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Volatile Markets: A Great Time To Grow Your Business

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Economic uncertainty, a sharp downturn in the U.S. housing market, soaring fuel prices and the credit crisis have caused consumer confidence to drop to nearly an all-time low. It could be assumed that the outlook by agents and advisors who make a living dealing with the financial issues of clients would also be negative.

But confidence appears to be running high in one segment of the agent and advisor population. Top advisor after top advisor with whom we talk tell us that although these are difficult times, it is also the greatest time to be in this business.

Opportunity in difficult conditions?

There is a phenomenon experienced by the nations’ top agents and advisors when market conditions get bumpy. They excel! In difficult market conditions, these professionals bring on more new clients and referrals increase.

We surveyed 50 of the nation’s top financial professionals with different areas of business focus, from different firms and in different areas of the country, to inquire about their strategies for thriving in difficult times. The answers were surprisingly similar and based on taking advantage of opportunities and instilling confidence in times of great uncertainty.

The opportunity begins when clients are increasingly thirsty for answers. They want solutions and they want to be communicated with.

Increase exposure

Many professionals with whom we talked recalled 2002 as an incredible year for growth, though the markets experienced decline. When the markets decline, investors may be looking for a change, and they will often look to an obvious choice: someone who has name recognition or someone trusted by others.

A simple ad in the newspaper that in good times brings exposure only to a firm has been seen to generate phone calls from interested prospects in volatile times. An increase in exposure helps capture the clients who are looking for a change.

Right now is the best time to get referrals

It may be surprising, but volatile market conditions are one of the best times to get referrals from clients. It’s when the value is reaffirmed. Referrals come as a result of the increased focus on consistent, confidence-building conversations with clients, addressing the psychology and fear of the client and reaching out proactively. Yes, these activities may be common sense, but they have been shown to result in better than usual referrals and new business sales.

A proactive confidence statement

To thrive as an advisor, you must focus more than ever on having consistent, confidence-building conversations. But just because you are in financial services doesn’t mean that your outlook or your staff’s is anywhere near positive. Assess your own emotions and conclusions and that of your staff. Then develop a confidence statement that will be your consistent message to clients.

For example: ‘The market and [our firm] have been here before and we’re uniquely prepared to help you today. This is why you chose us…to give you clarity and confidence about the future. We are working for you.’ Have a staff meeting to discuss your confidence statement and post it on all desks/computer screens in the office.

Also, when there is a significant period of market decline or particularly negative news about an investment or insurance company, these agents and advisors get on the phone and proactively call clients. They are also clearing their schedules to make these proactive calls. Some of the most effective calls are made to top clients to let them know that their accounts are being watched, that market conditions are being analyzed, and that the advisor is looking out for needed changes.

Skip the statistics

In client conversations about the market and their accounts, advisors say it’s often the way they share information that makes a positive impact on the client. Clients hear the statistics and historical perspectives, the financial health of companies, and the negative (and positive) outlooks by economists and the media. But it may be just noise because what clients really want to hear is that they will be okay.

Top advisors schedule additional account review meetings with top clients and those that are especially nervous to review goals and how current issues may affect them. When clients are reminded of their own goals and of previous conversations you had with them, they receive confirmation that they are positioned correctly.

A contrarian view

Some people are natural contrarians. When everything seems to be going down, they are looking up. As we are painfully reminded each day, the market is volatile, experts are talking about recession, the price of oil is skyrocketing, the financial strength of several banks and Wall Street firms have eroded, and investor confidence is low. But there are some who believe this is the best time. It may just be how you look at it.

An opportunity begins when clients are thirsty for answers. They want solutions; and they want to be communicated with. When they don’t get what they want and their pain becomes great enough, they may look for someone who is more attentive to their needs.

However, our survey found that if clients are happy with your response to the current situation, they will increase their loyalty and refer more business to you than even in positive market conditions! The good news is that clients do have something positive to talk about…and it’s you!