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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

5 Ways Advisors Can Improve Their Prospecting Workshops

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Financial pros know the importance of a good workshop. Done right, these can be a successful strategy for attracting new clients as well as keeping current clients satisfied with your services. But too often workshops become missed opportunities for advisors to gain business, client trust and rapport. Unless you convince people to actually do something differently after the workshops, all the flawlessly delivered presentations, shiny bound workbooks and savvy PowerPoint presentations don’t mean anything. Some of the best workshops I’ve ever seen didn’t even use PowerPoint, yet left the audience feeling motivated and empowered to make significant changes to their current financial situations. 

I’ve learned this over the 13 years Financial Finesse has been in business as a financial education provider. In our line of work, high behavioral change among employees is crucial, and we’ve developed best practices for doing this that successfully motivate employees to take action after our workshops. After participating in one of our recent workshops, 89% of participants made at least one tangible improvement to their finances with most participants making three or more tangible improvements. 

From the advisor’s standpoint, there is a lot of opportunity to effect change in people’s financial and investment behavior, whether it’s through direct conversations with clients, workshops or planning sessions. You can apply the same concepts we’ve used to motivate your clients and prospects in working with you and making investment decisions. Here are the top five approaches we’ve found to be are crucial into motivating and effecting change:

1.  Throw out the script.

At some point or another, we’ve all probably sat through workshops that were read nearly word for word from a script. How engaged were you sitting through something like this? Probably not very. Though you can implement some interactivity even with a script, providing a workshop this way generally misses an important factor to motivating change within participants: relating to them. Whether your audience is full of cynical investors who don’t see the market improving by the time they want to retire, or individuals who are just starting out, they want to know you’re human. They want to know you are facing the same decisions they face and that you’d make the same decisions about their investments as you would your own. People won’t get that understanding if you read your presentation rather than share it with them.

2.  Show, don’t tell.

These days you’re dealing with more skeptical investors, so proving yourself is even more crucial than before. A Capco/Tower study found that 75% of people surveyed said their trust in large institutions fell after the 2008 recession. Because of this lack of trust, advisors should aim to provide people with information they didn’t already know in their workshops and give them something tangible to leave with. One way we do this is by using calculators in front of the group and asking them to be the ones to provide the numbers used in it. This not only gets the group to participate and to feel a sense of connection with the content and the professional giving the workshop, but it also gives them a very real look at what impact their financial decisions have on their future.  This can motivate them to do something, whether it’s hiring you or assessing their goals and circumstances. Either way it’s a positive outcome.

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3.  Hit all learning styles.

We’ve all heard that “no one likes to be talked at.” Though this is true, making your workshops interactive is only one piece to making them more effective at changing behavior. Research shows people learn in a variety of ways, which is why, based on evidence from the Index of Learning Styles, people learn better using one style versus another. We’ve had a high rate of success when we deliver our education in a way that reaches all learning styles. We provide visuals for those who prefer to “see” the concepts. We provide something tangible like a worksheet or workbook to allow the “doers” to go through the process of applying the concepts. Try to reach every type of learner that could be in your workshop and keep the “cone of learning” in mind, so that you maximize your chances of effecting change.

4.  Get feedback and adapt.

Probably the most important component of our ability to provide effective workshops is getting feedback from our participants.  This allows us to adapt our workshops to better accommodate the participants’ learning needs and styles. This can be done without annoying participants if you show them you are truly interested in using their feedback to improve your services. This can also show them that you are a proactive and forward-thinking professional who will take the same approach in everything you do, including working with them. Try to adapt to your group by gauging what they want to get out of the workshop before you even start. This can be tough with a group that is not very active in participating, but it will help you determine what participants are interested in, their current level of knowledge on the topic and what issues you should cover. Talk to them beforehand. Ask them what they want to get out of the workshop and keep in mind the workshop is always about them. Be flexible, and don’t worry too much if participants’ questions lead you off your course—this can become a bonding experience that leaves them motivated and confident in your knowledge level and in what the relationship would be like working with you.

5.  Less is more.

In my recent column, 3 Things Advisors Can Learn from Steve Jobs, I talked about how the world is moving toward simplification. Jobs was revolutionary in his approach to this idea and created a line of products that included simple devices that used only a few buttons to accomplish a variety of tasks. The same concept can apply to your workshops. Keep the text in your presentations and your materials minimal. Leave room for participants to take notes so they’re actively learning and engaging in the discussion rather than focusing on all the information on the screen or worksheet. You’ll find that people prefer to engage this way rather than trying to take in all the information you’re providing.

Improving the way you conduct your workshops can help you address some of the major issues facing advisors these days in obtaining, and keeping, new business.