The next time the conversation wanes at a cocktail party, here’s a topic guaranteed to jumpstart a discussion: bad service. Get people talking about their customer service horror stories and it quickly becomes clear that most of us are starved for good service. Automated voice mail, teleconferencing, podcasts, streaming media and the Internet may have added convenience to our lives, but often the technology comes with a price: impersonal service, vague information, confusing options and a lack of clear direction.
Dwindling service presents a huge opportunity for advisors. Consistency is an old-fashioned attribute that is quickly vanishing in today’s fast-moving, increasingly impersonal marketplace. The professional who can deliver consistent, personal sales and service efforts will have a huge advantage.
The word “consistency” may sound a bit dull compared to the latest whiz-bang prospecting system, but it’s an important key to success that can steadily compound long-term sales and profits. Consistency is a centuries-old tenet; in the first century A.D., the architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (whose services were no doubt booked years in advance) said, “Consistency is found in that work whose whole and detail are suitable to the occasion. It arises from circumstance, custom and nature.”
Apply the power of consistency to your business and reap the rewards. Three advisors who have enjoyed long, successful careers tell you how.
Prepare for success
“Discipline and concentration are key in being successful in the insurance business,” says Bob Long, LTCP, CSA, of Charlotte, N.C., who has been in the business for more than 25 years. “Each client deserves the most suitable approach to his or her unique profile. The time I invest in preparation for a client is at least three times more than I do in actually meeting with the client. In order for me to earn the client’s trust – and to obtain an ongoing commitment from that client – I must assure myself that I have made the best initial recommendations, and I must never fail to continue to monitor each client’s situation throughout the years ahead.
When I feel that I have done the best for my client, and commit to continue to do so, I can communicate that confidence. All this requires unwavering discipline and specific, client-by-client concentration.”
Make and keep realistic promises
“I have found that if you do what you say you are going to do, you have already exceeded the expectations of most people,” says Kevin O’Brien, president of Creative Financial Strategies Inc. of Littleton, N.H.
Involved in estate and financial planning since 1975, O’Brien adds, “Then, if you go above and beyond, they are thrilled. In my practice we offer to do anything and everything the client may need done because we recognize that they have better things to do with their time. Their standard response is, ‘You will do that, too?’ Service is the key to keeping the relationship strong.”
“In sales, we have heard that listening is the key,” Long says, “and so it is. You can only learn your client’s profile by carefully listening and observing. A successful insurance salesperson is an artist/counselor who develops the skill of accurately interpreting the prospect or client’s position and connecting the dots placed on the canvas by him.”
“After a quarter century of serving my clients, I have learned that clients and prospects, as well as ‘suspects,’ truly appreciate following up on their problems and questions,” says Richard Rubenstein, MBA, CFP, CSA, and principal of Rubenstein Financial Group in Cincinnati.
“If I get a phone call and can’t take the call at the moment, I ask if I can call them back and I always tell them how long it will be before I return the call,” Rubenstein says. “If I say it’s only going to be five minutes, I make sure that I return the call within five minutes; seniors will actually sit by the phone and wait for your call. If I need to work on getting the problem solved, I will call by the end of the day to let my customers know what I have found out to solve their problem. Even if they don’t answer the phone, I go the extra step and attempt to reach them on their other lines, such as work or cellular phones. I leave messages everywhere. I feel that it takes very little effort to just leave a voice mail message to let a person know you are getting back with them. I know that I expect that of people who owe me a status call that was promised.”
Successful advisors usually commit to meeting consistent, regular sales goals to achieve results. “Our format is structured as follows: Monday and Friday are in-office, non-appointment days,” O’Brien says. “During our Monday morning meeting, we review client needs, and on Friday afternoons we discuss office needs. Tuesday through Thursday is reserved for appointments.”
“I try to have two appointments set per day and 10 appointments per week,” says Rubenstein. “Sometimes my weeks get altered and I miss my goal. I try to remedy that by doing extra prospecting and asking for more referrals from anyone I speak with.”