As you strive to grow your practice into a successful business, a blueprint is a grand and important thing to have. But without basic tools—your hammer and nails—your efforts to build are not likely to be fruitful. So what tools should you have in your toolbox to move from having a practice to having a true business? Here are a few I would like to share with you.
Improve your corporate image.
If I drove up to a meeting in a 1973 Dodge Dart with a dingy paint job and dents, what assumptions would you make about my success? Would your impression be different if I drove up in a Mercedes SL 500? First impressions matter. Clients see your business card and materials and establish in their mind where you are on the ladder of success. If you have a white or a beige card that has black lettering on it, it’s time to do something. Insurance companies do not spend millions of dollars on marketing literature because they are nice, they do it because somewhere along the line their research department determined that clients buy more when things look good.
Master the prospect phone call.
Let’s take an example. Somebody calls your firm to talk to you, and your assistant answers the phone. The prospect says, “My CPA suggested that I need some financial planning.” Does your assistant say, “Well, that’s great Mr. Smith. Let's schedule an appointment.”
Or does your assistant say, “Well, Mr. Smith, I’d be happy to schedule an appointment for you, but I’d like to take a moment to share with you a little bit about our firm and our unique approach to the work that we do. We focus on wealth planning; we find we do our best work with clients that have a net worth in excess of $1 million because there are certain complexities involved in that type of planning that we have become very good at. To make this process valuable, we’re going to meet with you for two hours, and to make that meeting valuable, I’m going to send you some information and ask that you return it to us three days before our meeting so that John has the opportunity to review that information in depth and be prepared to address your personal situation when you meet with him. During that meeting, John will discuss your situation and options, answer any questions you may have and provide you with information you need to make good choices. At that point, you can decide if you’re comfortable in moving forward with our firm and, if so, we’ll schedule another meeting in two weeks and begin the analysis process.”
Clients see your business card and materials and establish in their mind where you are on the ladder of success.
In the second option, very important points are communicated about the nature of the firm, its process and that they will decide in the first meeting whether they wish to continue—and it is implied that they will (a sign of confidence). The first bit of dialogue says, “Please, come in,” while the second says, “We are successful professionals who know what we are doing, have a defined process and there are mutual standards for this relationship.” Which would you choose?
Upgrade the material you send.
When advisors schedule a client appointment, they often send out a confirmation letter: a one-page, 8 1/2; by 11 typed letter. They fold that letter in three, put it in an envelope and mail it. I believe you can do better.
What comes in the mail in envelopes that size? Bills. Junk mail. Does anything important come in an envelope that size, unless it’s from the IRS? When you get your mail, what’s the first piece you open? It’s the big one, right? If you get a FedEx, Priority Mail or UPS envelope, you open it first. Why? Because it must be important.
So, pay the several dollars it costs to mail something in a priority envelope and send your information in a way that makes it stand out. The post office has done your marketing for you. Capitalize on it. In that package should be information that sets expectations and clearly defines who you are, what you do, what the client can expect from you and what you expect of them. Provided everyone agrees to move forward, you have the foundation for a successful relationship.
Adapted from a speech given at the 2004 MDRT annual meeting. Reprinted with permission from MDRT. All rights reserved.
Stephanie DeWees is president of DP Group, a business consulting firm that she founded in 1996. She works with financial professionals across the country to bring about meaningful and dynamic change in their businesses. Contact her at 866-798-5328, or through the company website at www.dpgroup.net.