I’ve learned a great deal over the years about the best strategies for becoming a top advisor, but I’m always amazed and humbled by how much more there is to discover.

Some of my latest findings have come from new research my firm has conducted, technologies that help create competitive advantages or experts we partner with to help our clients. Others are important lessons

I’ve recently been reminded of by the top advisors with whom we work.

Each advisory practice is unique — you may have different strategic initiatives that are higher up on your list than the ones noted here. That said, I believe these five tactics could give you a competitive advantage, and help you win plenty of ideal new business in 2015.

1. BE SYSTEMATIC

Use a process to deliver what affluent investors truly want. As diverse as affluent investors are, they often agree on the characteristics they prefer in an advisor. For example, they tend to value flexibility in their providers and solutions because they understand the world is increasingly dynamic. The affluent also want to know you will protect their information and be discreet as well as transparent about what you do, how you do it and how you get paid.

Another crucial characteristic is sensitivity to risk. The entrepreneurs who make up much of the affluent market may have been risk-takers once. But as their wealth grows and they age, they increasingly become risk mitigators, looking to work with advisors who appreciate that. Many of today’s affluent, especially younger clients, also like to collaborate with their advisors in the financial decision-making process.

Investors often tell us their current advisors don’t have a compelling or easy-to-understand method for working with them. You’ll differentiate yourself by having a clear, systematic process that ensures you consistently deliver a great wealth management experience. And the more efficient you are in your process, the easier it will be to draw in prospective clients.

2. THINK YOUNGER

We released a study last year that identified a small group of advisors who have fewer than five years of experience but already manage at least $50 million. These young guns have figured out how to build a great business from the get-go.

Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned vet, their strategies offer some great insights into how to run an elite practice. For example:

  • Be selective. Top young advisors are more likely to set minimum account requirements for new clients. As a result, they are also more likely to work with clients with $1 million or more in assets. These advisors see that working only with clients who will be profitable, whom they enjoy and whose needs they can address effectively is an absolute must for serving them well.
  • Don’t try to do it alone. These advisors also understand that no one person can be an expert in solving all affluent investors’ varied needs. That’s why 62% of top young advisors tell us they rely on teams of experts to address their clients’ diverse financial issues, compared with around 40% for other advisors.
  • Create a game plan. Top young advisors recognize that success is not a happy accident but a result of planning. Indeed, they are the most likely among advisors we surveyed to have developed and implemented business and marketing plans that spell out their goals and the path to achieving them.

3. USE DIGITAL TOOLS

Technology, sometimes seen by financial advisors as a threat, is actually a huge enabler of success — if used intelligently. Two of the best (and highest ROI) ways to leverage technology are webinars and LinkedIn.

Webinars give you the power to deliver your message directly to prequalified prospective clients. You can speak to the exact investors you want and present the specific information you want to provide.

Webinars are also great ways to demonstrate your expertise to prospective clients. By presenting targeted and intriguing content to large groups over the web, you will be seen as highly credible and, over time, as a go-to advisor among those people.

Likewise, LinkedIn has risen to the top of the ranks of social media sites when it comes to helping advisors attract clients. Because LinkedIn is optimized in online search results, it helps you get noticed when prospective clients do their homework on you. It’s also a great platform from which to share your personal story about what motivates you to help investors. You can use it to communicate your expertise to ideal prospects in ways that will make them seek you out. 

Additionally, it’s a great tool for building relationships with centers of influence — those key players in your market niche who can give you valuable information about your target clients.

As with all promotional efforts, involve your compliance department when working with digital tools. But don’t let compliance fears keep you from developing a digital presence.

4. CHANGE YOUR WORDS

Michael Maslansky, a communications strategist, gave one of our best recent presentations to coaching clients. He spoke about how to use language to build trust with prospects and clients, and create stronger engagements from the first interactions.

For example, a large part of fostering trust is moving conversations away from market and return data and instead stressing context. Rather than starting a conversation with a bunch of facts, tell the prospect or client why you are going to give them the facts, focusing on their own goals and long-term plans. This will make it easier to have a future conversation that includes facts and figures.

In addition, don’t make big and bold statements that might not sound credible — don’t overpromise or puff up your abilities. Anticipate the objections a prospective client will raise, and address them proactively. Think about areas where you have weaknesses, or perceived weaknesses — such as high fees or a potentially confusing investment process — that you can shut down by getting out in front of them. If you acknowledge a perceived negative up front, the prospect will actually trust you sooner.

5. PARTNER UP

As you probably know, strategic alliances with professionals who serve the affluent — such as CPAs and attorneys — have become a hugely effective way of garnering new business. Yet far too many financial advisors tell me they can’t seem to make these alliances work.

To be successful, you need to clearly demonstrate to potential allies that your mutual clients will be much better served if you collaborate. You also need to go into the process with the intention of creating some sort of economic glue, such as a revenue-sharing agreement. This tells potential partners you have a vested interest in helping them grow.

Start by winning over one key decision- maker at the firm — someone who can become your internal champion with other partners or stakeholders. Win over that key person by demonstrating your understanding of their profession’s challenges, concerns and cultures. That type of understanding goes a long way toward breaking through any barriers of suspicion.

I always end my presentations with this reminder: Your clients and your team — from your employees to any outside experts you work with — are looking to you to deliver a great experience and help them achieve financial success. Don’t let them down.

Find the time to examine your business and identify the challenges to overcome, as well as the prime opportunities that will take you to the next level. Then start implementing the strategies that will maximize your success in 2015 — and for years to come.

John J. Bowen Jr., a Financial Planning columnist, is founder and CEO of CEG Worldwide, a global training, research and consulting firm for advisors in San Martin, Calif.

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