In coaching advisors for 11 years and serving as a financial planner and investment firm CEO for 26 years before that, I've found that many of the most elite advisors have a secret weapon: the power of their presence. These advisors light up any room they walk into. Their personal presence makes them nearly irresistible to wealthy investors who want to know more about them the moment they meet them. Once these investors are clients, they become marketing apostles for their advisors, telling their wealthy friends and associates all about them.

Does presence really matter? You better believe it. Example: One advisor, Bruce Raabe of Collins & Co. in Larkspur, Calif., garnered a new $19 million account recently, which he credits largely to how he first presented himself to the investor.

"The affluent that I work with like to align themselves with people who intrigue them. To get the chance to work with them, you have to make them interested in you as a person right from the start," Raabe says.


To tap your full potential and become a go-to advisor in your market, you must tap into the power of presence. There are six key steps:


People will want to know who you are. A compelling story that reveals the truth about who you are will attract others to you - both potential future clients and team members who will be crucial to your success.

In Raabe's case, we helped him recognize and hone his story. "I was a successful civil engineer who came to San Francisco after the earthquake of 1989 and helped to demolish the damaged Embarcadero Freeway. In dealing with the aftermath of the quake, I realized how much I wanted to work with people directly and help them with their financial lives," he says.

"So my story focuses on how this terrible quake changed my life and how it ultimately brought me to where I am today. This makes me interesting to prospects - they've never met someone who became a wealth manager because of an earthquake," he adds.

By telling your story well, you'll realize practical benefits:

* It attracts people to you. Beyond attracting new prospects, you'll increase client loyalty and draw potential strategic partners toward you. When others hear your story, it gives them insight into who you are, what you stand for and what you had to overcome to get to where you are now. This can create a willingness, even an eagerness, to associate with you.

* It creates trust. Because your story is uniquely yours and no one else can tell it like you, your values, concerns and passions will come through. By opening up to others about what is most important to you, your listeners become much more inclined to trust you with what is most important to them.

* It is the foundation of your vision. As you review your life, you see how certain events shaped you in powerful ways. You uncover clues about what you most value, which in turn clarify your vision for your life. Having a clear vision is an absolute prerequisite for accomplishing greatness.


Building a top advisory business is not something you can do alone. You need the help of select professionals who can fill specific roles on your internal team and on an external team of strategic experts. These might include partners, coaches, mentors and role models. The optimal group of individuals who will support you, push you, leverage your strengths and minimize your weaknesses will buy into your dream of building the best possible business.

Leading financial advisors surround themselves with top people both internally within their own organizations and externally in the form of strategic alliances with specialists, such as CPAs, attorneys and insurance specialists. An elite team enables you to leverage your talents and skills to build your business by focusing on value-driven, client-facing activities.


There is one factor that will anchor everything you do: your vision of what you want to do and who you want to be. When you define your vision and passion in life, your tasks become clear.

The road ahead becomes obvious and your energy becomes focused. By building a powerful presence, you galvanize those around you into action.

Too many advisors focus on the "how" of building their businesses. I think you should instead first focus on the "why." When you have a compelling vision, you have a powerful tool to guide your practice. It will also be a source of strength and perspective when the inevitable obstacles present themselves.

To define your vision, ask yourself the same sorts of questions you ask your clients and prospects in order to understand what is most important to them. What do you want to achieve in your business? What do you want to do for your clients? Dig deep here.

Remember that your vision is not just about your practice. What really drives you? What makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning? What impact do you really want to make on the world? What are you truly passionate about?


You need to be able to communicate your vision to others in order to get them on board with helping you achieve it. You must be able to express your vision every day, wherever you go.

At first, this may feel mechanical and bumpy. But with practice, it will come to feel natural.

To motivate others, you must communicate your vision in a clear and lively manner. You must express it in a simple and direct way that moves and touches people. Make eye contact with your listeners - and listen to their reactions carefully.

Make your vision come alive by using metaphors, examples and anecdotes. Relate your comments to people's hopes and aspirations. Most important, you must hold yourself to the same high standards to which you hold your team.


Having a clear vision and being able to communicate it effectively is not enough. You need also to be able to move others in the direction that will take all of you forward.

The word "inspire" means "to breathe life into." Your goal is to breathe life into your vision and into those around you.

To achieve your vision as a financial advisor, your focus will be greatest on those who are in a position to help you most effectively - your team members. You must inspire your team members in two steps: First by gaining their full commitment to your vision, and second by providing leadership that motivates them to take their own efforts to a higher level in support of you.


Once you and your team are committed to your vision, that is the time to give it all you've got. Successful people are intentional about their actions.

Activity alone is not enough; you need to act deliberately with a focused intention to fully achieve your specific goals. An effective plan for achieving your vision is one that spells out the exact commitments that you are willing to make and defines specifically how and when you will execute on each of those commitments.

Tapping into your story and developing your presence will help you attract a steady stream of highly desirable, prequalified affluent prospects to your doorstep, and give you and your team the ability to serve them well. Accomplish those two and you'll quickly find yourself among the ranks of the industry's truly elite advisors.

John J. Bowen Jr. is founder and CEO of CEG Worldwide, a global training, research and consulting firm for advisors.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Financial Planning content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access