The biggest challenge you as a financial advisor face when attempting to attract new clients is providing the prospect a reason to choose you over all other advisors. Too often, advisors try to sell themselves as "better" when they really should be accentuating how they're different.

Our customer service is better. Our investment returns are better, with less risk. Our planning process is better. Our people are better.

This doesn't work. For one thing, nobody believes you. What runs through a prospect's mind could be anything from "no, you're not" to "everybody says that so I will just ignore it" but the point is it doesn't do you any good. Now, if you can get your clients to say you're better, that is a whole different story. It is also a whole different blog post. If they are not already saying you are better, you probably cannot persuade your clients to tell everyone just by asking. My point here, though, is that it does you no good to say it.

What does better mean? Your prospects don't agree on it, and that's one problem. Maybe you keep in contact with your clients more consistently than other advisors. I facilitated a client advisory board recently and one of the questions was “how frequently should we be in touch to update you on the market and the economy?” One participant said a brief e-mail every week would be great, another one said we can deal with it in our review meetings – don't send me e-mails about it otherwise unless it's really important. Both of these clients love the advisor and for many of the same reasons. When it comes to client service, at least as far as consistent communication, these clients had very different ideas of "better."

Vastly superior to "better" is "different." Talk about the things you do in your customer service program or in your financial planning process or in your way of managing portfolios that you believe set you apart from other advisors. Give your prospects some specifics and let them conclude that it is better. Tell them that you do something that appeals to them personally, and they will get to "better" themselves.

Work with your clients to understand what solution or experience is most valuable to them. Tailor your service mix to those needs and wants. Articulate the unique aspects of what you deliver, and maybe throw in how that is different from the typical financial advisor. Give your target prospect a specific reason to choose you; something they have not heard from other advisors before.

Who is your ideal client? What are the special financial planning issues they face that are different from the rest of the population? What special skills or strategies do you have to address those issues? What processes in your practice have your clients hold you are some of the most valuable things you do for them? These are the things you should mention when someone asks what makes you different or why should they choose you.

Do you work with gay couples? Dentists? Retirees from a large local employer? Single dads? Owners of dry cleaning stores? What are the special needs they have? Describe how you address those needs. If the person you're talking to is in your target you will never need to persuade him that you are better than other advisors because you will be one of very few were talking directly to him.

If you want to turbocharge referrals, take this description of how you are different and teach it to your clients. Find opportunities to reinforce these differences when you speak to clients. Ask if they resonate with clients, and what suggestions your clients might have on how you get word out about these differences.

Engage them in conversations about those differences and you will be preparing them to have those same conversations with people that they meet. When your clients bump into someone else who is in your target market, "you should really talk to my advisor – she specializes in people exactly like you" is much more powerful than "you should talk to my advisor – she is good (or better)."

One of the keys to attracting referrals (and attracting clients generally) is to get people talking about why you are special and especially valuable to your target clients. And better is not special.

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Stephen Wershing, CFP® is President of The Client Driven Practice. He coaches financial advisors to be more effective and successful, and attract more clients and referrals, by developing more client-connected and client-driven practices.