not become better advisors. They already were good. Rather, they became better at practice and relationship management.

The quality of your client relationships impacts your productivity and enterprise value more than anything else you do. While your knowledge about insurance products and wealth management is a skill, it’s not proprietary. Your assets are proprietary, and client relationships are the greatest asset you possess.

Advisors must strive to competitor-proof their clients. There is an immutable law that affects relationships called the Law of Familiarity. Over time, the more familiar a relationship becomes, the more things can be taken for granted, and your value can be trivialized. Loyalty fatigue can set in and put the relationship at risk.

Also, the pressures and competition in this business work against you by emphasizing what you cost rather than what you are worth. Simply being good at what you do means you have clients who transactionally buy from you. So, they fixate on products, pricing and performance, and perceive you more as a salesperson chasing commissions and fees than as a steward.

The key to turning a client into an advocate is to not lose sight of the fluid nature of relationships.

Why achieve total client engagement

Insurance and financial planning cannot be static. Critical life events happen that will render a client’s current plan obsolete. Do your clients fixate on what you’ve provided to them up to this point in the relationship, or do they understand everything you do? Future pacing makes what you do for your client dynamic. You’re not only putting all their pieces together but as their life unfolds and their needs evolve, your process gets them out in front of it.
Future pacing reminds your clients that you want to be their CFO and gain their full empowerment to move them closer to the promise of financial independence. Totally engaged clients empower you, which fully enables you to put all of the pieces of the wealth, risk, tax, estate and debt management puzzle together so they can have a complete and fully converged picture.

So how do you get there?

Decommoditize yourself – Differentiate and elevate above the noise of the industry and media so that clients focus on what you’re worth rather than what you cost.

Depersonalize your relationship – Clients don’t just trust and identify with a person; they trust and identify with a person’s philosophy, planning strategy and process that is leading them to financial independence.

Demystify your value – Make sure clients clearly understand and internalize everything you do, who you do it for so that they, in turn, can articulate your value to someone else in a compelling manner.

Achieving total client engagement

How do you take the abstract nature of your value and make it proprietary?

Think about this. You’re in the knowledge-for-profit business. You think for a living. You’re not selling things; you are promoting the promise of the future. Think about commoditization and all the forces at work, such as fee compression, which can render you into looking like any other advisor. What you do can become very abstract.

How do you defend against that so that you can differentiate and elevate? The answer isn’t marketing, it’s branding. Marketing is what you say. Branding is what the listeners hear and internalize and can then socialize to someone else. It’s their interpretation of your value, but it’s not driven by your qualities, skills and intentions. All that is an important component to what you do, but remember your knowledge and service is bought, not sold. I’m not asking you to sell yourself. I want someone to interpret your value quickly and resonate with them.

So how do we do that? Again, you are not just managing money. You are not just managing your business. You are managing people. We manage people by how you communicate with them and how you service them. “How many things could you do for a client over the lifetime of the relationship?” I’ll often ask an advisor we’re collaborating with “Ok, assuming they’re a client for life, and then the business continues into the next generation, how many things could you deliver for them?”

For many advisors, they’ve got to get that out of their head and document that list. Turn those steps and services into intellectual properties. When they do, it’s not uncommon for advisors to call us back and say, “I do 85 things for a client over the lifetime of the relationship.” That’s powerful. Some do more, some do less. But that’s not the point. It’s the level of service that makes you valuable. Keep in mind that your client will never remember 85 things and none of those individual things are proprietary to you, either. They’re commoditized.

But if you promote a promise for the future, you’re decommoditized, and the more they see your value the more you will be indispensable.

Do your clients buy into a process or are they buying individual things? Consider this. It’s not the 85 things we want them to focus on. It’s the one thing that you’ve developed and refined into a process that puts every piece of that puzzle together as their life unfolds and their needs evolve. They can’t outgrow your process. They’ll grow into it as critical life events occur and their life progresses. This is how you become their personal CFO.

When your clients shift from a transactional relationship to buying into a fluid and dynamic process, that is what competitor-proofs clients and turns them into advocates. An advocate is the dream client. They empower you fully, are a joy to work with and endorse you to anyone who will listen. They aren’t referring someone to you so that you can build your business. They feel they are doing a friend a disservice by not making the introduction. In essence, they are advocates for both you and their friend.