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Financial Planning > Charitable Giving

Maselli’s New Advisor Model: Advisors as Lifeguards (Seriously)

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Frank Maselli is a veteran on the advisor training circuit known particularly for his expertise in seminars and referrals, two subjects on which he has written bestselling books.

So it may come as a surprise that the seminar expert par excellence, who built his own advisory career on the back of thousands of successful seminars, doesn’t think they’re for everyone, or even most advisors.

“Less than 1% of advisors are good at seminars,” Maselli told AdvisorOne in a phone interview from his Raleigh, N.C., office.

The head of the Maselli Group advisor training consultancy is seemingly disparaging of referrals as well, saying “The old referral techniques were born in the Willy Loman era,” referring to the hapless Death of a Salesman character. “The entire industry has moved away from selling. We are not salespeople anymore.”

Frank MaselliWhat financial advisors are, or should be, Maselli (right) informs, is a part of a lifesaving profession. With passion in his voice, he says the notion is not just a metaphor.

“If you take money stress away from people, you add five years to their life. We’re here to alleviate the greatest pain that this entire generation is going to feel” due to what he refers to as a “cataclysmic upheaval” in the economy that will affect at least the next couple of generations.

“We are here to do something really good and really valuable. That requires a different tilt,” he says of his new Financial Lifeguard Academy, his latest training initiative, which until now he has offered through brokerage firms.

Next Friday, however, he will debut his first “live academy” open to all comers in his Raleigh home base; plans are afoot eventually to take the show on the road to all major cities.

The evolution in Maselli’s framework for training advisors was borne of his own personal experiences, not just a changed global economy.

When he started as an advisor, “I was told you’ve got to pound the phones, make a thousand calls a day. And I did it because I was a good soldier. Then I hit a wall and said ‘I can’t do this.’”

Maselli said he was opening 40 new accounts a month, and when that number fell to zero, his wise branch manager suggested he try giving public seminars. He was an instant sensation—not because seminars are the best method of getting clients but because he was uniquely good at giving them.

Citing business coach Dan Sullivan, Maselli says you need to find your “unique ability,” which Sullivan defines as something you love to do, something you’re really good at and something that makes you money. To that trio Maselli adds a fourth requirement: something that helps people.

“What I try to help advisors find is their passion and strength,” Maselli says, and one of the ways he does that is through the Kolbe A Index, a diagnostic tool designed to help a person identify his innate strengths.

“It’s not a personality test. And it’s not a knowledge test,” says Maselli, who says he’s one of the few people in the financial services profession certified in the program. “It measures instinctive strengths”—what you actually do, innately, rather than what you want to do (but may not be any good at).

For example, Maselli is an innovator who creates and comes up with out-of-the-box ideas, but he’s not analytical, organized or disciplined. The Kolbe analysis points the way to what kind of partners you need to be successful. “Do you need a marketing person? Do you need an administrative person?”

“You might have a guy with no discipline who needs a good administrative assistant to free his time to be a rainmaker,” Maselli says.

“There are a thousand paths to success in the industry,” he says, adding there is no Maselli Way. “My way is to help you find your way.”

So while Maselli was good at giving seminars, most advisors are not. When they try, and fail, they think seminars don’t work.

“The average advisor gets 30 people in a room. They set three appointments and get one relationship out of it. That’s not a way to get business; that’s a way to get out of business,” he jokes.

Maselli endeavors to help advisors get 30 people in a room, get 15 face-to-face appointments and achieve nine relationships per seminar for those with the ability and inclination to invest in appropriate skill training.

Another key area that Maselli is reframing for advisors is the ever-hot topic of referrals, another area that advisors are disengaged from because of repeated embarrassing failures. The traditional method of begging for names has no upside and unlimited downside, Maselli argues.

“You only want referrals from 10 clients. We teach the lifeguard referral,” he says, which means informing your top clients that they’re part of the advisor’s team: “Anyone you care deeply about can access our strengths now. We are successful and busy. The only ones we let in the lifeboat” are our clients and their best friends.

The advisor then demonstrates to the client how the firm treats referred clients, even handing out a document exhibiting the firm’s professional process.

The process “makes them look strong rather than weak and makes the fear go away,” Maselli says. No more looking “like a starving Dickens character,” he jokes.

Besides seminars, referrals and Kolbe-style discipline, Maselli’s new lifeguard training program covers topics including conviction, passion, client emotions, active listening, target-marketing, team-building and building your brand.


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