From the July 2011 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

July 1, 2011

Best Practices 2011

One step to being a top producer: Rip out this page!

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Please take a few minutes and fill out my survey, “Best Practices 2011.” You will find it here: www.billgood.com/bestpractices.

Here’s what’s in it for you: I will send each participant a copy of the final report. You will be able to compare how you stack up with the best. I will also send you my upcoming enhanced e-book, Referral Marketing. It will forever relieve you of the burden of asking for referrals. Instead, you will learn how to make referrals happen.
Here’s what’s in it for me: Your answers to the survey will help me identify today’s best practices.

The one thing that differentiates top producers from those who struggle, and even those who almost make it to the winners’ circle, is this: those who make it to the end of the rainbow do a little bit better at practically every aspect of the business. Not a single one of these ideas or practices will get you there, but a combination, while continually adding more, is what will keep you moving on the path to being the best.

But here’s the rub: “Best practices” change over time. Twenty years ago, most successful advisors pounded the phone. That’s rarely a “best practice” today.

I know some of today’s best practices. Maybe most. I say that because I’ve trained some of the industry’s best in what they do. But I may have missed some. So what I want you to do is rip out this page, and have it nearby as you take my survey. This way we will be on the same page as we discuss best practices. Below is my personal list, with some commentary on each.

Best Practices List

Big thinking. I put this one first simply because I have met lots of talented, knowledgeable, hard-working advisors. Few of these go the distance. What’s the difference? Smarter? No. More charisma? Hardly. Work ethic? Nope. The very top producers simply think bigger. They believe they will be the biggest producer (in the office, the firm and the business) and they set goals to get there.

Advisor credentials. You must have the training and the credentials to prove it. You must also display your credentials, in your office and on the Web. But the key thing is not having a load of alphabet soup after your name; it’s demonstrating the use of such credentials in a professional manner when working with clients.

Brand creation. Top advisors and their team members articulate their brand to all they meet. They have a short, yet engaging, answer to the question: “What do you do?” Brand creation carries through to consistent oral and written presentations and Web presence. Team members are so completely comfortable with their brand that when a prospect comes along who doesn’t “fit,” they are not afraid to move on.

Business planning. Without a business plan, you’ll wind up somewhere. Top advisors know where they’re going, and they communicate that to their teams.

Client contact strategy. If your clients are not thinking about you when it comes to financial matters, they are thinking about someone else. Your client contact strategy goes a very long way to determining not only the retention but the quality of the relationship with your clients, and therefore your success in business.

Client profiling. These skills enable you to find what you should offer investors that will move them to act. Superb client profiling skills almost negate the need for closing skills.

Crisis management. This is the ability to manage a client’s panic when markets go into a downtrend. Clients must have confidence in your leadership. Like it or not, you are a leader. Very simply, a leader is one who leads. Failure to do so quickly and with confidence can undermine years of relationship building.

Decision-making skills. In the optimum business, there is no selling, just advising. You tell someone what to do, they do it. But some people have great difficulty making a decision. When you are dealing with someone’s life savings, fear is rampant. Fear leads to procrastination. The highly skilled advisor will encourage prospects to make a decision.

Delivering what was promised. Since you are dealing with their money, people watch you all the time. They want to know if they can trust you. One way trust is built is doing what you promise. “I’ll call you on Tuesday morning at 8” means Tuesday morning at 8, their phone rings.

Doing what’s best for the client. Doing the right thing at all times for the client is a recipe for long-term success. And it’s much easier than having to replace “lost” clients all the time, or to rebuild the remains of a “faddish” portfolio that likely won’t withstand the ebbs and flows of normal market cycles.

vent planning. I do not consider event planning a required “best practice.” But I notice that great advisors tend to produce great events. It is these great events that get clients talking to their friends. That word of mouth generates referrals.

Financial planning. Are your plans long, incomprehensible documents? Or are they real plans that address real needs? Do you update them on a schedule? Are you doing your job?

Investment knowledge. If your investment knowledge is not “top drawer,” clients will sense it and begin to check with their friends. You will not get referrals. Where confidence is not complete, the client will feel a need to diversify. “I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket.”

Investment strategy. Top advisors are tops in the investment craft. They have a strategy. It may be a strategy of selecting third-party managers, or selecting investments. A strategy that exceeds client expectations will generate word of mouth, unless your relationship management and communications skills are poor.

Networking skills. Lately, I’ve spoken with a lot of advisors who tell me, “My kids are still at home, and I spend time with them. I just don’t have time to network.” Well, a network takes years to build. That’s obviously a decision to make. Top advisors almost always are deeply involved with, and committed to, the community in which they live and work.

Office experience. It’s safe to say I have seen more advisor offices than anyone else. Over the years I have given over 1,000 seminars and paid countless visits to FA offices. The feeling of walking into a successful advisor’s office is different. The décor plus the people plus the emotion creates the experience.

Personalized service. Mastering the details. Knowing what clients like to drink, how they like to be addressed, knowing the details of their lives.

Positioning. This could be considered a subset of your client contact strategy, but it is so important it deserves a separate mention. You must be able to position yourself in the minds of both clients and prospects so that you are the one they call when they suddenly find themselves in need of help.

Presentation skills. You can have great financial expertise and fabulous credentials. But if you don’t explain your offer well, your career flounders here.

Prospecting strategy. Your prospecting strategy refers to how you intend to develop new business. Advisors who have hit a plateau tend to be very passive, with little if any strategy. I’ve asked countless advisors, “How do you prospect?” Those on the way up, or at the top, have a strategy — a workable strategy. Those on the plateau, or on the way down answer: “Referrals only.”

Sales documentation. This means keeping track of who said what to whom and when. Your sales documentation strategy is the best insurance policy you can have for the survival of your business. Just as there are rogue brokers, so are there rogue clients. Your best protection is complete documentation of every contact with a client or prospect.

Team compensation. Most of the top teams have clearly defined roles for each team member, and have provided training necessary. Team members give 10–20 years’ service. To attract and keep top people, they have to be compensated well so they don’t even think about going elsewhere.

Team management. Without any question at all, having a team is vital. Keyword — team, not just a bunch of people doing stuff. Do you manage your team so it frees you up to do your job?

Time management skills. Of all the best practices, this one is the most important. Yes, some are smarter than others. Yes, some are gifted at great presentation skills. But at the end of the day, we all have the same amount of time. Those who spend it the best, more often than not, wind up in the fabled winners’ circle.

Web presence. Today, when you get a referral, I guarantee you that referral is going to Google you before they call. If they can’t find you, you might as well have told him in person, “No, I don’t have a business card. And as a matter of fact, I don’t have an office. I work out of my car.” As far as your “Web presence” is concerned, your motto needs to be: “Be found. Look good.”

Work ethic. Top producers don’t just shuffle around the office, they work. Most have a formal or informal “model day.” They focus. They finish things.

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