How do you gain expertise in these areas? Use your gathering skills. Acquire the expertise from others. Partner or align yourself with professionals in these other areas. How do you find out whom to work with? That’s easy: Ask your clients. Whom do they use?
Go to your centers of influence, and find out to whom they refer, for example, their asset management business. Then approach those individuals about forming a partnership or strategic alliance to help both of you build your practices. You will both stand to benefit because you will be servicing that client under 1 roof.
Remember, you’ve already invested the time to develop a relationship with the right clients. Now you want to deepen those relationships by helping those clients address the full spectrum of their financial lives. Equally important, you want to secure those relationships so the competition cannot elbow you out. That can be accomplished only if you have the right people in place.
Open for Business
Your first meeting with prospects is as much about you interviewing them as it is about them interviewing you. Remember, you are choosing to work with them, and if you go in with that mind set, position it appropriately by putting your cards on the table from the outset. They will realize they will be lucky to work with you.
As part of the interview, you should ask prospects the following 3 questions:
(1) If we were sitting here 5 years from today, what would have to have happened for you to feel you’ve succeeded?
(2) What about money is important to you?
(3) What do you and your spouse disagree about when it comes to money?
The answer to each question reveals much about the prospects. It tells you what is important to them. It helps you determine if they are a good fit for you and for your firm. It also gives you insight into their “whole net worth,” which include these asset classes:
?Innate assets–These are natural talents (athletics, writing, crocheting, juggling, speaking, music), morals and health.
? Learned assets–anything learned over one’s lifetime. In addition to a formal education, these assets include skills and experiences such as craftsmanship, international travel and life experiences.
? Networking capital–or “whom you know.” Personal and professional connections have great impact on clients’ whole net worth balance sheet. The contacts attest to their resourcefulness–the speed with which they can find someone who can open that door for you or get you an answer quickly.
? Financial Assets–These are the movable and immovable property one owns. Don’t think about financial assets as dollars and decimal points, but instead as a means to an end. The support structure, when used thoughtfully and purposefully, can promote growth and vitality among all of the asset classes.
The fundamental underlying principle of the “whole net worth” concept is family. An individual’s net worth rises and falls with the overall well-being of the family.
Working with clients to understand and appreciate their whole net worth is an exercise that not only has tremendous value, but is unique. It is something other wealth management firms simply don’t do. They only focus on one dimension–the financial dimension. If in your initial meeting with a client you are focused not on a person as a financial being but as a whole being, then you send a loud, positive message.
At Lenox Advisors, we ask client couples to articulate financial values they have in common by creating a money constitution. Similar to a corporate mission statement, the money constitution summarizes–in writing–what is important to them. The money constitution serves as the basis upon which all decisions are based.
Once you have a money constitution, you can strategize with clients about how to achieve their hopes, dreams and goals. The best way to do this is to go back to basics, using a simple little prop: the money-savvy piggy bank.
This piggy bank has 4 chambers: save, invest, spend and donate. These 4 chambers are a good visual reminder of the balance that clients need to strike between competing priorities. The value they put on philanthropy, for example, will impact the other chambers–and vice versa.
Your marketing strategy should mirror your client acquisition strategy. Market to the right audience–to clients you would enjoy working with, and with whom you share similar values. At Lenox, we market to “A” clients who share certain common denominators: they care about their kids, health and wealth.
Children come first on this list. Parents want to provide them with a quality education that prepares them for a life of independence and good decision-making. Armed with this insight, we developed a Money-Smart Kids program that gives parents the tools they need to raise financially literate children. The initiative is a marketing platform in that it gets us in front of the right prospects–people who care deeply about their children and want to prepare them for the wealth they will one day inherit.
The single most important thing you can do to improve your business is to be happy. Be joyful. Enjoy going to work every day. Greet your staff and your clients with vibrancy and enthusiasm. That can come from only 2 things: loving what you do; and enjoying the people you work with, including clients.
But remember: it isn’t just a personality test that qualifies prospects to work with you. They also need to meet other criteria to help you build your practice. They have to be your ambassadors, willing and able to refer you to others. They also have to qualify financially to work with you and be open to a full-service model.
When you build your practice around values, you bring more meaning to life for both you and your clients. That will keep both you and your clients firmly grounded about what is truly important in life.
Thomas J. Henske, CLU, ChFC, CLTC, CFS, CTS, CFP, is a partner at Lenox Advisors, a wholly owned subsidiary of National Financial Partners, New York. You may e-mail him at . This is an abridged version of a presentation he gave at the MDRT annual meeting in Toronto.