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Current news and trending topics for sales and financial industry professionals


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Building TRUST through COMMUNICATION

Effective communication with your clients and team requires more than staff meetings and educational seminars.  In a survey conducted by the Spectrem Group*,  the #1 reason clients left their existing advisor was due to lack of trust.  Building trust requires that you develop a relationship with your clients and prospects.   By communicating and demonstrating trust you will-

  • Build Relationships
  • Acquire Clients
  • Strengthen Your Team
  • Achieve Firm Success

In our blog, Knowledge is Power, https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/knowledge-is-power/, we reviewed how effective communication contributes to the success in your firm and how to build an internal communication strategy.  Knowing that external communication is just as important to the success of your firm as internal communication, build your practice by applying these communication skills to instill trust with your clients and prospects-

 Develop a relationship:  Get to know your client or prospect.  Learn as much as you can about them.  Are they working or retired?  If retired, where did they work?  What are their hobbies?  Ask about their family and community organizations they may belong to.  Show a genuine interest in knowing who they are. 

 Practice listening:  Listen, listen and listen.  Listening is a vital component to establishing trust and an effective communication dialogue.  By staying focused on what is being communicated, you show that you are engaged in assisting your clients and prospects.   Don’t start developing opinions and compiling your answer before your client or prospect is finished speaking; rather, focus on everything being said.  By applying this tactic, you will comprehend and retain 75% more of the information you hear.

Express empathy:  Tell your client or prospect that you understand their concerns.  Let them know their success is the #1 most important factor in your relationship. 

 Use Proper Timing:  Don’t rush to sell your products and services before you have earned trust.  Trust forms the foundation for effective communication.  Once you have earned trust, you are then in a position to discuss solutions to meet your clients and prospects needs.

By becoming a trusted advisor, you are now in a position to engage in open, honest and detailed communication.  Communicate details of your firm’s vision, mission and investment process.

  1. Be clear and concise
  2. Explain how your firm differs from your competitors
  3. Review with your clients and prospects exactly what they can expect from your firm
  4. Develop a process to ensure omissions are avoided
  5. Be pro-active by asking and encouraging questions

Remember, any areas of communication that are not understood can present serious challenges to the level of trust that you have worked to build.  Last, but not least, frequent communication with clients is essential to retain a solid trusting relationship.

To be a successful advisor and grow your firm, don’t sell your products  until you have sold your trust.

“Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.”

~Jim Rohn~

We are curious!!  Do you practice communication techniques at your firm?  Let us know!

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

Coming up next, learn about Strategic Planning and Succession Planning

*The Spectrem Group is a consulting firm specializing in the affluent and retirement markets.

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com

• Call our office at 800-917-8020

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Think Client Workflows Are Corny? Think Again…….

Growing up on an Iowa farm was one of life’s greatest pleasures. One of my fondest memories was the gathering of relatives when it was time to freeze corn.  Nothing tasted better in the harsh cold winters than fresh farm corn; but the preparation of freezing corn consisted of a workflow detailing responsibilities each family member had to complete during the process.

The objective of Ironstone’s Fundamental4™ –Operational Effectiveness and the New Client Workflow, serve as the foundation of your unique process to solve problems, manage interaction, automate tasks and provide consistency for positive and repeatable impact to the client experience.  The same was true when we would gather for our annual corn freezing day.

In our blog, Workflows & How They Enable Execution Of Your Business Strategy,https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/workflows-how-they-enable-execution-of-your-business-strategy/,   we reviewed two primary objectives of a client workflow system; improved efficiency and profitability.  The new client workflow will provide the mechanisms needed for all team members to work together seamlessly providing a high level of client service.

The absence of any workflow model in a firm is a primary culprit for office inefficiency

Each advisory firm will have a unique process that works to the advantage of its clients, team members and the firm. Create a checklist for each of these fundamentals to allow your client workflow to take the repetitive activities and routines out of your brain and let it rise above to focus on more difficult tasks.  Download our guide for Creating Checklists:   How To Create Checklists

Review the foundation and objectives of your new client workflow, ensuring that each component is aligned to achieve goals of your firm;

  • Solve problems:  Problems are easily identified when using a client workflow system.  The system provides you the ability to assess exactly where a client falls in the process, allowing you to identify any problem areas and address them accordingly in a timely and efficient manner.
  • Manage interaction:  Client relationship management is easily managed at any given point and time.  By implementing a new client workflow you are able to identify the progress of each step being taken to ensure superior client service.  The process gives you the opportunity to communicate information and answer questions that may arise from your client.
  • Automate tasks:  Tasks will be automated with a client workflow process allowing each team member to hone in on their specific duties.  By automating tasks, you will increase efficiency and productivity within your firm.  With documented procedures in place, task productivity is available for tracking during the process.
  • Provide consistency for positive and repeatable impact to the client experience:  Each  process within your client workflow system is inter-related. Workflow systems will benefit your firm by enabling you to continually provide excellent client service, concentrate on your areas of strength, build accountability for your practice, enable you to deliver more comprehensive services, assist in managing regulatory and compliance related issues and add value to your firm for re-sale purposes.

Ironstone can assist you in developing a comprehensive new client workflow. We specialize in identifying gaps in your existing plan and will collaborate with you to develop solutions that are parallel in achieving the results you desire.

A workflow system should always be a work in progress. Your practice will evolve and grow; and your firm will encounter regulation, compliance and industry change. Accordingly your workflow process should continue to evolve and be updated.

We are curious!!  Does your firm use client workflows?  Which part of your client workflow reaps the most benefits?  Which part of the workflow needs to be improved?  Let us know!

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

Coming up next, learn about the Human Element and Communication

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020 • Connect with us:


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CAB Please!

With investor skepticism, market volatility and financial planners trying to differentiate themselves from competition, many advisors have plunged forward into creating client advisory boards.

What better way to find out what clients and prospects need from you than by asking your best clients.  Not only will you have the capability to position yourself to provide solutions to the most sought after needs of clients, the likelihood of client retention will increase as well.

It is easy to stray away from developing a client advisory board because of the work involved.   The payoff will out-weigh the work by helping you understand new expectations of the investor:

  • Communication frequency
  • New investment strategies
  • New product development
  • Education requirements
  • Expectations of investment managers

Engaging with a client advisory board will also prepare you and your firm for new changes and expectations that will continue to develop.

 We outlined eight steps to creating your advisory board in our blog, Create A Powerful Asset With An Advisory Board, https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/create-a-powerful-asset-with-an-advisory-board/.  These steps are your starting point in creating a group of mentors to provide advice, objective feedback and ideas to elevate the level of service you provide for your clients.

Populated by the right mix of clients, your client advisory board will help you stay connected, build trust and create a competitive advantage over other firms.

Client advisory boards will also improve internal operations by:

  • Gaining new perspectives and ideas
  • Improve operating procedures; staff meetings, client workflows and team productivity
  • Improving  marketing, business development and long-term plans
  • Increase personal and business networks resulting in possible referrals for your firm
  • Increasing the value of your firm

Ironstone will evaluate your existing CAB plan and strategize with you to gain optimal benefits.  If you haven’t implemented a client advocate program, we will collaborate with you to develop a first-class plan.  We specialize in identifying gaps in your existing plan and will collaborate with you to develop solutions that are parallel in achieving the results your desire.

            The most pathetic person in the world is the one who has sight but has no vision- Helen Keller

 We are curious!!  Does your firm have an advisory board?  How has your CAB enhanced your firm and clients  Let us know!

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

Coming up next, learn about Operational Effectiveness and New Client Workflow

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com

• Call our office at 800-917-8020

• Connect with us:


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Build It & They Will Come – Earning Referrals

Imagine your field of dreams overflowing with all of the referrals you could ever hope for!  Closing your eyes and picturing a huge field full of perfect referrals to help you grow your firm doesn’t have to be a dream, you can make it reality.

The old way of getting a referral is more than just old.   It’s now considered greedy, pushy and desperate.  Asking for referrals puts your clients in an uncomfortable position.  Building loyalty and trust with clients is paramount to ensure client retention.  Making clients feel uncomfortable by asking for a referral could jeopardize your relationship, thus causing more harm than good.

I have noticed that nothing I never said ever did me any harm.   ~Calvin Coolidge

Referrals are still the best and most profitable source for new client acquisition.  Learning how to earn referrals is the key to a successful referral plan. It is easy to ask for a referral, anyone can do it.   Elite advisors don’t ask, they earn.  Implementing a referral program at your firm should be a goal for every advisor.  Learning the correct way to implement and use your plan is vital to overall firm reputation, growth and profitability.

Putting your reputation on the line; why would anyone give you a referral?

When a client or strategic alliance partner provides a referral to your firm, their reputation is on the line.  To earn a referral, the referee needs to feel confident that you are trustworthy, knowledgeable and will provide a positive experience to a new prospect.  As an advisor, your primary focus must be on the client and the overall client service  you provide.  If you are “just in it for the money”, clients will eventually see through the bogus wall.

Steps to earn referrals;

Ironstone has compiled a list of the best practices you can use and apply to start earning referrals and stop asking for them. 

  • Become friends with your clientsMeet with clients socially at business networking events and other non-sales related events.
  • Provide incredible client serviceThis will instill a “no-fear” mindset in your client.  Clients will feel there is little risk in recommending your firm to a peer.
  • Pay It ForwardYou need to give to get!  Avoid making the mistake of expecting something in return.
  • Be availableMake it easy for clients and prospects to do business with anyone in your firm at all times.
  • Be patientKeep in mind that relationships take time to build, let them develop over time otherwise you come off as “needy”.
  • Provide educationUse newsletters, client meetings, email, websites and social media to keep your clients and prospects informed of current issues.

Client referrals start with the quality and depth of your client relationships.  You may choose to include asking for referrals in your overall strategy; however, once you have incorporated earning referrals in your strategic referral plan, provide first-class service and a memorable experience; referrals will fill your field of dreams.

We are curious!!  How do you earn referrals?  Do you ask or earn?

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

Coming up next, learn about operational effectiveness and your service matrix!

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:


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Is Your Firm’s Brand Recognizable?

Financial Advisors are more aggressive than ever in pursuing high-net-worth clients.   In order for you to join the elite pack and remain competitive you need to establish and demonstrate what makes your firm unique and how your firm is the solution to meeting client needs by creating a strong personal brand.

Your brand message should embody core principles of your practice. These principles should act as drivers and filters when you make business decisions. They should be easy to remember and summarize what makes you unique in serving your clients.

Keep in mind that your brand is also determined by your reputation among clients, prospects and centers of influence.  Maintaining a great brand will require that you make promises and set expectations, that you must meet each and every day.  Demonstrating to clients that you consistently follow through on what you say you will do builds trust and a strong foundation for your firm.

Advisors with strong brands do things that are meaningful to clients on an ongoing basis.

 

Building Your Brand

 1.   How Is Your Firm Unique?

In what way is your firm different from your competitors?  Evaluate your skills and expertise.  Consider the following and expound on how you effectively perform each component:

Communication with clients –  introducing new concepts, ideas, products, and portfolio performance, as well as maintaining contact with clients and prospects through educational seminars. Advisors typically try to differentiate themselves by focusing on a fee-only business model.  While this is a key characteristic, it will not truly set your firm apart from your competition and build a brand that speaks to your target market.

Set yourself apart from your competition by effectively communicating your expertise and knowledge and providing pro-active solutions to clients.

2.      Determining Your Relevance Starts with Determining Your Ideal Target Client

Choosing your ideal target clients takes more work than simply making a selection of retirees, pre-retirees, affluent professionals, etc.   Focus on small target groups with similar needs and determine how you can provide them with significant value.  Get to know your clients and target markets by delving beyond their financial needs.  Find out what their values, concerns, and fears are, and what is important to them in daily life.

Design your services as a gift that you give to your clients and prospects

that truly offers and delivers what they want most.

3.      Be Consistent

Consistent brands get noticed.  They achieve strong recognition through trust and engagement, which drives loyalty from existing clients and brings prospects to your firm. To ensure that your brand is recognized and understood it is vital to be consistent through all communication channels.

Review your brand periodically to ensure it remains true.  Research how your brand is perceived by interviewing clients which will give you a better understanding of how they interpret your brand.

Think of any strong brand and you are likely able to list its colors and the products it sells.  The appearance of your brand should always be clear across the foundation that you have set, including your fonts, logos, colors, images and the presentation of your firm name and services.

Your audience should know what to expect from your brand.  Avoid changing your media spokesperson or sending messages that don’t tie-in with what you stand for.  This only causes confusion.  If your target market recognizes a piece of communication they are more likely to engage with it.

4.       In Conclusion

Brand recognition is much more than a nice logo and a bit of advertising –it is the outline of everything you stand for, everything you believe in, and everything you do. It is how you look, how you talk, and how you act.

Ask several clients how they would describe you to their best friends. Their responses are an excellent way to periodically test whether you are living your brand.

Ironstone can assist you in developing a brand that is reflective of your firm.  We specialize in identifying gaps in your existing plan and will collaborate with you to develop solutions that are parallel to achieving the results you desire.

Contact us for assistance in starting and improving your firm’s brand.  We want to hear from you!   Share your best ideas here!  How do you demonstrate your brand?  What challenges do you have in presenting your brand?   We always love hearing from you!

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™! 

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series:  Operational Effectiveness-Reports & Tracking


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Stay Competitive By Adopting A Higher Value Business Model For Your Firm

In our first blog series focusing on strategic planning and your firm’s business model (https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/how-to-define-your-business-model-and-set-the-objectives-that-will-bring-it-to-life/) we reviewed types of business models including solo, silo and ensemble firms and how strong ownership mentality helps drive success and creates focus to leverage services offered to your clients.

We also identified that your business model explains the flow of money within your firm along with identifying the services that your clients find valuable with a focus on what the largest income generator for your firm is.

Your business model has been and needs to continue to evolve for a variety of reasons including industry commoditization and increased competition.  In order to stay competitive and set yourself apart from your competitors, adopting a higher value business model will be a vital part of your firm’s success.

The structure of your business must change in order to support your new business model If not you will experience:

  • declining revenue growth
  • deteriorating client satisfaction
  • increased levels of stress on your team
  • erosion of market share
  • loss of credibility

As you change your business model, you will need to solve complex wealth management problems and build stronger relationships with your clients, all of which will require added resources.  Clients are desperately seeking advisors that they can rely on.  Provide a business model that enables them to:

  • Trust that their advisor will act in their best interest at all times
  • Know their advisor is there when needed
  • Know that fees have been minimized
  • Retain control of their assets
  • Provide meaningful educational opportunities

Providing this type of business model is important, but do not forget to share your business model with your clients and prospects.  After all, you need to educate and demonstrate what makes you different from the rest!

Include the following items while you review and refine you business model:

  • Key Partners
  • Key Activities
  • Value Proposition
  • Customer Relationships
  • Customer Segments
  • Revenue Streams
  • Channels for Reaching Clients
  • Key Resources
  • Cost Structure

Ironstone can assist you in developing an up-to-date business model that meets the needs of your clients. We specialize in identifying gaps in your existing plan and will collaborate with you to develop solutions that are parallel in achieving the results your desire.

Contact us for assistance in starting and improving your Business Model.  We want to hear from you!   Share your best ideas here!  What challenges do you face in setting yourself apart from your competitors? We always love hearing from you!

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series:  Business Development-Branding