Appearances Matter

Wealthy clients weigh a lot of factors when choosing a financial advisor cost of services is one of them, but it is far from the most important. Indeed, according to our research, low-cost provider considerations are rarely a decisive part of a rich person's evaluation of a prospective advisor. Instead, high-net-worth types are focused on the advisor's reputation, references, performance and even

Wealthy clients weigh a lot of factors when choosing a financial advisor — cost of services is one of them, but it is far from the most important.

Indeed, according to our research, low-cost provider considerations are rarely a decisive part of a rich person's evaluation of a prospective advisor. Instead, high-net-worth types are focused on the advisor's reputation, references, performance and even appearance.

As competition for affluent wallet share grows, creating the right sales environment is increasingly important. In the tangible world, this involves having well-appointed showrooms, product displays and service centers. In the intangible world of advisory services, the rep himself is the product and it must be presented in as flattering a manner as possible. Make no mistake: The advisory business is now an upscale, face-to-face relationship game in which everything the advisor does and says defines the “affluent sales environment.”

The affluent sales environment will be driven by seven principles:

  1. Proactive relationship building

    From the initial contact forward, an advisor must take the initiative and proactively build a long-term professional relationship. Everyone in the advisor's office must also be fully engaged in this process. Hiring and ongoing training are critical, and turnover of good people must be reduced to the absolute minimum.

  2. Convenience

    Advisors must initiate contact and be able to deliver services at a time and place that is convenient to each individual. That means going to them to sell, deliver and service rather than waiting for them to come to you. The days of “Come see me in my office” are over.

  3. Seamless selling

    The advisor's selling process and skills must unfold naturally, and any push to clinch a relationship should be the logical conclusion of everything that went before. Advisors are salespeople, but if it's obvious they are selling, they have lost. The affluent make decisions based on gathering information and making comparisons. Help them find that information. Consult with them and guide them through the options to their final decision.

  4. Quality

    Every aspect of wealth management products and services should be upscale, both in terms of the types of options offered and the quality of those options. Our 2004 APD Research raised a warning flag for the financial services industry. The affluent are searching for a “go-to” financial coordinator. Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by financial institutions to promote this concept, the quality principle begins and ends with each advisor. Who you are and what you do every step of the way must be congruent with all of this advertising.

  5. Ritz Carlton service

    Advisors must be as concerned with providing quality service after the sale as they are with the quality of a seamless selling effort. Everything must be done to the best of the advisor's ability the first time. Never assume that affluent customers are satisfied.

  6. FedEx efficiency

    All interactions must occur in a hassle-free, upbeat, respectable and highly efficient manner. Affluent clients expect nothing less. It's important to constantly measure everything you do according to the two critical efficiency measures: the time it takes and the number of errors that occurred. Don't fall into the trap of bemoaning all the inner-workings of your company that are beyond your immediate control. Instead, concentrate on taking control of the critical interactions with affluent prospects and clients that will make the difference.

  7. Integrity

    Many factors go into how a person makes an integrity assessment. Two key factors are consistency and congruence. In addition, everything must be customized to each individual's particular needs, and you must continually look for new ways to service each individual.

Remember, when affluent prospects are selecting a “go-to” financial coordinator, these are the things that matter to them. Rich clients are willing to pay a fair price to receive the value they seek, and they become aware of the value you offer through the affluent sales environment you create.
Adapted from The Art of Selling to the Affluent, by Matt Oechsli, published by John Wiley & Sons, 2005.

Writer's BIO: Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. oechsli.com

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