Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes,” said Sir Francis Bacon, and I couldn't agree more.
When it comes to attracting and retaining affluent clients — the sorts of clients that deliver an advisor the prosperity he's in business to attain — the biggest obstacle by far is fear.
In my experience, most advisors who would approach high-end prospects have enough knowledge and intellectual capacity to make a good impression, but relatively few are secure enough in their abilities to let their knowledge do the talking.
Part of the problem is rooted in the fact that advisors are playing a new game by old rules. The days of dealing with clients at arm's length, of focusing on instantly-gratifying transactions, have given way to a time in which face-to-face contact and long-looking financial plans are at a premium.
At first glance, making the shift to the “new paradigm” would appear simple, but for many, that is not the case. Like an overweight man trying to shed pounds for the first time, many advisors are victims of bad habits; while it might seem simple to eat less and exercise, putting the knowledge into action is not so easy in the face of a lifetime of inactivity.
Many advisors instinctively know this, and the knowledge that they are behind the times fills them with dread, with fear. In short, “old paradigm” habits are at the core of many a financial advisor's high-net-worth sales anxieties. They understand the goals of the “new paradigm,” but their daily activity is not driven by a series of action steps.
Accounting for Fear
A recent chance encounter on a plane gifted me with a most instructive story on this topic. On this flight with me was a casually dressed young man — flip-flops, untucked shirt and baseball hat — reading the Wall Street Journal. A brief conversation with him revealed the following: He was a recently-retired CPA whose first job out of college was with a Big 8 accounting firm. The first assignment there was to bring in 15 new clients — a daunting task that filled him with fear, because he still knew little about his profession and next to nothing about selling. Adding to his stress was the word around the office that those failing to meet quota would be fired.
Fueled by the fear of failure (he felt as though someone “had put a gun” to his head, the CPA said) he dove into his task by digging up the names of some prospects, one of whom, he discovered, ate breakfast every morning at a particular diner. For the next two weeks, the CPA dined at the same place, until one morning, out of sheer desperation, he decided to force “a meeting” by bumping into the prospect (literally). An unorthodox move to be sure, but it got him the face time he needed to get the prospect talking. He became the CPA's first client.
The CPA went on to explain various approaches he used his first year, desperately trying to get face-to-face with decision makers from companies on his list. At his first year review, he was convinced he would be fired because he was only able to bring in 12 new accounts. To his surprise, he received a bonus equal to his salary, and was told that if he could bring in 15 new clients the upcoming year, his salary would again be doubled. From that point forward, this Duke-educated CPA-turned-salesman never did any accounting, but he doubled his compensation every year until taking early retirement.
There are a number of takeaways from our rainmaker's tale. First, he had no time to think about a well-planned paradigm shift from CPA to salesman. He had to immediately immerse himself in the new paradigm and develop the necessary rainmaking habits. Second, he had no training and was forced to figure everything out for himself.
Both of these demonstrate the most important part of high-net-worth selling: You cannot be ruled by fear. Fear may certainly play a role in your selling process, but it must be overcome or turned into a positive force.
The short version is this: Don't ponder and plan. Simply muster up some courage and commit to acquiring 15 new ideal HNW clients for 2004.
Put that imaginary gun to your head — you just might develop the habits of a rainmaker.
Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. oechsli.com