Ggeneral Motors and Chrysler are in bankruptcy; China is making a play for both GM's Hummer division and the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers; hedge funds have begun investing in lawsuits; and the beat goes on and on. It's enough to make advisors long for the proverbial “dog days” of summer — a time to kick-back, go on vacation, and hope things return to some sense of normalcy.
But now is not the time to kick back or relax your focus. Affluent investors have lost confidence in the financial world as they once knew it. Meanwhile, the financial health of their families is one of the four key motivators in their decision making (personal health, family health, and spiritual health are the others). And while portfolios have recovered slightly in recent months with the market upswing, many affluent families find that their financial plans for the future are still sick and frail. All of which means affluent families are desperately searching for a trustworthy family financial physician.
This poses a twofold challenge and opportunity for both affluent clients and financial advisors:
- Affluent Client Challenge: they don't know where to find this trustworthy family financial physician.
- Financial Advisor Challenge: they must proactively market and sell their services.
- Affluent Client Opportunity: to find a trustworthy and knowledgeable “go-to” financial advisor who can guide their family back to financial health (oversee the totality of their family's financial affairs).
- Financial Advisor Opportunity: to acquire more affluent clients at an unprecedented pace.
Amid all the turmoil in the financial markets and economy, there is a window of clarity where the stars are aligned. The needs of affluent families and financial advisors are not only mutually compatible, they are closely linked. It's a pure win-win.
Nonetheless, the onus is on the financial advisor to bring this win-win out of the realm of the possiblity and make it a reality. Which is why astute advisors are approaching the summer of 2009 as The Rainmaking Days of Summer. You should frame it in a similar manner.
The silver lining is that the majority of activities required for 2009 summertime rainmaking involve social interaction and fun. The affluent are influenced by the choices and recommendations of trusted acquaintances and friends. To help them find you, you must make yourself visible on the affluent playing field. Prospects and their friends need to interact with you in settings where they can get to know you, decide if they like you, determine whether they can trust you, and then assess your professional competence. All of which is much easier to accomplish in a social context, where defenses are down.
This may be common sense. But I long ago discovered that common sense isn't always common practice. Summertime rainmaking requires a combination of intelligence gathering, creativity, and spunk.
Intelligence gathering requires knowing your top clients — their hobbies, friends, colleagues, family events, favorite restaurants, vacation schedule, and so on. Creativity requires figuring out ways to get face-to-face with prospects in settings that allow you to combine business with pleasure (although your clients and prospects will perceive it as pleasure, you're double-dipping). Whether it's golf-outings, cookouts, attending a ball-game, picnics, going out to dinner, or simply orchestrating a casual encounter, it will require planning.
As for the spunk, none of the above will bear fruit for either you or the affluent families you seek to work with if you are incapable of capitalizing on these face-to-face opportunities. Your sales skills must be so refined that they are virtually invisible. Because the affluent have such a dislike for sales people and a distrust of the financial services industry, financial advisors can benefit tremendously from working on their affluent sales skills. This takes work and rainmakers are always working on their sales skills. You should too.
The challenges and opportunities you face this summer are real. As you plan your rainmaking days for the summer, keep in mind that trust and professional respect are not synonymous; both must be earned.
is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. oechsli.com