As 2016 begins, here are two ways for financial advisors to generate tremendous success and gain new clients.

1. Enlist top clients. One approach that is gaining momentum among top financial advisors is client advisory boards.

These boards let advisors solicit their top clients’ advice on providing superior service and other key issues that drive success.

By bringing clients into the fold, advisors can learn a great deal about what is working and what needs to improve, directly from the people served.

What’s more, the clients invited to join the board will come to be highly invested in the advisor’s success and ready to become marketing apostles to their friends, family and colleagues.

Working with a client advisory board provides three invaluable benefits:

  • Advisors will learn how to provide world-class client service. A client advisory board is an excellent resource for learning if an advisor is truly providing the level of client service promised or if improvements are needed.
  • Advisors will gain entrée to new opportunities. One effective way to identify and reach out to new sources of business is through existing top clients, many of whom are respected, powerful and well-connected members of their fields.
  • Advisors will generate greater client loyalty. A board can strengthen bonds with clients who are most responsible for an advisor’s success, creating loyalty and goodwill that ensures that they will stick around.

An effective client advisory board typically consists of 12 to 15 top clients, who are willing to meet with the advisor as a group two to three times a year to share their perspectives.
Advisors should review their client lists for those who can really help build their business.

Who among them has skills and perspectives that are different from that of the advisor? Invite them to brainstorm and be amazed at how many of them are more than willing to help.

2. Build connections. Providing a sense of connectedness — that feeling people get when they are part of something that is larger than themselves — can be important for an advisor’s business.

The advisors who are both successful and deeply fulfilled value their connections and appreciate the chance to serve their clients and to work with their teams.

Advisors should start with their own clients, of course. The more deeply an advisor can connect with them, the more successful that advisor will be at cementing their loyalty, getting introduced to their friends and associates, and ensuring that they act on advice given.

Deep connections mean that clients will stick with an advisor, even if that advisor makes a mistake.

To build these ties, start by paying attention to clients. Get rid of any devices and distractions.

During client interactions, close the door, turn off the screen and slow way down.

And this must be done consistently over time, one good client meeting isn’t enough. Have face-to-face meetings with clients on a regular basis.

Spend time with them. Meet their children.

Showing curiosity and interest in their lives will amaze them, because it is so rare. They simply don’t get that kind of attention from most of the professionals with whom they work.

Advisors also need to build stronger relationships with their employees. Team members who share connections learn to trust one another and communicate with openness and candor, instead of backstabbing.

Some advisors have regular meetings with their teams to discuss strategies. At these meetings, everyone is encouraged to speak up and provide candid feedback in a nonthreatening environment.

Another idea: Engage teams in lifelong learning activities, such as getting up to date on the latest investment strategies and wealth management best practices. Liberal use of coaching, mentoring and mastermind groups are ways to engage with staff and nurture connections.

Finally, advisors shouldn’t forget to connect with themselves. Zero in on positive traits.

Advisors should make a list of adjectives that describe them, and sort them into two groups: the ones that they would like to change and the ones of which they are most proud.

These strategies will deliver considerable returns on the time and energy invested in them. By enlisting clients to help fuel growth and creating connections that keep the business humming, advisors will be well along the path to achieving elite status — and building a far more successful company.

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.

This story is part of a 30-day series on how to generate the best referrals. It was originally published on Dec. 1, 2015.

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