Back in 1995, financial advisor and author Nick Murray published his seminal book “Gathering Assets.” In it, Nick argued that to succeed, independent advisors needed to learn how to sell their investment management services. Some advisors followed his advice and achieved remarkable success. But most didn’t: the advisory world just wasn’t ready to embrace ‘sales,’ and I have to say, most advisors never had to because selling independent advice was about just saying you are ‘independent.” 

Times have changed with a massive amount of new advisory firms popping up, namely because we are seeing more breakaways than ever before. Therefore, firms and their advisors have to learn to sell. 

Over the past year, I’ve observed clients of mine who are breakaway brokers make  pitches to prospective advisory clients. They sit down with the prospect and make a short, 20-minute presentation. They close deals—and sign up the new clients left and right. How do they do it? Once I figured it out, it was an ‘Aha!’ moment.

I’ve written before about how our data shows that both referrals and client prospect closing ratios are falling at many independent advisory firms (see, for example, RIAs and the Pricing Paradox).

I’ve come to believe that a major cause of this disturbing trend is the large and growing flow of breakaway brokers into the independent advisory business. Unlike most traditionally trained independent advisors these days who seem to have a down right aversion to even the appearance of ‘selling,’ most breakaway brokers are trained to ‘sell,’ have experience selling and are more than happy to use these skills to close prospective clients that would otherwise have gone to established advisory firms. 

To compete, I believe that independent advisors are going to have to get over their prejudices and learn to sell. The good news is that contrary to popular belief, virtually anyone can learn to do it once they make a commitment to do so. And, they’ll need to get over the ‘value-added’ multistep, multiday processes that have become so popular in the independent advisory industry these days. 

In fact, if your ‘pitch’ takes more than 20 minutes, you’re wasting your prospect’s time, and more important, your own time. After all, think of how many new clients you could meet with during the time you spend on one of those multiday pitches. To greatly improve their “sales” efforts, I’m recommending that owner-advisors do three things: 1) write an effective 20 minute pitch; 2) use it every time you talk about your firm with everyone you know; 3) train everyone in your firm to use it, too. 

An effective sales pitch has six elements. To fit into 20 minutes, you obviously can’t spend much time on any one of them: 

1) Your mission. This is where you talk about helping clients navigate the often complex financial services industry to use their current and future resources to achieve their goals.

2) Your core values. This where you talk about your independence, your professional ethics, and your legal duties (fiduciary, e.g.) to your clients. 

3) Your team. Briefly describe the key people in your firm, including yourself, their professional credentials, experience and area of expertise. 

4) Your services. Briefly list everything your firm offers, from financial planning to portfolio management to tax and trust services, etc. 

5) Your new client process. This is really what you are selling: the discovery meeting, the planning meeting, how implementation of the plan works, etc. 

6) How to get started. This is sales 101, and it’s where most advisors fail. You have to give the client a path to get started with your firm: “Here’s how to become a client…” 

Once you’ve written out your pitch, work on it some more until it’s as concise and clear as you can make it. Then practice it—out loud—over and over and over until you can repeat it in your sleep. Finally, use that exact same pitch with every prospect, every client, every employee and all your strategic partners. When you say the same thing in the same way other people start to repeat it: your clients, your employees and your other contacts. That means you have all those people effectively ‘selling’ your firm.

What’s missing from most advisory ‘sales pitches’ today is a short, clear, repeatable message that includes a path to becoming a client. And when you’ve repeated your sales pitch so often that you start to become bored with it, you’ll know that you’re doing it right. 

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