Financial Advisor Success
How to Find Greater Success in the Coming Year
Hello, I am Suzanne Muusers. For the last 11 years I have been coaching successful advisors. Please read my Special Educational Report below designed to help you make an Action Plan for a successful financial advisory practice.
7 Financial Advisor Success Strategies
As a Business Coach for Financial Advisors and in my volunteer role as Director of Public Relations for the Financial Planning Association of Greater Phoenix, I network with many successful advisors.
I've met financial advisors just starting out in the business. I've also met financial planners who have been in the business for many years. Whether seasoned or new to profession, financial advisors can benefit from my 7 Success Strategies below.
Business skills are not taught – they are learned. I have been fortunate to have my serial-entrepreneur father as my mentor. I've been coached my entire life on how to be successful. Unfortunately many financial planners have not had the mentors they need. That's why I have written this special report.
I think we are all capable of huge success. The question is: Are you willing to do the work? This is where the rubber meets the road. It takes knowledge and work to be prosperous. Successful financial advisors are willing to do the things that average advisors are unwilling to do. It's that simple.
1. Manage Your Financial Advisor Practice Like a Business
2. Target Target Target -Your Market
3. Be a Financial Advisor That's Known for Expertise!
4. Invest in… YOURSELF
5. Network: Get out There and Meet People!
6. Build an Advisor Team, Not a Solo Practice
7. Create a Financial Advisor Client Service Matrix
How to best use this report:
At the end of each Success Strategy there is a Homework section detailing what you need to do to be a better financial advisor. Each section also has links to additional resources.
No matter if you are an independent advisor, a broker with a wirehouse, or a fee-only advisor, you are managing your own business. Your success depends on none other than you.
If you goof off, neglect to follow up with prospective clients, come in late and leave early, you aren’t likely to win any top producer awards. What will help you is to learn how to manage your practice like a business and this special report is a good place to start.
Mark is an independent advisor with a leased office in a professional building. He utilizes a contact management software program made for advisors to keep track of his appointments. He has a smart phone that syncs his contacts and calendar. He always knows his schedule.
He blocks time on his calendar for many types of activities, including a morning workout three days a week, but he is usually in his office by 8:30am excited and ready to go.
His energy is highest in the mornings, so he blocks time to make calls to prospective clients to ensure his prospecting strategies are being well implemented.
He provides excellent service to his existing clients so he blocks time for calling clients on a regular basis. In the afternoon three days a week, he calls his list of top clients, making sure to ask if there's anything he can do for for them.
Work smarter, not harder
Mark sends his calls to voicemail at times to get work completed. In the late afternoon when his energy is at its lowest, he returns calls and answers email. Two days a week in the afternoon he also meets with clients for their in-person reviews.
Mark is a visual person, as are most of us, and thus he color codes his appointments. He can glance at his schedule and know how the day is shaping up by the colors he sees. Green is for money making activities like prospecting and marketing. Yellow is for client appointments, orange is for networking events, and royal blue is for follow up and business management.
Model Work Week
Mark has a model work week and he plans his week around these activities as much as possible. He can reveiw his calendar and get a firm idea of where he has free time and where he can be productive.
Mark is "proactive," not "reactive." When you plan your work week, you are in charge. If you allow the emergencies of the day to plan your life, you are "reacting" to each problem as it comes up. When you work smarter, not harder, you have your bases covered and you can go home on time!
Run the numbers
Mark's assistant manages his accounting software by entering business transactions. He always knows how he's doing and reviews income and expenses monthly and year to date. He knows what he needs to do to not only be profitable, but to excel in his business.
The moral of the story is that Mark treats his practice like a business. He is organized, has a well developed schedule, focuses on the important tasks such as following up with prospective clients, meeting with existing clients and asking for referrals, and he knows when he has free time.
Vow to become better organized and to run your practice like a business. Develop a routine or schedule that works for you. Reserve time on your calendar for client meetings, calls, and replying to emails. Delegate administrative tasks to an assistant so that you can focus on practice building strategies.
My highly successful system focused on getting new clients, getting productive, and ramping up your prospecting plan.
Your financial success depends upon being strategic in the clients you choose to serve. You'd be wise to declare up to 3 target clients, or niche markets for your practice. By attempting to serve everyone and anyone, you are really serving no one. And that's not memorable!
The benefit of defining specific target markets or ideal clients is that you will get a picture of who you are really serving. When you can name the demographic and psychographic details of your ideal client you can tell your referral partners who you work best with.
Having a target market makes you memorable!
By identifying a target market you will be better able to find new clients and significantly improve the effectiveness of your prospecting.
You will need to build a Target Client Profile that includes both demographic and psychographic details. Begin by making a list of attributes you admire about your favorite clients. What is it about them that makes it a pleasure to serve them?
Identify the following:
• Their socio-economic group
• Their geographical location
Other factors to identify:
• Are they executives with assets in non-qualified plans?
• Are they business owners with a need for a 401(k) plan?
• If a business owner, what type of industry?
• Are they professionals with 401k's who need rollover assistance?
• Are they families in need of wealth management, trusts, and wills?
• Are they single parents needing 529 plans?
• Are they new mothers and fathers in need of life insurance?
• Where do they congregate?
• What technology do they use?
Let's go back to Mark, our example above. Mark specializes in small business owners with 50 or fewer employees. Most of his clients have service-based businesses, are profitable and need help with their company retirement plan.
To make this targeting process complete, you'll need to develop an interesting 30 Second Elevator Speech and a 10 second introductory speech by using my 6 step process.
If you've been reluctant to declare a target client, is fear holding you back? Are you afraid that by declaring a target client you will lose business because you no longer can sell to everyone and anyone? You can rest easy because having a target client doesn't mean you can't still work with other types of clients, it just means you are a specialist in one particular area.
** Please note: Target Market Development and Branding is VITAL to your practice. By identifying up three target markets, you can brand your company effortlessly using your website so that you attract ideal clients right to your front door.
Take a look at your client files. Who are your favorite clients? Who are the most lucrative clients? Where is your experience? Develop a Target Client Profile and let people know who you work best with.
Create a reputation by being known for an area of expertise and tie this into your target client. Your referral partners and clients need to picture who you work with and how you help them.
What are some of the benefits of positioning yourself as an expert in your field?
Being an expert or specialist in your niche affords you many benefits and competitive advantages including:
• Market yourself more easily
You won’t have to cold call clients because they will come to you. Remember, clients want an advisor who is perceived as knowledgeable and skilled with solving their problems.
• Clients will be pre-sold
Clients who know you specialize in what they're looking for will be more eager to hire you. If they've just experienced a sudden wealth event they'll be looking for help from someone who has expertise in their need. They could be looking for estate planning, tax planning, and wealth management. It's unlikely that they will go to a generalist when their needs are specific. It's easier to obtain new clients when they are pre-sold by your knowledge and expertise.
• More opportunities
You'll have the opportunity to speak, write, or comment about issues, challenges, new products, and trends within your niche. You'll be asked to attend industry events and networking opportunities. Imagine having your ideas and projections published and recognized by important industry commentators!
• Be more selective
You can be more selective with the clients you choose to work with. You can turn down the $4,000 Roth IRA rollover and focus on the clients who are most in need of your expertise.
• Improve your close ratio
You'll improve your close ratio by demonstrating your expertise. You'll realize a higher return on your marketing dollars, in turn reducing your client cost of acquisition.
• Increase referrals
You will create a reputation and build greater client loyalty which can significantly increase client referrals. Use my Referral Scripts Galore and learn how to have referral conversations.
• Limit competitors
You'll be able to limit the number of competitors in your field because you are perceived as one of the few advisors that can assist a client with their unique needs. This can build your reputation and reinforce your positioning as a superior advisor in your niche.
• Don’t limit yourself
You don't have to limit yourself to one specialization. You can be a specialist in several related areas.
Let's go back to Mark, our example above. Mark is a specialist in 401k plans, Simple IRA plans, and SEP IRAs. He regularly attends conferences and seminars to learn as much as he can about benefit plans so that he can be of service to his business clients.
Are you a female advisor? Prospective women clients are looking for female advisors who are experts in their issues. This is a natural fit for women advisors. You can build an entire practice around targeting women and specializing in their unique challenges.
Look at your current clients and strategize opportunities for specialization. Keep revenue potential and your own interests and passions in mind. Take the steps necessary to be able to call yourself a expert.
As a financial advisor it's your job to help clients invest in securities, mutual funds, and other investments, but what about investing in yourself?
What are you doing on the weekends? Are you wasting time that could be used to invest in further education, not only in your industry but also areas that could make you a well-rounded individual? What are you doing with your week nights? Are you watching too much television and not using your time to read and improve yourself? What strategies can you implement to advance your career?
The newer you are to this field, the more I would like you to focus on investing in your skills!
Personal Health & Fitness:
What are you doing to ensure that you are operating at your best? Do you need to start an exercise routine? Do you need to create goals around health and fitness? If you believe in the "strong body, strong mind" concept and vow to include workouts and healthful food in your everyday regimen you will be an asset for your clients and a role model for your associates.
Remember to keep growing by taking training courses, seminars, and workshops. What conferences could you attend that would put you in contact with other ambitious advisors? By keeping company with successful high achievers, some of their energy will rub off on you. What do you need to learn? If you continue to learn new things you will grow and attract new clients.
What designations and credentials could you acquire that would help you gain knowledge and credibility? What additional services could you offer with additional credentials? How could a specialized designation help your confidence? I have seen many advisors increase their self-confidence and skill by investing in a credential.
What are you reading to keep up with industry and product knowledge? Which of the following are you reading?
On Wall St
Boomer Market Advisor
Online industry must-reads:
Bill Winterberg, FPPad.com
Michael Kitces, Nerd's Eye View
Tips to investing in yourself:
• Join a health club or take up a new sport (after seeking your doctor's advice).
• Perform your exercise routine first thing in the morning. Studies show that those who exercise before work tend to continue the practice.
• Update your Business Plan to include the pursuit of knowledge. List on your calendar the continuing education, classes, seminars, and conferences you want to attend to improve and invest in yourself.
• Consider which credentials or educational classes that may help you attract wealthier clients.
• Vow to be the best advisor you can be and all the business you want will flow your way.
Make a list of habits that keep you well.
Create a workout schedule.
Make plans to attend a conference or seminar.
Subscribe to one or more publications listed above.
I often talk to financial planners who are burdened with the daily details of running the business side of their practice. They have appointments, paperwork, phone calls to make, email to answer, and a myriad of other busyness to attend to.
When I ask how they get new business they tell me that they mostly obtain new clients by luck. Yes. Luck. They do not deliberately engage in any networking. Many advisor stay in the office without person to person or client contact for several days in a row.
It's time to network and meet new contacts! Schedule meetings with current clients and attend networking events. New business is not going to magically materialize if you are sitting at your desk with your head down immersed in paperwork.
What I want for you is to identify where your ideal clients congregate and to then create a strategy to mingle with them on a regular basis. This strategy should be focused rather than hit and miss.
Go back to strategy number two above and figure out what associations your ideal clients frequent. Take this strategy a step further and get involved in an organization. Volunteer to be on the board. Get on a committee. Create relationships.
The biggest mistake financial advisors make when networking is that they go to an event once or twice and when business doesn't come their way they quit.
Developing a successful referral strategy takes time and effort. Be focused. Don't go to every networking event around town. Be strategic and identify one to two organizations that best serve your interests. And get involved.
While you're at it, create Strategic Alliances. Who are good referral partners for you? Mark, our financial advisor from above, is a member of a Human Resources organization. He regularly attends meetings and receives referrals from fellow members. He has built a network with Benefits Managers, Business Advisors, HR Consultants, and CPA firms.
• Call your five favorite clients and ask if they are members of any associations or groups. Ask if they would be willing to take you under their wing and introduce you at an event.
• Make targeted networking a part of your marketing plan.
There's more freedom in a team. You can't do everything without giving up something.
• What happens if your practice is built around you?
• How do you feel when the business can't run itself without you?
• What would it be like if you could take a month of vacation annually?
I often see either the solo practitioner or superstar advisor who is resistant to creating a team-based financial advisory practice. The reasons are many. Reluctance to giving up control; concern that hiring an assistant will be too costly; the lone ranger syndrome – wanting to do it all alone; and, superstar ego – no one can do it like me.
Disadvantages of a practice built around you:
• It's difficult to take a long weekend off let alone a month of vacation because business revolves around you.
• You can't network if you're doing all the work.
• You can't meet with clients if you're doing all the work.
• Practices built around one financial advisor are difficult to sell.
Advantages of a team-based practice:
• When clients are trained to deal with a team environment right from the start, they become less dependent on you.
• The financial advisor experiences less stress and more balance.
• Time is available for meeting with clients and networking to find new clients.
• The practice is much easier to sell because clients have been trained not to depend on one superstar.
Tips to creating a team:
• Create a Brand for your practice. Write a Vision and Mission statement. Create a tagline that addresses what it is that you do for your target client.
• Ensure that the team concept carries over into all advertising and marketing.
• Write complete procedures detailing how everything is done in your practice from how mail is opened to filing to processing trades.
• Create roles and responsibilities for everyone in your practice. Everyone should know their job descriptions. Offer your staff Career Coaching so that they grow and flourish.
• Ensure that clients meet every member of the team. Educate clients regarding team members' responsibilities.
• If at all possible, do not name your practice after you. An effective exit strategy depends upon a team approach and if your name is on the business, it implies that you stay with the business. Read Naming Your Financial Planning or Wealth Management Firm.
Plan and strategize how you will build a team-based practice. Create short and long-term goals to work towards a team financial firm.
Ensure that you are providing first rate service for your clients by developing a Client Service Matrix and focus on your top clients. The Pareto Principle, also known as the "80/20 rule," states that 80% of effects come from 20% of efforts. Applied to a financial advisor's business, 80% of your income will come from 20% of your clients.
Find out which of your clients comprise the 20% and put them at the top of a Client Service Matrix. Provide excellent service and let your clients know about it in advance.
Clients want much more than above average returns from their portfolios. According to a 2004 study by Russ Alan Prince and Brett Van Bortel on wealthy investors, the principal reason clients leave their financial advisors is because they don’t get the personal attention they're looking for. The study pointed out that investors left advisors due to lack of service (87%) rather than investment performance (13%).
Ninety percent of financial advisors earning over $150,000 annually have a defined and detailed Client Service Strategy.
A good place to start is to segment your clients. There are many ways to segment. By account size. By future potential. By degree of effort to service. You'll probably need to do a great deal of customization on your segmented list. Some ideal clients may belong in a higher category because they are such a delight to work with. Some clients may need to be demoted because they are finicky or hard to please.
Develop a grid and identify the account size of your average clients. In an excel spreadsheet, decide who belongs at each level. Move clients from level to level based on your own internal factors.
Example of a Financial Advisor's Client Service Matrix
Type of Client
$1,000,001 and over
$501,000 - $1,000,000
Semi Annual Client Review
$251,000 - $500,000
Annual Client Review
$100,000 - $250,000
Annual Client Review
Additional services to add to your grid may vary depending upon your practice model and can include:
• Seminars and workshops
• Meetings between Estate Planning Attorneys and CPAs
• Spending needs calculations
• Family wealth planning
• Beneficiary designation review
• Estate plan analysis
• Trust review
• Portfolio monitoring/rebalancing
• Account aggregation
• Updates of financial plans
• Client appreciation events
• Social Security review
• Money manager selection for specific money goals
• Tax-efficient distribution analysis
Tips to get you started on your own Client Service Matrix:
• Survey your current clients to find out what services they would like you to perform.
• Create a list of the services you currently provide and a list of services you would like to provide and analyze what make sense for your practice.
• You may notice that as you move down the grid, services decrease. It's up to you whether you want to communicate your service levels.
• High net worth clients will be attracted to your practice as you provide more personal attention.
Upgrading your practice and changing your service model doesn't need to be complicated. Make appointments with your clients to have a Client Review Meeting and discuss how your service process will change.
Use the following script to change from a commission practice to a wealth management practice:
“I value the relationship we have developed from working together these past ten years. We've certainly been through some ups and downs. RecentlyI've changed my business model in order to provide more value to my clients. I have shifted to an advice-based relationship rather than a relationship based on transactions and products.
I would love to serve you better. Please take a look at my Client Service Process (show them your custom client service matrix). Here are the services you will now receive.
The world has changed and the economy has changed. Shouldn’t we change with the times? I'd love to serve you as your valued and trusted financial planner and investment manager. What else do you need to know about making this change?
Then, let's get started!"
I hope you find these seven financial advisor success strategies helpful. My hope is that you have found a few tips that will help you build a better practice. The key is focused action. Don't forget to work ON your business at least one to three hours per week.
Who is holding you accountable for your success?
When you are ready for a one on one coach, consider hiring my custom services. It's amazing what you can get done if you know you have to answer to your coach each week.
Are you taking care of yourself? Did you make the calls? Did you do the follow up? Are you reaching your goals? What are you doing to make yourself an asset for your clients?
Private Client Website
Work with me and gain access to my Private Client Website. You'll have immediate access to all my tools, exercises, scripts, sample prospecting plans, how-to guides to getting referrals from clients and centers of influence, and much more.
Wishing you big financial success, Suzanne
"Hire Suzanne before your competition does! Suzanne has helped me to gain more confidence, become a better leader, and focus on high payoff activities that grow my practice."
Financial Planner & Leader
"Don’t think twice about hiring Suzanne. Give coaching the time it deserves, be open, and trust that Suzanne will keep you on the right track."
AIF, CRPC, Financial Advisor, New Jersey
"I highly recommend Suzanne's services to anyone who is interested in growing their business and maintaining a healthy balance outside of work as well."
"Working with Suzanne has helped me to develop a distinctive brand. Having a cohesive brand gives me the confidence to network with and approach high level prospects. If I had not hired Suzanne, I would not have made this progress.
CFP® New York
"I truly feel that without Suzanne's guidance, my business would not have flourished. Her expertise in my field helped me produce the results I needed more quickly. But most importantly, she made me safe enough to recognize the weaknesses in my business (and myself). You can fix anything once you recognize the problem!!"