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Bowen: 9 Strategies for Elite Advisors

How do you work profitably with today’s affluent clients? It’s a question on many financial advisors’ minds.

My research and coaching experience tells me that success depends on doing three things very well:

  • Attracting the right affluent clients.
  • Addressing the entire range of their financial concerns effectively.
  • Continually striving to retain those clients. 

The financial advisors who fire on all three of these cylinders are extremely client-centric — that is, they focus on deeply understanding clients and prospective clients so they can build superior client relationships over time. Here, then, are actionable strategies to take in each of the three key areas.

Start with attracting the right clients. You need to be seen as the expert these clients need. Use these strategies to draw qualified prospective clients into your experience.

1. Position yourself appropriately.

Demonstrate through your client experience what makes you the best financial advisor for your ideal clients and why they should choose you.

Most affluent investors want to work with financial advisors who can help them solve all of their various and complex financial challenges. They also want their financial advisor to work closely and collaboratively with their other professional advisors to ensure that all of these challenges are addressed systemically — and successfully.

Effective positioning means identifying your compelling value — one thing you offer that sets you apart — and creating a positioning statement that succinctly communicates that value. That statement will guide you in your interactions with clients and prospects as you seek out new business and encourage investors to work with you.

2. Offer a second opinion service to prospects.

Instead of asking for referrals, which can be uncomfortable, make an offer to provide your clients’ friends and associates with a complimentary evaluation of their financial situations, including actionable recommendations.

Be clear with them — and with yourself — that if you can add value to their situation, you will say so, but you will also let them know if they are being well served by their current advisor. Your clients will be more likely to introduce you to others if they know you will offer a service with immediate benefit. What’s more, those prospective clients will be more likely to meet with you.

3. Formalize strategic relationships.

Affluent individuals also like to find their financial advisors through introductions from other trusted professionals, such as CPAs and attorneys. But as you know, these referrals can be difficult to secure consistently.

Success depends on building strategic professional relationships through which all parties (including the clients) benefit when introductions are made. Create some economic glue between professionals, such as business development and/or revenue sharing.

4. Deliver true, broad wealth management.

Once you attract ideal clients through your positioning, you need to deliver the goods and follow through on your promise. Most financial advisors offer investment advice, but relatively few provide true wealth management.

If your value is predicated on helping affluent investors solve the full range of their financial challenges in a coordinated manner, you will want to offer some form of comprehensive wealth management that includes a variety of services.

True wealth management helps clients simplify their financial lives. It builds rapport and deep relationships through its consultative focus. And it gives clients access to the expertise they need to solve their issues in areas like estate planning and tax mitigation.

Note that a true wealth management offering also includes a discovery process: Take the time up front to learn all you can about a prospect. This discovery process sets the stage for superior service.

5. Work with fewer, but wealthier, clients.

Elite advisors almost always serve a relatively small number of clients with significant wealth. This enables them to spend more time with each client — building great relationships and providing hands-on service that wows your clients.

Start by implementing a minimum account size: $1 million is a common base. And adhere to those minimums — it’s all too easy to chase every opportunity that comes your way, only to find yourself overworked and undervalued.

6. Serve one niche market.

You can’t serve every type of affluent investor, nor should you try. Exceptional service stems from having a deep understanding of one segment of the affluent population, and then designing and implementing a service model that meets (and exceeds) those needs.

The segment you choose could be centered on a profession — say, dentists — or a particular personality type (family stewards who focus on taking care of loved ones, or moguls who want to use investing to demonstrate their power and importance).

Whatever niche you select, it should be one with a large concentration of wealth, one that you can serve extraordinarily well, and that is made up of people you would enjoy working with.

7. Know your clients.

The final key is retention: Keeping clients over the long run is the reward you get for doing a great job attracting ideal clients and adding value to their lives.

Real knowledge about what is truly important to your clients extends far beyond money. To encourage clients to share with you at this deeper level, we recommend that you create total client profiles: comprehensive portraits of the most important aspects of each client’s life. Include values, interests, family and other important relationships and attitudes toward their finances.

You may have created this type of profile early in the relationship, but it’s smart to revisit it with each client at every regular progress meeting — just to make sure you are aware of any significant changes in your client’s life.

8. Stay in touch.

Continue to foster relationships through meaningful, ongoing conversations. These contacts with clients should be personal and frequent, and must address topics beyond just investments and bottom lines.

The more you talk with clients, the more they are likely to tell you. Frequent client contact also helps you identify new opportunities to serve clients as new events occur in their lives.

And just as in everyday life, deep conversations help build rapport and trust — creating connections that foster the type of loyalty that will keep clients with you during rough times.

9. Manage more of your clients’ assets.

If you really want to cement your client relationships, capture more of their assets. When those “money in motion” moments occur — business transactions, rollovers, deaths — you will be there to offer great service and value, leading to additional assets for you to manage.

You can also ask directly to manage more assets. A great approach is to offer to review all of your clients’ accounts to determine if their entire wealth is deployed ideally.

This is a similar approach to the second opinion service mentioned above. If your review genuinely identifies any assets that you think you should be managing, make your recommendation to the client.

If you focus on achieving excellence in these areas of your business, you will find yourself far ahead of the competition. And you will become a true go-to financial advisor for the right types of affluent clients for your business.

John J. Bowen Jr., 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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