You will probably have read a lot of material and watched a lot of videos by now about transitioning your business, all of which will have got you thinking about what you need to do in order to create a successful, sustainable post-RDR practice.
How do you plan to make it happen? How do you define the services that you offer? How much will you charge for them? When will you tell a new client about your fees? As soon as they walk in the door? Sooner? How will you say it, and how might they react?
At the Money Marketing Academy we have begun a series of practical skills training courses, developed with the financial adviser community and its current challenges in mind.
We’ve started with number one on the list of success factors when you’re running a business – Sales. Sales has become a bit of a dirty word in our industry, conjuring up notions of the “dark arts”; the use of manipulation, pressure and fear. However, the bottom line (literally) is that your business doesn’t exist without sales.
These are changing times, with new regulation, new ethical standards and new expectations. Where the providers once delivered ample, free training on how to sell their products, the task now is to sell your own fee-based advisory service. It might also mean ‘selling’ yourself as a potential partner firm to another IFA practice, or to a firm of accountants or solicitors with whom you’d like to establish professional links and a system of cross-referrals. For many, it might mean making the switch from paraplanning to a more client-facing role.
The advisers gathering at Money Marketing’s offices last week for our first one-day sales course, run by Ian Laverty, represented every one of these scenarios and had lots of experiences to share. The great thing about running a course for such a specific audience is that everyone ends up learning almost as much from each other as from the trainer (no offence, Ian!).
This is Modern Sales. No coercion, no pressure, no underhand tactics. What Ian teaches are practical methods to understand a client’s needs, respond accordingly, and to get to the bottom of any objections that they may raise. With its detailed fact-finding and risk profiling, in some ways there is no industry better set up to embrace modern sales techniques than ours.
And perhaps most importantly, it’s about instilling an understanding and confidence in the value of the service you are offering your clients. Ian also takes a fairly modern approach to allowing the (discreet) use of mobile phones during his courses, and so when Nic Cicutti’s article Don’t undervalue your advice pinged in to our BlackBerry’s and iPhones it prompted an instant discussion around the table. One of the advisers present related a similar story about explaining his fees to a client. “I’m not just charging for the hour that I’m sitting here. When you ring the office, someone answers the phone – I’m paying that person’s salary. When I take you through a risk profile system, I’ve paid for that software. I keep up to date with training and competency so that I can offer you this service.”
So what are some of the top tips for developing an excellent sales process?
1. Ask just enough questions, do more than enough listening
In your first meeting, your client should be doing 80-99 per cent of the talking. Many people assume that the opening pitch and closing the deal are the most important parts of the sales process. They aren’t – it’s getting to understand your client’s needs.
2. Your fact-find is not just a form-filling, question and answer exercise. Use it for all it is worth
It is a perfect opportunity to get to know your client and to begin to build a relationship. Use it as a prompt rather than simply reading out the questions and filling in the answers; adopt a personal, conversational manner and pick up on any particular areas of need to be revisited later on.
One adviser sends out a “Skinny” fact-find (Starbucks would be proud) in advance of new client meetings so that there’s no need to take up time during the appointment with the less interesting stuff.
3. Get your client’s commitment from the start
The same adviser also sends out an agenda for the first meeting. It’s a chance to set the scene, explain what’s going to happen, what the service options are and what it’s going to cost.
4. Never devalue your services.
If your client can’t afford your full service, don’t discount it. Work out if there is a “best-fit” solution instead.
5. Keep in touch. Don’t leave after-sales to the product provider.
Maintain an ongoing relationship to encourage customer loyalty; don’t leave all the subsequent communication to the provider.
We’re running our first courses here in London at Money Marketing’s offices. Our next session, taking place on May 26, is for anyone who would like to brush up their presentation skills.
We do not just want to hold these training days in London, so if you have a room big enough to seat 10-15 people please get in touch and we’ll try to organise something.
Julie Minett is operations director of the Money Marketing Academy firstname.lastname@example.org