Talk to four marketing experts about how to increase production and you'll get one answer--drop the sales pitch. The key to boosting your income, they say, is focusing on client relationships, not transactions.
"The financial services industry has been built by massive random activity focused on product sales techniques," says Steve Moeller, president of American Business Visions, a consulting company in Tustin, Calif. "The industry teaches reps to be generic--all things to all people."
Experts say the way to build your book is to determine your unique selling proposition, define your ideal clients and design a business to serve that market. Differentiation is essential.
"Every other industry grows by specialization," Moeller says. "Doctors pick a specialty, lawyers choose a practice. But brokers won't specialize because they're afraid they'll miss a client."
Pump Up Your Strengths You need to ditch the herd mentality and abandon the rote sales techniques you and every other rookie learned in training. "Most brokers model themselves on everyone else," says Jennifer White, president of JWC Group, a coaching organization with offices in Cincinnati and Kansas City. "But the real key to success is to develop your own style and apply that to your business."
To determine what your strengths are, White suggests you ask five clients and colleagues to identify what you're good at and then act on what they say. Once you've defined your area of expertise--whether it is giving speeches or working with retirees--it becomes easier to define whom you want as customers.
Design a Business Model It's essential that brokers develop a strategic plan, says Bill Thomas, president of Thomas Coaching Institute of San Antonio. You can't just go with the flow of what the company is doing. You have to tailor your service to the type of clients you have or want, otherwise you won't keep or get them.
"Million-dollar clients expect million-dollar service," says Dick Zalack, president of Focus Four, a marketing firm in Brunswick, Ohio. "High-net-worth investors expect you to have a team that supports their requirements. Design an organization that satisfies the type of clients you want to do business with. Then deliver your service consistently and repeatedly."
Reduce Your Client Base Do you have a lot of low-margin clients that take up too much time for the business they generate?
"Fire them," Zalack says. "Fire the bottom 25 percent of your client list every year. One of my clients fires half of his accounts annually. He also doubles his income every year and plays a heck of a lot of golf."
Zalack recommends keeping the 20 clients you have that generate 80 percent of your income and getting rid of everyone else. This frees up your time and energy to concentrate on the remaining clients' needs and new business. "With 20 relationships in place, you're only a phone call away from another 20 prospects who fit the same profile as your best clients," he says.
Target Specific Customers To build muscle mass, you have to isolate the area you want developed. The same principle applies to finding the right prospects. "The worst mistake brokers can make is not targeting a specific group," Moeller says.
You should be able to rattle off a detailed description of your desired clients. "Get crystal clear on the demographics and psychographics of your ideal client," Zalack says. Then, once you know whom you want to serve--for example, entrepreneurial owners seeking 401(k) plans for their small businesses--work on building relationships, not selling.
Interview people in your target group to discover what needs they have, their emotional payoffs, what magazines they read, what associations they belong to and what they do after hours. Once you've completed your research, design a service based on exactly what they told you. Then go back to the people you've interviewed and show them what you can do for them, Moeller says.
Polish Your First Impression Working prospects too hard too quickly will kill new business, Thomas says. "You can't promote prospects. You've got to attract them," he notes.
Promotion in Thomas' playbook means doing almost anything to get the prospect to buy from you. Promoters focus on the "I" instead of the "you" and offer products, not solutions.
When you first meet a new prospect, Thomas suggests a 20-minute conversation focused solely on the client. "Let the prospect talk for 18 minutes. Then use your two minutes to substantiate what they're hoping to accomplish," Thomas says.
After the 20 minutes, tell your prospect a true story that demonstrates your service and relates to their goals, Thomas says. Maintain eye contact with the client.
The new millennium is the perfect time to update your business strategy. Three experts offer tips to improve your business. Check out their Web sites for more ideas, too.
Add Emotion to Your Sales Story: "Always tell clients stories. People like to listen to positive outcomes. They can compare that experience to their experience. Appeal to their heart and not just their head."--Bill Thomas, Thomas Coaching Institute, www.coachsquared.com
Follow Your Own Advice: "Don't give advice you don't take yourself. Clients pick up on it subconsciously. It affects your integrity. When you follow your own advice, you become passionate about it and people start listening. They'll believe you because you have the experience."--Jennifer White, JWC Group, www.worklessmakemore.com
Add Value for Specific Clients: "Define a target market that has substantial assets. Then explore how you can add value beyond the core products. Put clients' interests first. You're not referable if you're too focused on sales techniques instead of adding value."--Steve Moeller, American Business Visions, www.businessvisions.com