From the January 2009 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

January 1, 2009

Survival Strategy 2009

When the tide turns against you, as the tide has turned against everyone in this industry, you have three choices: Get swept out to sea, kick and paddle harder, or kick and paddle smarter and harder.

In past bumps and crises, my counsel has been: work harder. Today, I believe survival mandates that you kick and paddle harder and smarter. We'll talk first about smarter ... then harder.

Tips on Working Smarter

Tip 1: Have a plan. Sounds trite, doesn't it? But true. If you spend 1 nanosecond online studying "emergency planning," you will see that ALL experts recommend, "Have a plan." OK. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. Got it? So get a plan.

One of the points in your plan must be: Organize your day so you can make more contacts. If you do not organize your day, just remember this: The person without a plan will wind up somewhere. In today's climate, you won't like the somewhere the current carries you. So do what I tell you to do and organize your day so it is proactive, not reactive.

In several past articles, I have written about the "model day." The model day is a sequence of time blocks structured so you get the important things done and in the process create "a roll." You vitally need a model day. I have put these articles and other information on a website for you at www.billgood.com/smarterandharder. They are available free to readers of this article.

One of the time blocks in the model day is devoted to planning. If you would have a plan, you need to set aside time to do it. No time, no plan.

Tip 2: Summarize important data about each client you will be speaking with or meeting. Let me explain how I discovered this "smarter principle." In my own business, I have been doing my share of kicking and paddling. I started out just working harder. But almost by accident I discovered how to make my calls much more effective.

The clients I started calling all had extensive notes in their computer record. At my company, the policy we practice and preach is: Every contact with a client or prospect produces an updated note. The good news is that we have extensive notes on clients and prospects, in some cases going back years.

The bad news is that we have extensive notes going back years, so extensive in fact that good information has been getting lost in the mass of contact records.

When I plunged my own paddle deep in the water, I just started reading the notes. Since the odds of reaching someone on the first call are fairly small, I started making notes of the key data that I could quickly review when I made contact. Soon I was using a Microsoft Word table to organize the data. This way I knew where to look for stuff. In my case, I have the database capability to paste a table into a "scratch pad" attached to each record. If you don't have that capability, just use Microsoft Word. Link to it from your database if possible. Worst case: put these "profile summaries" in a notebook.

As I began using these profile summaries, it didn't take long for me to realize I was using the data I had sweated from the file to precisely tune my presentation.

Here's the magic: Once I have prepared and organized the data, I seem to have internalized and processed it in some manner. When a client or prospect picks up the phone, I know him or her. My conversation is extremely focused. The knowledge gained more or less automatically dictates the flow.

More bad news: I have spent as much as a half hour preparing a profile summary. This sounds counter-intuitive. In the next section of this article, I'll be talking about the necessity to talk with and meet with more people. But now I'm telling you to spend a significant amount of time developing what we might call profile summary. That takes a lot of time. How do you reconcile these strategies? Work longer.

Tips on Working Harder

Tip 1: Make more sales contacts. You can do this. Sales is a contact sport. Talk to more clients, talk to more prospects, see more clients, and see more prospects. It means START NOW.

Put down this article. Finish it later. Pick up the phone or head out the door for some cold walking.

What helps the most is to have all your planning and organization done first. "Smarter" and "harder" work together, don't they?

If you do not have the money to launch seminars or mailing campaigns, this means YOU ARE YOUR OWN MARKETING ASSISTANT. So start moving those arms and legs!

Tip 2: Increase sales contact by forcing any service work into its own time block and shove that to the afternoon. To make this tip work, you badly need someone answering your phone. If that is impossible, change your voice mail greeting. "Hi, this is Bobbie Hammer. I'm meeting with a client right now. Please leave your name, best phone number to reach you and a word or two about the subject of the call. I will get back to you as soon as possible."

If it's a service call, shoot off an email or text message. "Fred. I got your message. Will call between 3 and 4." Handle all your service calls in a block.

To clarify: a "sales contact" is a client or prospect designed to move the person closer to a buying decision or to establish or maintain goodwill. A sales contact is not solving service problems, attending sales meetings, and most especially, it is not talking with other financial advisors. In tough times, your colleagues too often spread bad attitudinus. This dreaded condition has ended many careers. It is spread mouth-to-ear.

If you are in a branch setting, keep other advisors out by piling books in your chairs and keeping your headset on at all times. Don't talk to other financial advisors. Do not listen to their tales of woe. Talk to clients and prospects.

Tip 3: Keep sales contact stats. Set a goal each day to talk to and meet with more clients and prospects than you did the previous day.

Tip 4: Increase your advertising. This one is hard. In the face of declining revenue, I'm telling you to reach out into your market with more advertising.

I found a marvelous article in "Google Answers" about companies that fared well and poorly during the Great Depression. Those that did well advertised. Those that did poorly or failed did not advertise. You need to read the entire article. I have linked to it from my SmarterandHarder Web page.

So how do you advertise? No money: you spend time. Call every client once a month. Send every client a letter once a month. Cold call or cold walk.

If you have money, you spend money and time. You, the FA, call key clients every month. Team members call everyone else. Send every client a letter at least once a month. When there is alarming news, get out a handholding letter. Develop a list of the people you would like to have as clients. Every month send mail and then call the people who respond. Invite them to client educational seminars. Don't worry right now about low response rate. It will pick up. Keep advertising. By the time your read this, it may already have picked up. I have been receiving sporadic reports of record seminar attendance. Your competitors are cutting back. They will be gone. Don't join their baleful procession.

Plus, have a decent Web site. Not having a Web site today is like not having a business card. Make sure your web address is on every card, letter, and flyer.

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Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing Systems in Draper, Utah; see www.billgood.com.

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