When the game is down to the final seconds and the outcome is still in doubt, a coach often will call a timeout to layout a plan to win the contest.
He’ll draw up a play he thinks will put his players in the places they need to be to score the winning touchdown or make the winning basket or goal. The best players and coaches will be comfortable when the ball is put back in play because what the coach has drawn up is something the team has practiced before; it’s a play they know well.
That’s what good coaching can do. But coaching isn’t strictly the milieu of sports. Coaching’s lessons can be applied to almost any aspect of life – even life itself, as the boom in life coaching can attest to. Financial advisors are coaches, too. They give clients game plans for their retirement; they set up budgets for clients to follow. The best clients are students of the game, so to speak, and listen to their coaches.
One aspect of the coaching game many advisors overlook is when it comes to referrals. Sure, advisors will make half-hearted attempts to ask for referrals at the end of a meeting, or they’ll remind clients that referrals are an important part of their business, without directly asking for referrals. But only through coaching will clients become the referral streams advisors depend on for their livelihood. Only through coaching will an advisor be able to claim status eventually as a 100 percent referral-based advisor.
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How great would it be for an advisor to receive this phone call? “Hello, Mr. Advisor, my name is John Smith. Bill Brown gave me your name and number. He said you helped him take his money and make it work harder for him. I’m in roughly the same spot John is in, and he said you could help me. He said something about an indexed annuity performing really well. I’d like to talk to you about that.”
That, according to Travis Chaney, is the difference between an introduction and a referral. A referral is someone the advisor usually calls; an introduction means the person is likely to call the advisor, looking for something specific, whether that is a product or service.
“An introduction is more powerful than a referral,” says Chaney, CEO of Dynamic Directions in Owensboro, Ky. “An introduction is arranged. The person is told a story about me and what I offer.”
In a referral situation, a prospect may know of an advisor because his name has been mentioned: “Jim, I mentioned your name to my advisor, so he may give you a call.” In an introductory situation, the prospect knows about the advisor. The prospect will know the advisor’s name, company, specialty, what he did for the person who provided the introduction and what he can do for the prospect. And, as indicated above, the prospect may be the one who initiates the call.
To get to the all-important point where clients start providing introductions, advisors have to establish trust and create a running record of exemplary service. Trust is something that should come naturally. It should arise out of a commitment to doing the right thing every time for the client. Trust is something an advisor cannot ask for – it must be earned. Service, on the other hand, is something over which the advisor has total control.
It can live by many different names, but giving the client something to remember is vital. Many advisors call it the “Wow” factor, and it comes when they get more than they expect. Ron Roberts, the president of Roberts Retirement Group in Jackson, Calif., about 45 miles southeast of Sacramento, believes in the power of the Wow factor. He sponsors a Valentine’s Day luncheon for widows, where everyone in attendance gets a bouquet of flowers. During warmer months, he reserves space at a winery and holds a country hoe down complete with live music, barbeque and square dancing.
Clients remember the events Roberts holds and they talk about them until the next one. When it comes time to mention Roberts to their friends, clients can talk about great experiences they’ve had outside the business relationship; they can talk about personal service, and that resonates. But the business relationship needs to be stressed, too, and a plan works wonders.
“More important than trust is a plan of action,” says Randy Schwantz, president of The Wedge Group in Dallas.
Schwantz says advisors need to create written services timelines for clients, something they can look at and know what’s coming and when.
“If you set up reviews regularly, it gives the client certainty that things won’t fall through the cracks,” Schwantz says.
But don’t stop with only what is on the written plan. There are things advisors can do between meetings that will make them the topic of introductions.
“It’s important what touches an advisor can put between client meetings,” Chaney says. “There needs to be meaningful interaction: articles, books, reports that highlight anything that has happened [since the last meeting].”
Anything an advisor can do to seem more magnetic is important. All of this adds up to create the story clients can tell about the advisor. And without a story to tell, clients are just making referrals.
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