The weather may have cooled with the onset of fall, but for many advisors, the heat is still on. A glimpse at the numbers for the first three quarters of the year brings a renewed sense of urgency about the business that needs to be finished in the fourth quarter to turn a good 2008 into an outstanding one, a mediocre year into a respectable one. You’re on the clock. Three months remain to meet or exceed the goals you set for yourself and your practice.
Forget what happened the first three quarters, good, bad and otherwise. It’s time to show you’re a closer, a pressure performer, because a strong finish to 2008 will not only boost your year-end numbers, it will set the tone for 2009 and beyond. Like a distance runner who summons a late burst of speed when the finish line looms, there are solid steps you can take to close 2008 with a flourish. Here the experts offer 10 tactics, techniques and tips — some obvious, others less so — to help bring you to the tape feeling satisfied you did the absolute best you could for yourself and your clients in a topsy-turvy year.
Review the portfolios/accounts of ALL your existing clients, then talk with each of them, either over the phone or face-to-face. The existing client base is an often-overlooked goldmine that many advisors fail to dig through. Also, with market volatility causing disruptions, going back to those existing relationships is more prudent than ever.
Connecting with existing clients creates opportunities on several fronts. For clients approaching retirement who feel skittish because of a roller-coaster portfolio performance, it can provide the entr?e to revisit their wealth management plans, then to initiate an already scripted move to more conservative instruments, suggests John M. Comer, CFP, principal at Comer Consulting, LLC, a Plymouth, Minn., firm that helps advisors position and market their practices. “You and your client may decide it’s best to start the process [of shifting assets to income-generation and asset-preservation mode] now, even if it is a little earlier than anticipated. It’s something you can do to make them feel a bit more comfortable.”
Everyone wants to talk about market performance and how it has affected their own portfolios, so there’s a readymade icebreaker to open a “state of the portfolio” conversation that later leads to a discussion about repositioning and rebalancing assets. Here it’s the advisor’s job not only to offer answers, explanations and if need be, comforting words, but also to be a fact-finder, alert for changing circumstances that suggest the client is a good prospect for a new product, and a solution-provider, ready with a strategy that fits those new circumstances.
That’s when it’s a good time to drill down and examine existing investments. Advisors should take the time to research every aspect of a client’s assets — cash accounts, variable accounts, anywhere there’s an opportunity to be creative.
Even if nothing immediate comes of the discussion from a transactional standpoint, says Comer, reconnecting with clients during periods of uncertainty can create good will in a relationship that might otherwise be strained by a failure to initiate outreach. “People are concerned. They know how their investments are doing. If you haven’t contacted them, they wonder why. By you reaching out, a client who uses multiple advisors might see you as one who’s making the extra effort when his or her other advisors aren’t. That can lead to new business or referrals from that client.”
Refocus and redouble efforts to fill the referral pipeline. An advisor with a good referral program should set aside an occasional two-week period to try new soft-but-straightforward tactics for requesting them. Rather than directly asking for referrals during periodic review meetings with clients, an advisor can set it up so his assistant does the asking. Instead of going directly in to see the advisor, clients first meet briefly with an assistant, who raises the subject in a more procedural, less formal — and perhaps less coercive — setting.
Embrace multimedia technology as a marketing ally. While many advisors’ bread-and-butter client recruitment strategy is still seminars, embracing new technology is another way to keep prospects in the pipeline. Custom-designed multimedia platforms such as CD-ROMS can be used to introduce yourself to prospects.
Initial costs can be high when going the multimedia route, but producers are finding it a clean and succinct way to get in front of potential clients.
These multimedia presentations do not need to have everything but the kitchen sink to get a prospect’s attention. A simple three-minute introduction seems to be the right length to get people’s focus, without having them tune out.