What do your clients say about you when you aren’t listening?

Interesting question, right?  Imagine if I randomly sampled twenty of your clients and put them in a room together with one goal, to talk about you!  You couldn’t be there with them – rather, you would be viewing these conversations behind a pane of glass.  How would that make you feel?  I’ve asked financial advisors this question before and heard all of the responses you can imagine: anxious, eager, confident, excited, etc…  What is your answer?

Believe it or not, your best clients aren’t working with you because of the funds they are invested in, the amount their money has grown, or the products they own. They are your clients because they like and trust you.  They like and trust you as an advisor AND a person.  They appreciate the detailed care you have given them in assembling their financial affairs, but they also appreciate that you have shown that you genuinely care about them.  They are happy that you have gotten to know them and their family.  They are thrilled to be partnered with you, and most of your best clients view YOU as the Chief Financial Officer of their family affairs.  Sounds great right?

Now if those feelings and emotions describe your best clients, say the top 20%, what do the rest of them think, let alone say about you?  What are they going to say about you to others?  In this business, we are challenged every day with going above and beyond the financial plans we assemble, to create a client “experience.”  What are you doing to create that first class client experience in your day-to-day interactions with your trusted clients?

Do they receive unexpected and delightful gifts from you?  Are their names on a screen welcoming them to your office?  Do they get preferred parking?  Do you remember where they are vacationing next and have a bottle of wine sent to the room?  Do you work alongside them at their favorite charities?  Whatever it is that you do, this is a good time to audit that “experience.”  Now don’t get me wrong, you cannot provide the same level of service or experience to all clients… but take a look at that “top 20%” and “next 30%” (top 50% total) of revenue generating clients.  Work with your team to break down what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a client for a year.  Write down every communication, e-mail, text, phone call, meeting, event, etc.  Find out where the gaps are and identify if your best clients are getting all they should be from your relationship.  I promise you they are talking about it either way!

To Meal or Not To Meal? That Is the Question.

That’s right, I’m going to fuel the ever-burning fire of the meal vs. non-meal seminar debate!  This is one of the most common questions I get from advisors when they are planning out their seminar marketing: “Matt, why would I serve a meal?" Ok, so if you know me, you know I’m pro-meals.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in non-meal seminars; sure I do.  I know they can work and they can be profitable; not denying that.  But here’s my point: If you put me in front of the two groups of people and I had the chance to conduct both a meal and a non-meal seminar, I would gather more new clientele and assets from the meal seminar, almost every time.  Here are 3 reasons why:
  1. More time.  This is the biggest and most important reason I’m pro-meals.  When you serve dinner (which you should ALWAYS do after the presentation, not during), you have locked down the room for at least 30 minutes.  A good advisor and a good team knows that they can accomplish a lot of appointment setting in 30 minutes. The best advisors I work with either stick around and work the room, or they have rock-solid staff that go table to table, strike up conversation, and BOOK APPOINTMENTS.  Yes, this works, and no, it’s not pushy.  As long as you do it the right way, it can be the most profitable 30 minutes of the entire evening.  Guess what, people can’t wait to leave the library after your non-meal seminar.
  2. Guilt.  More people are going to show up to the meal seminar, because you pre-ordered the food.  You can use this as leverage.  Think of it this way. Have you ever RSVP’d to a wedding and sent in the card saying you wanted steak?  Undoubtedly, the day of the wedding you find yourself poolside about 3 beers deep and suddenly realize you have to stop relaxing, go get on a suit, and go to the wedding or you’ll be late. And for a split second you consider not going.  “The bride and groom will be too busy to notice I’m not there… they’ll never know.” And then you remember the steak.  Boom.  You are going to show up to that damn wedding, whether you like it or not, because that lonely piece of meat on the table has your name all over it.  The same holds true for meal seminars.  You can accomplish the same guilt factor to boost your attendance ratio.  I’ve been tracking this for years, and that’s how it is.  I train staff almost every week on how to accomplish all of this over a 2-step phone process before seminar night.
  3. Meal venues are nicer.  Yes they are, if you do it right.  If you do seminars at public libraries or community centers, I promise you that the venues my best advisors conduct their meal seminars at are more comfortable, inviting, and impressive. They aren’t your garbage restaurants serving the rubber chicken dinner.  They are at nice places your affluent clients actually dine at, and they serve good food that people want to enjoy and savor throughout the evening.  All while they bask in the perfect environment you’ve created for them to mingle and talk about how great your presentation was.  Pretty sure this isn’t happening at the library.
You may have heard me say before that small hinges swing big doors. This holds true for these three small things that all positively impact seminar metrics.  Here’s how: Nicer venues + meal = MORE RSVPs (translation, more butts in seats) Meal + Guilt = HIGHER ATTENDANCE RATIOS (translation, more butts in seats) More Time = MORE APPOINTMENTS SET (translation, more people coming in to meet with you) It’s that simple.  If at the beginning of this blog I asked you if I could show you ONE THING that would get you MORE RSVPs, HIGHER ATTENDANCE RATIOS, and MORE APPOINTMENTS out of your next seminar, you would be clamoring for the secret.  And it’s that simple:  Serve a meal. Disclaimer: If the word “plate licker” is at all going through your mind right now, here’s what I have to say, GET OVER IT.  Your competition is having no problem with meal seminars! 

10 Simple Steps to Instant Seminar Success!

For years, successful advisors have worked the seminar marketplace to obtain new clients for their financial planning practices.  Seminars have been the marketing backbone of the majority of the best producers I work with on a day-to-day basis.  Over the years, I’ve compiled some basic tips and tricks to conducting the most effective seminar, and netting the highest appointment to household ratio possible.
  1. Dress to Impress! – Don’t forget, you are a financial PROFESSIONAL.  If you don’t consider yourself a professional, stop reading this article now.  Gentlemen, wear a suit and tie, and make sure it doesn’t look like you purchased it in the late 1980s.  You don’t ever want a seminar attendee to be able to say, “Nice suit! Who shot the couch?”  Yes, avoid plaid and “couch cushion” like patterns.  Remember, your tie should always be longer than your shirt sleeves.  No copy-machine repair man uniforms!  Ladies, dress professionally and keep it conservative.  I don’t think I need to go into detail here about what is not appropriate for a lady to wear.  Remember you are a professional.  Dress the part.
  2. Show Up. If You’re Not Early, You’re Late! – Plan on being at the meeting room, restaurant, or facility at least a couple of hours beforehand.  I’ve heard many horror stories about advisors having traffic issues, vehicle breakdowns, appointments running late, etc. Bottom line, these attendees have taken time out of their busy schedules to be on time for you. Make sure you do whatever you need to do to be there.  Give yourself a couple of hours of cushion so you can make sure the room is ready and the technology is in place.  Nobody wants to be “that guy” that can’t figure out how to get his PowerPoint open and has to have Joe Engineer in the audience to assist.
  3. If You Serve a Meal, Wait Until After the Presentation – I don’t care what anybody has told you in the past. Food and beverage service during the seminar is a distraction.  Instruct the facility staff to stay out of the room until the presentation is over.  Avoid beverage service during the event.  Let the attendees know on the phone when you are making confirmation calls that they should show up 15 minutes early to get their food and beverage selection ordered.
  4. Control the Room – As much as you want to show how quick you are on your feet and how you can handle any situation, I would advise AGAINST taking questions at the event.  I’ve found that the best seminars (when I say best, I mean those with the highest appointment request to household ratio) are the ones that don’t involve any Q&A.  If you don’t know the best way to position this at the beginning of the seminar, contact me directly and I will teach you how to set the stage.  I know one of the best stories in the industry that will actually lead to the attendees respecting you MORE because you DON’T take their questions at the event.
  5. Paint the Picture – It’s important to story-sell as many details discussed at the seminar as possible. When you are discussing different items in the intro and the close (who you are, what you do, how you help people, what the appointment is like), it is important to paint as descriptive a picture as you can.  The goal here is to eliminate as many barrier walls of fear as possible.  They need to understand and believe that you don’t work out of the trunk of your car and you are legit.  If you have pictures of your office, show them off!  I’ve been to many awesome offices and you should be proud of the environment you’ve created.  When you can show them a clean, professional, and safe environment, you will eliminate another barrier wall of fear.  You never know, they could envision you as having a dirty office in a bad part of town with a receptionist that collects stray cats and chain smokes behind the desk.  Show them, don’t just tell them. That’s not who you are.
  6. Have Somebody Introduce You at the Seminar – This could be done a number of ways. I’ve seen junior advisors/partners introduce, and I’ve even seen a CPA or an attorney do it.  Bottom line is, your credibility is boosted by a simple introduction.  Make sure you prep the introducer well in advance.  Give them time to perfect their script and don’t make it a last-minute decision, or you might as well introduce yourself to embarrassment.
  7. Step 1: Rehearse. Step 2: Keep Rehearsing – Don’t be lazy here.  Just like any sport, practice makes perfect.  But more importantly, “Perfect Practice” makes perfect.  Rehearsing doesn’t mean reading through your notes as fast as you can during TV commercials or reviewing your materials while driving to the seminar.  Rehearsing means actually giving the full presentation many times.  One of the best advisors I ever had the pleasure of working with once told me, “Matt, I give one seminar a week to stay sharp.”  Now I knew that he only conducted two public seminars a month so I was definitely curious.  When I asked him to elaborate further, he explained that if he didn’t have a public seminar in a given week, he gave the presentation in front of the mirror.  I don’t think I need to explain further as to how he became the best presenter I’d ever seen.  This is your seminar.  Own it.  Master it.
  8. Don’t Rush the Close – This is the most important part of your event. You likely paid thousands of dollars to get in front of a packed house. Your job is to convert as many of them as possible into appointments.  Make sure your close is filled with a sense of urgency.  Do your best to give generic examples of typical clients who you are able to create value for.  Quantify or “dollarize” the solutions you can provide.  Oh yea, and if you don’t have a packed house, rethink your seminar mail-house relationship.
  9. Don’t Be Stingy. Give a Door Prize! – As silly as it seems, the door prize can be used as an extremely effective appointment-gathering tool. If used correctly in conjunction with a good appointment request form, you will create a sense of urgency for them to book a time to come and see you.  If you don’t have a good strategy for doing this, contact me and I can tell you exactly how it works.
  10. Cut to the Chase – One of the biggest fears the seminar attendee has is, “What is this guy going to try and sell me?” It’s important to come right out of the gates (in your intro) with the “What’s in it for you, what’s in it for me” conversation. If you do this correctly it will allow the crowd to relax and enjoy the presentation, rather than having them sit on the edge of their seats waiting for the hammer to fall.

Have You Made These 3 Seminar Mistakes?

I’ve been bombarded lately by countless examples of advisors wasting their money on a seminar.  Why do you ask?  Well, it’s because most of them invested in a system that didn’t follow the basic rules of seminar marketing.  We all know, there are Do’s and Don’ts in this business, and when it comes to seminars there are some rules that shouldn’t be broken … unless you are OK with flushing your marketing dollars down the toilet.
  1. Seminar mistake #1: Letting somebody else give the presentation.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good speakers out there, and arguably, there are folks that understand the subject matter of your next seminar better than you do.  Putting them up at the podium is a mistake.  Your positioning is destroyed.  They may make an attempt to put you in the spotlight as the “guy to go see” with any other questions, but at the end of the day, if they gave a compelling presentation, the audience is going to be drawn to the main speaker -- not you.  The solution:  Give the presentation.  Better yet, have somebody introduce YOU as the main speaker!
  2. Seminar mistake #2: Giving away a freebie just to get the appointment.  Have you ever attended one of those timeshare presentations JUST to get the free tickets to the local amusement park or dinner show?  If you have, then you undoubtedly remember sitting on pins and needles through the “Tommy Boy” hack job of a sales presentation.  “Get me to the end of this thing, I just want two free tickets, and please God, don’t let this guy go get the "Manager” so I have to listen to his sales pitch too!”  Imagine what prospects think sitting in your office if you are positioned as the sales pest that is going to show them the next magic investment or product, all with the bait of a software-generated report that they get just for sitting through the meeting.  If you give somebody an out, they usually will take it, especially if they have even an inkling that you are trying to sell them something.  The solution: Create real value at the podium.  Give them a REAL reason to come and see you, not some hokey freebie that you automatically devalue the instant it is offered up for nothing.  Create differentiation as to “WHY” they need to meet with you.  There are plenty of compelling ways to bring people into the office and have the positioning be in their favor, AND yours!
  3. Seminar mistake #3: Being a one trick pony.  I understand that most seminars have a main topic or theme.  It’s important that the audience knows and REMEMBERS that it’s not the ONLY THING that you specialize in!  OK, I’ll address the elephant in the room -- Social Security.  Everybody and their brother is doing Social Security marketing, and many are doing seminars.  If somebody is attending one of your events, and they leave thinking you are the Social Security planning guy/gal, then you’re done for.  Good luck transitioning them into a new planning client.  I’m not saying you can’t; I’m just saying if you do, it will be more difficult.  The solution: If they leave the room remembering that you are a comprehensive financial planner,” and Social Security is just one of the arrows in your quiver, the positioning is extremely different.  These prospects will be more apt to start talking about EVERYTHING in their financial life first, rather than just wanting to come in and talk to you about Social Security.
Let’s be honest.  Marketing isn’t cheap.  And if it is cheap, you should probably run for the hills because you typically get what you pay for.  Next time you are going to run a public event, make sure you are plugged into the right system, and make sure that system is tested, tried and true.  

5 Reasons Why Your Appointment Process Stinks

The following blog post was originally published in ProducersWeb:


Harsh article title right? Are you freaking out yet (thinking that something major you do in your process might be on the list)?

If that is you, then rest assured we are going to help you better understand some of these common mistakes that advisors make when meeting with prospects and clients. We will also show you a brief preview

5 Reasons Why Your Appointment Process Stinks!

Harsh article title right?  Are you freaking out yet (thinking that something major you do in your process might be on the list)?  If that is you, then rest assured we are going to help you better understand some of these common mistakes that advisors make when meeting with prospects and clients.  We will also show you a brief preview of a process we’ve been entrenched in for almost three decades.

Before we get into it, you are probably wondering who we are, right?  Here’s why you should listen to us:  Since 1988 we’ve been helping some of the best independent financial advisors across the country take their practices to the next level.  We’ve been around the best-of-the-best and have helped them develop full service financial practices that grow strategically and organically.  I’ve coached, consulted, and collaborated with the most elite in the industry, and I share those ideas with advisors like you.  We’ve developed well-oiled systems and processes, and help advisors implement those on a daily basis into their businesses.

I routinely find that one of the processes that good advisors need the most help with, is their appointment process.  So here it is… 5 reasons why (if you are doing them) your appointment process stinks!

  1. You Waste Their Time

I had an interesting conversation the other day with an advisor that we don’t yet work with.  I asked him what his process was when he sat down with somebody for the first time.  Here is what he said:  “Well, I have them come into my office and we sit down for a while.  I like to talk with them about their hobbies and tell them about mine.  Most of it is small talk and then I ask them about their investments and try and make some recommendations”.  When I asked him how long this typically took, he said anywhere from two to three hours.  I proceeded to just about spit up my coffee.  Two to three hours?!?!  Are you kidding me?  A first appointment shouldn’t last more than an hour.  If it does by a few minutes, I get it.  But running much longer than that says that you don’t respect their time.  If you sit around small talking about hobbies, the weather, and other “people” you both know, then you’ve officially just wasted their time, and YOUR time.   Now don’t get me wrong, building rapport is important, but a good advisor knows when to get down to business.  If YOU took time away from your career, your obligations, and your family to get some financial help and ended up just sitting around for three hours shooting the bull with some guy who acts like he’s your buddy…how would YOU feel?  And then think how you’d feel if he invites you back for another marathon session where he’s going to try and SELL YOU SOMETHING (I’ll get to that in a minute).  I’d venture to guess that you aren’t going back for a second meeting.

The Fix:  Stick to an hour or less.  Show them you respect their time and show them you know how to get down to business.  Utilize tools like a Personal Asset Manager to keep the meeting on track and moving in the right direction.

  1. You Sell Too Much

That’s not a compliment.  I’m not talking about how much business you close… I’m talking about how bad you are at closing your mouth during the first meeting.  There are times to talk and times to listen.  The first appointment is an opportunity to listen.  A good advisor mainly uses that opportunity to ask questions so he can continue listening.  Stop selling and start listening (in the first meeting especially).  There is a time for sales, but it’s not now.  Do you routinely mention a product in the first meeting?  Stop Selling.  Do you ever pass judgement on the performance of their accounts?  Stop Selling.  Do you give them the pros and cons of any particular investments?  Stop Selling.  Do you mention a specific strategy and how it can benefit them?  Stop Selling.  People don’t want to be sold, they want to buy.

The Fix:  Listen more.  Ask better questions.  Ask questions that drive a wedge between the prospect and your competition.  We’ve assembled a strategic process that helps you ask the “right” questions during the first and second appointments.  I coach advisors on how to ask the right intimate client questions, service questions, and account questions… and we do it all without trying to “sell” or “pitch” anything.  Utilize tools like a Client Discovery Questionnaire and a Conditions of Satisfaction and Ranking Survey to listen better, and stop selling.

  1. You Throw Mud

Do you ever talk about their “current advisor” during a prospect meeting?  Stop doing that.  Still to this day, my Mother tells me, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.   I implore you to make that the golden rule of your appointment process.  Throwing mud at another advisor never looks good, in fact it makes YOU look desperate.  Remember, they “picked” that advisor.  That was their decision.  You are essentially throwing mud at THEM!  The same applies to their current investments or product holdings.  We all know you can probably do better for them, but don’t throw mud at what they own or who they work with.

The Fix:  Let them throw the mud.  There is nothing wrong with balling up the mud and handing it to them.  I can teach you how to ask the right “wedge” questions that will allow the prospect to draw their own conclusions, and effectively sling the mud for you!

  1. You Don’t Communicate Value

Do you know how your prospect defines value?  We believe they define it as the reduction of risks/concerns that they face and the maximization of opportunities they have available to them.  It’s not a roll-up rate, it’s not a lower fee, and it’s not a higher death benefit.  You may struggle with this.  Have you ever wondered why a prospect didn’t engage you?  You may have showed them the best plan, the best product, the best solution, but the client didn’t budge.  The overwhelming reason?  You didn’t clearly communicate tangible value as to WHY they should engage you.  The prospect didn’t clearly understand the concerns and opportunities that existed within their financial life, and why they should be addressed.

The Fix:  Take the time to help them understand the concerns and opportunities that exist within their financial situation.  If somebody clearly understands what they are, services that provide value become more appealing.  I coach advisors daily how to use tools like the Potential Concerns and Opportunity Report Summary and the Engagement of Services document.  Those tools help you clearly communicate tangible value, and help illustrate why a prospect would need you to deliver them a service.  It works so well you can even charge a fee for these services, and I think you should.

  1. You Are Not Consistent

How many first appointments have you had this past month?  How many second appointments?  Looking back, can you honestly say that every first appointment was the same and every second appointment was the same?  Most advisors cannot.  The good advisors, however, can say with certainty that they consistently followed the same process.  When you do something over and over, you get better at it.  If your first appointment is different for many different people, I’d argue that you aren’t following a consistent process.  The same goes for your second appointment.  The problem is that many advisors utilize a process that ISN’T universal with all prospects.

The Fix:  Follow a consistent process that you can implement with any prospective client.  The best advisors use the same process whether the prospect was a seminar attendee, a radio show listener, a referral, or a walk-in off the streets.  I consult with advisors to help them develop a consistent and repeatable appointment process when meeting with potential clients.  I can help you better understand the Advisor-Client Engagement (A.C.E.) Appointment Process.  This appointment process is universal.  It can be used with any type of lead and it positions you perfectly to charge a planning fee for your time and expertise.  This process leads to a consistent flow of assets to your firm, and revenue to your business.



13 Ways to Act Like a Business Owner in the Coming Year

The following blog post was originally published in ProducersWeb:

coffee and a sticky note with the text new years goals

As I reflect back on last year, I can recall a number of conversations where good producers were stuck in a rut and had lost sight of why they got into this business. When it comes down to it, I believe it all revolves around how we think about and approach our business on a day-to-day basis.

Friends, are you stuck in a rut? Have you found yourself sitting in your office and twiddling your thumbs, wondering

13 Ways to Act Like a Business Owner in the Coming Year

Friends, are you stuck in a rut?  Have you found yourself sitting in your office and twiddling your thumbs wondering where your next piece of business will come from?  If you are the type of advisor that spends most of his day on Facebook and LinkedIn wondering when the phone will ring, stop reading this article.  For those of you that stumbled across this article and are wondering how you can GROW your practice this year … keep reading. Remember the day you got into this business?  Remember the excitement of owning your own practice and being your own boss?  As I reflect back on last year, I can recall a number of conversations where GOOD producers were stuck in a rut and lost sight of why they got into this business.  When it comes down to it, I believe it all revolves in how we think about and approach our business day to day. For me, sometimes it’s about getting excited about something again.  Maybe for you it’s a new system, maybe it’s a big commission. Whatever it is, you need to make sure that when you are stuck in the land of negativity that you get out of it quickly.  You are a business owner.  YOU create your own destiny. How many times have you whined and complained about some marketing that didn’t work?  How many times did you dwell on a case that slipped through the cracks? Are you stuck looking in the rear-view mirror, or are you like many of the successful business owners that are looking at the horizon and capitalizing on today and planting seeds for the future? Get out of your rut.  Do something new.  Add a piece of marketing to your funnel.  Remember, there isn’t just one spoke in any wheel.  You need to have a coordinated and synchronized plan to get in front of new prospects and grow your business with new systems.  Keep evolving it.  Keep changing, and you won’t regret it. Here are some things to consider doing differently or implementing in the next 12 months to refresh and revitalize your approach:
  • Get into seminar marketing again (or finally take that leap). Seminars are better than ever right now.  I’ve seen firsthand numbers and results that are of the “golden days.”  The era of the plate-licker is dead; quit hanging your hat on that excuse.  Seminars are working right now -- very well, actually.
  • Investigate a new way to generate leads. Systems out there have evolved.  There are many great internet lead systems that can create great lead traffic for you.  Research them, and test them.
  • Get back into radio, or find a company that can start funneling radio listener traffic to you now. People are listening, and this works.
  • Re-vamp your company website. If it is nothing but a “hanging business card” you are wasting your money.  Find somebody that can optimize it for SEO and GEO so people can actually find you! Advisors actually DO get leads this way. How many leads did you get from your website last year?
  • Re-invent your referral system. Engage your best clients differently and re-segment them if needed.  Use focus groups for feedback and start building a community that your clients will want to plug into.
  • Re-target your centers of influence. Find new relationships with CPAs, attorneys, and other industry professionals that you can engage with, and send them referrals. You will get the same back from them if you practice what you preach.
  • Engage in low cost but high credibility marketing systems. If it doesn’t meet those criteria, don’t do it.
  • Turn-key as many processes in your business as you can. This can be everything from how exactly you manage your calendar to how you handle client meetings and follow up. Systematize everything.
  • Find some new branding opportunities. Cut a personal audio interview CD, create new brochures, update your biography and firm’s mission statement and actually TELL people about it.
  • DRIP ON YOUR LISTS!!! Quit saying you will and just do it.
  • Connect with other advisors. Chances are, if you are a good producer, you are tied in with a company like mine.  If they have networking opportunities for you to exchange and share ideas that are working, plug into them!
  • Have you ever received a professional valuation of your practice? If you haven’t, do it.  Those results just may motivate you.
  • Survey your clients. Find out what makes them tick and what they like to do.  Start getting involved in their lives more.  If they are your “A” clients, you should be treating them like one.
If none of this peaks your interest, you may not be the right person for this business.  If you are a true business owner, you know and understand the motto “adapt or die.”  If you are like many of the folks out there that have been complaining about rates going down and thinking that there is nothing good to sell anymore, this business isn’t for you.  If you are a true business owner, you know it’s all relative.  We still have a great business.  We still have excellent products that solve problems.  If you are the type of agent that pushes that one shiny product left and right, and does nothing else to grow your practice, be warned: Your competition loves that.  They are the ones doing many or ALL of the things above, every year.  They are adapting, not dying.  That’s what the true business owner does.  It’s time to put on your “big boy” pants.  Plan out this year and make it profitable.  Remember, you are a business owner. Act like one.