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The 10 Biggest Landmines for Advisors to Avoid

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What’s the one thing you’d want if you had to cross a mine field? I would suggest someone–a guide–who has crossed the field successfully.

Recently, Jack Canfield, author of the best selling “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” series, shared with me and a group of others some of the mistakes that he and co-author, Mark Victor Hansen, made on the journey to sell an unbelievable 125 million copies of their books.

What is the value of learning about those mistakes from someone who’s already been there worth? Priceless!

The most effective way for children to learn lessons when they are young is to allow them to make their own mistakes and experience the consequences. Touch the stove. Burn your hand. Lesson learned. No more teaching required… hopefully.

When building a highly profitable, affluent-only advisor business, trial and error is the most devastatingly costly method of learning. There is no advantage to learning mistakes yourself. In fact, it’s worse, because it’s too costly in business to make your own mistakes. It’s why over 90% ultimately fail.

That’s what makes coaches and mentors worth their weight in gold. Learning from those who are doing it right will save you tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. More importantly, you can dramatically shorten your learning curve and speed your way to success.

During our first trip to Hawaii, my wife, Beth, son, Josh, and daughter, Anni, and I got the chance to shoot shotguns at clay pigeons. A friend taught us how to shoot. It was pretty fun.

We liked it so much that we decided to join a shooting club near our home. One day, while we were practicing, an older gentleman showed up and began watching us. After a few minutes, he came over and introduced himself and asked, “May I share a few tips with you?” He is one of the shooting coaches at the club.

Are you kidding? I thought.

After showing us a slight change in the set up of our feet, the right way, our success almost doubled. Hmmm. How long would it have taken me to figure that out… if ever?

That’s why Vince Lombardi said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” My version is “right” practice.

The 10 Mistakes

Below are ten landmines–mistakes–that advisors make trying to work with the affluent. But first, allow me to share a little bonus with you: two foundational mistakes.

One of my earliest mistakes in the advisor business was believing that by simply having a dream, a good-heart, and doing good work, that I would be successful, make great money, have great clients and have abundant time for my family and other pursuits! Wow, was I wrong.

The other, the biggest of all, was not investing in the right coaches and mentors. Harvey McKay, super successful business owner and mega-bestselling author said in a recent interview, “I have 20 coaches.”

How about you?

So, here are ten mistakes I’ve observed from my own experience and from coaching other financial and estate planning advisors when it comes to working with the affluent.

?Number one is not establishing your credibility before you meet a prospect. If you wait to establish your credibility face to face, at best it sounds self-serving … at worst it sounds braggadocios. Either way, it sounds me-centered and will completely turn off the affluent. You must have a process in place to consistently establish your credibility before you meet with them face to face.

? The second is not understanding the difference between marketing, positioning, and engaging. If you started in the financial services industry 30 years ago like me, you were taught to sell clients with traditional selling and closing methods.

The problem: Those methods may be effective with the average person, but they will backfire on the affluent. You can’t sell the affluent, because they won’t be sold. They will buy on their term, for their reasons, but they can’t be sold.

I was also taught that you should market, market, market yourself to anybody and everybody. False. The real purpose of marketing is to repel: to keep the wrong prospects away from you. If your marketing system is not filtering out the wrong kind of prospects, guess who’s doing it? You’re doing it. And you’re wasting your most valuable asset: your time.

To keep our shower drain from constantly getting clogged with hair, I put a small screen in the drain to act as a filter. Picture what that screen looks like when it’s changed. That’s you…if you’re meeting with the wrong kind of prospects, you are clogged up! Your marketing system needs to filter out the wrong prospects.

? And this leads to the third mistake: not discriminating and qualifying every prospect. Traditional training for financial advisors equips them with an interesting prospecting tool: a mirror. If someone can fog the mirror, they are a good prospect. Make 100 people who can fog the mirror your clients every year and you’ll be set.

What a lie! You’ll be insane. And you’ll have to hire someone to create a plan to transition you from the 80% of clients you shouldn’t be working with.

Why not discriminate up front and take the time you save to target the right clients you want to spend the rest of your life being with, helping and serving. Every prospect must know that while they’re interviewing you, you are also interviewing them.

? The fourth mistake is not letting prospects beg you to tell them what you do. Have you ever been to an auction? Flinch and you own an item. That’s what the average advisor is like. The minute a prospect flinches, the advisor rushes into telling them what they do.

Take out a piece of paper and write this down: If a prospect believes that what they’re currently doing is going to get them to where they want to go, it doesn’t matter what you do. You’re wasting your time talking to them about what you do before they’re convinced they can’t get to where they want to go without doing something different.

Here’s my three rule: an affluent prospect has to ask me three times before I’ll tell them what I do.

? Mistake number five is not understanding the power of take away. Traditional advisor training teaches you the 73 ways to close people. Closing may work with the average client, but it doesn’t work with the affluent. It must be more like a dance. Think about it. If I lean into your face, what’s your natural reaction? Lean away, right? You must learn the skill of leaning away at the appropriate time.

? Mistake number six is not allowing prospects to own their problems, circumstances and consequences. I coach advisors to take the phone booth out of their office. What’s that mean? The phone booth is the place where you rip off your suit and become Superman or Superwoman and come to the rescue of your prospect–too soon. Don’t be so quick to “show ‘em your cape!”

? The seventh mistake is not getting your fee (even if you don’t charge fees) on the table quickly and in such a way that puts the pressure on the prospect. Every real problem requires a commitment, an investment of something, to fix. Even if you don’t charge a fee, your prospect must be willing to make a commitment (three really) or you’re gambling away your time.

? Mistake number eight is not disempowering their current decision authority. Many advisors believe that prospects will dump everything they’ve been doing and instantly make a change.

That doesn’t make sense. There exists what I call the “mantle of authority.” Your prospect has given that mantle to someone. It may not even be a financial person. You must help them figure out who that is and determine if your prospect is open to handing that mantle of authority to someone else–you. If not, you’re wasting your time.

? Not using laser-guided questions is the ninth mistake. Advisors have “itchy trigger fingers.” They’re too quick to tell. Truth is, people don’t even know how to think about this area of their life. So when they ask you a question, they usually don’t really know what they’re asking. In my latest book, “Double your Affluent Clients,” I quote Blaise Pascal (a mathematician and inventor of many things, including the vacuum cleaner and public transportation) about this issue: “We are more easily persuaded, in general, by the reasons we ourselves discover than by those which are given to us by others.” You’ve got to have a laser-guided, question-based process that leads a prospect through self discovery.

? The tenth and final mistake is not educating prospects on how to buy…you! Prospects, even affluent ones, have no idea how to discern the difference between you and every other advisor. Unless you can educate your ideal prospects on how to discern the difference, they’ll default to the only thing they know when every alternative looks the same… price. At that point, you become rock salt… just a commodity.

Rating Yourself

Ten mistakes, or landmines, to avoid. There are more and I’d love to share them with you in the future. In the meantime, take a minute and rate yourself on each one of these. Pick just one to work on this week–the one with the highest payoff to you.

Then tape this article on your computer; revisit it each week and focus on the next highest payoff for maximum leverage of these concepts.

Follow this guide and it will lead you successfully through the land mine field and help you grow to the next level of success with affluent prospects and clients!

Scott Keffer is the founder and CEO of Wealth Transfer Solutions, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa. You may e-mail him at [email protected].