According to a study by SEI, 47% of your clients will eventually make a referral. Another 47% will not...until you ask. But how can you ask without the question falling flat on its face, and avoiding the typical response of "If I think of someone, I'll let you know"? We answer this important question in this story.
By Amy Parvaneh
I had the pleasure of being on Michael Kitces' Financial Advisor Success podcast. Podcasts are new to me, but a great avenue for getting my message out to those who don't have the patience to sit down and read a long blog!
Michael speaks at 50 – 70 conferences every year to try to share his knowledge with other advisors, and his Nerd’s Eye View blog reaches more than 200,000 unique visitors every month.
It was an honor to be asked by him to speak about my experience as a financial advisor when I first started out, my success stories, as well as best practices that I see with advisors as a coach to them.
At the end of the day, as financial advisors, we get paid to converse. While questioning and listening skills are typically seen as "softer skill", it is the act of better "story selling" that will allow advisors to learn more about their clients, uncover more opportunities to help them, and more quickly discover who within their circle can benefit from your services as a wealth manager.
Chairman and CEO, Google
The advice that sticks out I got from John Doerr, who in 2001 said, "My advice to you is to have a coach." The coach he said I should have is Bill Campbell. I initially resented the advice, because after all, I was a CEO. I was pretty experienced. Why would I need a coach? Am I doing something wrong? My argument was, How could a coach advise me if I'm the best person in the world at this? But that's not what a coach does. The coach doesn't have to play the sport as well as you do. They have to watch you and get you to be your best. In the business context a coach is not a repetitious coach. A coach is somebody who looks at something with another set of eyes, describes it to you in [his] words, and discusses how to approach the problem.
Once I realized I could trust him and that he could help me with perspective, I decided this was a great idea. When there is [a] business conflict you tend to get rat-holed into it. [Bill's] general advice has been to rise one step higher, above the person on the other side of the table, and to take the long view. He'll say, "You're letting it bother you. Don't."
--Interview by Adam Lashinsky
Many advisors devote significant time, energy and resources to business development, only to find that their rate of growth remains “stuck.”
As marketing and business development consultants, the team at Select Advisors has found that advisors’ frustrations often stem from inaccurate assumptions about where and how to focus their efforts. We believe that identifying and clearing away these unrealistic expectations and misconceptions is necessary to create an effective growth strategy.
The misconceptions are remarkably consistent from firm to firm. Among the most common:
- A single ‘linchpin” referral source exists. Many advisors believe that a custodial firm, a center of influence or perhaps an industry group can be tapped to provide a library of quality leads—that it’s just a matter of finding this motherlode. That may have been true to some extent in years past. But as the RIA field has grown more crowded, any source with valuable referral lists is now using them directly to their own benefit.
- Off-Shedding sales to a junior team member can be effective. Firm leaders often believe that delegating a dedicated individual to drive sales can be effective. The truth is that high-net-worth investors rarely wish to deal with a cold-calling junior team member. Prospects prefer to deal with the firm’s founders, partners, or senior managers, who have the standing to command their respect.
- Existing clients can drive referrals. Many advisors believe that if they do good work, satisfied clients will refer their friends and associates. This is true to some extent, but it’s a passive strategy, and without pre-existing scale, it fails to gain traction: The fewer (and/or older) clients you have, the weaker this machine will be.
- Investment can follow results. Marketing and business development firms don’t operate based on finders’ or performance fees. They require up-front investment of time and energy to help you source leads and grow your practice. One analogy: You expect to get paid as an advisor even if your clients’ portfolios go down. Marketing partners face the same economics.
- A single approach is adequate. The evidence clearly demonstrates single-line business-generation tactics—cold-calling, search engine optimization, PR, client referrals, COI referrals, for instance—are not effective in isolation. Successful strategies combine multiple, complementary tactics.
- Advisors alone can drive sales. RIA firms frequently overlook some of the people who are best positioned to identify and attract assets. With proper coaching, receptionists, traders, support-team members and others can begin to recognize and pursue asset-gathering opportunities.
- COI relationships are built in a brief period. Lunch with an intermediary rarely results in immediate referrals. In fact, it takes on average 18 months from the first meeting before a COI (lawyer/accountant) feels comfortable to send you a referral. Advisors must view a face-to-face meeting as no more than a start. To remain top of mind, successful advisors follow up consistently—sending personal notes, forwarding relevant articles and blogs, extending invitations to events and so on.
- Twitter is an effective prospecting tool. Many advisors enlist social media experts to help launch Twitter and Facebook strategies. The statistical evidence shows that this approach is rarely worth the investment. A high net worth individual is not going to hand-off their lifetime of savings and investments to someone they found on Twitter.
- They have grown without any marketing. Most RIAs come from global platforms where tens of millions of dollars are spent annually on marketing. They fail to recognize that the marketing budget came directly from revenue that they generated. At wirehouses, growth depends largely on marketing. It’s no different for breakaways.
- A brief marketing campaign should bear results. Successful marketing isn’t a one-year commitment. It’s an ongoing process of raising your profile, cultivating relationships and honing your ability to zero in and close new clients over a business cycle. Successful advisors invest in ongoing marketing just as they invest in ongoing office space and utilities. Just like advisors tell an investor that performance should be judged over a 3-5 year cycle, marketing and sales work the same way.
Select Advisors Institute is a consulting firm that works with investment management firms who are looking for our expertise and advice in growing their practice.
By Amy Parvaneh, CEO of Select Advisors & Co.
Clients often look to lawyers for referrals to financial advisors. But while you as a lawyer are bound by a fiduciary standard, you may be surprised to learn that the advisors in your network are likely not.
Here’s the background: More than 80% of financial advisors are technically brokers rather than true, objective advisors. Governed by a self-regulatory organization, brokers are subject to what’s known as the suitability standard.
This fuzzy standard requires that the investments brokers sell clients must merely be “suitable” for their needs, rather than best for their needs. In practice, this means that brokers may recommend an investment that pays a higher sales commission than a comparable or even superior one.
While most brokers may be ethical individuals, this conflict of interest creates a continual temptation to place their interests before their clients’.
The good news is that there is a category of conflict-free advisors, which are monitored by the Securities and Exchange Commission or the regulators in states where they are registered. These Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) are bound by a fiduciary standard under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.
Fiduciary advisors are obligated to place their clients’ interests ahead of their own. Thus, RIAs typically charge a fixed fee for advice only, and do not sell investments or earn sales commissions. Freed from a financial incentive to recommend one product over another, the RIA can focus solely on identifying for their clients investments that are superior in performance, cost and other factors.
Most of the public—and indeed, most of the legal community—is unaware of the distinction between brokers and fiduciary advisors. But lawyers who understand it say that referring to fiduciaries can help to satisfy their own fiduciary obligation.
“It is an added layer of comfort knowing that, by law, RIAs are held to a higher standard,” says Garden City, N.Y.-based lawyer Maryam Franzella, whose clientele includes high-net-worth individuals.
Typically, lawyers refer clients to “advisors” at marquee Wall Street brokerage houses. While these names may have a prestigious association, their advisors are typically brokers rather than fiduciaries.
Lawyers who don’t have relationships with fiduciary advisors can turn to firms such as Select Advisors for referrals. Select Advisors, based in Newport Beach, Calif., is itself a fiduciary RIA that matches high-net-worth clients (and their trusted professional partners such as lawyers) with fiduciary advisors.
Selected through an unbiased due-diligence process, our network of advisors manages more than $1.5 billion for clients throughout the country.
However you as a lawyer identify RIAs, we highly recommend that you consider these fiduciaries for your client referrals. After all, every professional who works with your client should be bound by the same high standard of care as their lawyers are.
Hunting for clients can prove challenging for both new and veteran money managers alike. How to spot the best prospects in a crowd of tuxedos and gowns at a gala--or in shorts on the golf course, for that matter--is a skill that can take years of experience to develop. It isn't easy to determine who is truly wealthy or who is looking for a financial adviser.
By Amy Parvaneh, CEO of Select Advisors Institute.
What sets growing advisor practices apart from those that struggle to add clients and assets?
The answer is clear: The most successful firms make a decisive commitment to marketing and business development.
According to a recent Fidelity Clearing and Custody benchmarking survey, firms that prioritize growth and invest 33% more in marketing and business development see 40% more client growth, 23% more asset growth and 20% more revenue growth than their peers.
Allocating funds to marketing and business development isn’t enough, of course—attracting high-net-worth investors requires smart, targeted spending. That’s where an Outsourced Business Development Office comes in.
Select Advisors, a leading Outsourced BDO based in Newport Beach, Calif., provides a turnkey combination of business development and marketing. Specifically focused on the advisor market, we provide our clients with the advantage of:
· Dedicated experts: The Select Advisors team includes seasoned experts in marketing, public relations, ghostwriting, event planning and other disciplines. We handle high-level strategy as well as all the implementation work—from cold-calling prospects to organizing seminars to earning media exposure. Our team frees advisors and their teams from duties outside their expertise so that can focus on the things they are best at.
· Industry experience: Select Advisors’ in-depth knowledge of what it takes to attract high-net-worth clients makes us significantly more effective than a generalist PR or marketing firm. The firm is led by Amy Parvaneh, an investment advisor with a proven track record. We are investment professionals first, marketers second, and we know what prospective clients are looking for.
· Cost efficiency: Advisors who prioritize growth have the option of hiring in-house sales staff. The cost is significant, however; proven producers typically command six-figure salaries. Select Advisors charges significantly less—and that’s for a team of seasoned experts serving clients in a coordinated campaign. In addition, we pride ourselves on return on investment. Research has shown that the thousands of dollars many advisors spend on piecemeal marketing initiatives are largely wasted. We know what works, and we focus our spending accordingly.
Advisors too often discount the investment required for growth. This is particularly true of breakaway advisors, who are accustomed to winning customers through their parent firms’ marketing resources and name recognition. But as Fidelity’s study underlines, for independent advisors, there is no way around realistic spending in order to acquire clients and assets. The key is to make that spending count. And that’s where we come in.
For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Amy Parvaneh, CEO of Select Advisors Institute.
Warren Buffet once said that it’s only when the tide goes out that you discover who’s been swimming naked.
In other words, any investor can make money in a bull market—it’s the bear market that’s the real test. If you’re an advisor, Buffett’s words contain a great clue about how to position your business for growth.
Over the past six years, advisory clients have seen their account balances rise steadily, and they’ve been pleased with their advisors as a result. But when the market turns, many advisors will struggle, and their clients may look to make a change. This is a great opportunity for you to grow—but the key is to start preparing now.
Our research has shown that the advisors who are the best at capturing growth are always planning ahead. They anticipate those brief moments when money will be in motion, and as a result they can grow by $250 million or more a year. What can these advisors teach us about building a foundation for growth?
First and foremost, get out of your office and make friends. The key to building your business is growing the network of people who like you and enjoy spending time with you, and vice versa. Friends can be centers of influence, college friends, your kids’ friends’ parents. Especially valuable are people you identify as “connectors”—those who like introducing people who can benefit from knowing each other.
Client appreciation events are a great way to grow your circle. Encourage your clients to bring friends; wealthy people know other wealthy people, after all. And rather than investing seminars, consider spiritual retreats, discussions about kids and wealth, or outings to concerts or baseball games. Make sure the activities are ones you’ll authentically enjoy.
The key is to build relationships rather than pitching people: Make your friends trust and like you, and when they need a second opinion about their advisor, they’ll come to you.
This is also a great time to invest in infrastructure. Build a technology, compliance and operational machine that’s on par with the big Wall Street firms’. That’s where you’ll be winning a lot of your clients from, after all, and they’ll expect you to be world-class in these areas.
Finally, successful advisors tell us that they like to survey their clients about the advisor’s strengths and weaknesses. This information helps them correct shortcomings, and also give them ammunition to use in pitching prospects.
Don’t expect prospects to come knocking down your door in a bull market. But remember that all bull markets come to an end—and if you’re prepared, that transition can mark the beginning of serious growth for your practice.
For more information on how Select Advisors can help, reach us at email@example.com
By Amy Parvaneh, CEO of Select Advisors Institute.
It happens time and again: An advisor writes an article that is timely and full of good information. And then—nothing.
The article may be published as a blog, only to generate little or no readership or feedback. Or the advisor may shop it around to media outlets, only to be ignored.
Why is it so hard for advisors to get their articles read? A big reason is that countless stories are produced every day by advisors and other financial experts. They’re all competing for eyeballs—readers’ and editors’—and yours just doesn’t stand out against the competition.
To cut through the noise and earn attention, your articles must have not just substance but also sizzle. And a good way to do that is to write about topics that are controversial or contrarian.
Let’s be clear: We don’t mean drumming up fake controversy in order to generate interest. That’s just not necessary. The fact is that most advisors dohave a unique, contrarian perspective on certain subjects. Maybe you have something to say about how advisors should be paid. Or why investors should ignore Wall Street’s latest product fad. Or maybe you’re convinced that Americans are thinking about college funding all wrong.
Wherever you and conventional wisdom part ways, you have the raw material for a compelling article. Identifying that topic and creating an story with some sizzle can mean the difference between getting 40 views and getting hundreds of views.
Now for a reality check: The fact is that it is difficult for those who are not professional writers or publicists to pull off such articles. Not only do you have to select the right subject, spin and tone, but then you must create a cogent, polished piece of work. For many advisors, it’s a little like figuring out how to play the piano on the spot.
Rather than invest precious time learning to write and place articles through trial and error, successful advisors turn to us to create articles for them.
At Select Advisors, our team pinpoints compelling topics based on our in-depth knowledge of the advisor and his or her areas of expertise. Our ghost-written articles are created by a team of professionals, with journalism backgrounds. Our advisors retain full control by reviewing and approving the articles before they are distributed.
There are no shortcuts in this process: From brainstorming to writing to placement, creating each article takes about 10 hours total. But it’s well worth it: Because of the product we produce—and our relationships with editors and journalists—we are typically successful in getting our stories published in national or local media.
In the age of information, it’s more challenging than ever for advisors to stand out against the crowd. Our job at Select Advisors is to make sure you beat the odds.
Growing up in a West Egg-East Egg scenario among the Long Island rich, Amy Parvaneh burnished her credentials with unusual Parisian luxury brands training, a Duke MBA and a dramatic Wall Street debut