Practice Management – Generating Business, Client Selection, Business Structure

Two industry consultants outline strategies that may help advisers bring new clients onboard, position their adviser/client relationship and better communicate the value they offer…

 

How to Develop More Business

For some advisers, business development is seen as a task left to others while they focus on servicing their clients. However, as Rachel Staggs from SRSCC writes, while finding new clients may sound like a ‘promotions role’, advisers have something valuable to promote and should not just rely on referrals if they want to move their practice to the next level…

 

How do some advice businesses get a steady flow of new clients and others don’t? Over the years I have shared lots of proven marketing tactics and strategies that work for financial advisers. Now it’s time to share a more traditional role: business development. It’s a role many have either forgotten about, or simply not considered.

When we look at other successful advice businesses there is typically a primary ‘sales’ person – someone whose job it is to develop strategic relationships with a broad range of companies, sectors and professions.
Their time is split between business development and seeing clients. In some cases, they may not even see clients. Their role is purely to develop new sales channels and be responsible for bringing in new business.

The term ‘business development’ means the act of participating in actions that will help grow the business, and I believe it’s a role that could help propel many advice businesses. But what does it entail?

First, let’s look at why so many financial advisers say they don’t actively engage in business development.

The following answers may surprise you:

  • I don’t have time to develop business
  • Business development is a sales role, and I’m not in sales
  • We get all our new clients through existing clients
  • We wouldn’t know where to start
  • I don’t need any more work at the moment

When we look at advice businesses that are growing, a large proportion use the act of business development to help that growth. Whether your advice business is small, medium or large, I would suggest that everyone needs to have a business developer within the company.

Benefits of business development

The benefits of business development are vast. However, I have listed the top seven:

1. Life insurance advice needs a higher profile and a steady flow of clients. If no-one is talking about or representing your business, you risk the chance of being invisible

2. Helps create a reputation for the business. Relying just on existing clients to represent your brand and business limits your growth

3. Informs others that you are open to introductions. Client research conducted by SRSCC reveals that 80 per cent of people don’t even know that businesses want more business

4. Expands your networks. The more people you know, the more likely you are to be able to provide advice to more people. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

5. Expands your thinking. Being a continual learner, a curious person can only broaden their horizon of thought which can lead to new opportunities they may never have even thought about

6. Starts to position you as a thought leader. Business development is a great way to share your vision, and to share your insights and experience in this great profession

7. Leads to increased revenue and more value. Developing business opportunities with other businesses, for example, local businesses in your area or large corporations, can only lead to increased revenue

Tactics you can implement

Firstly, I would recommend you have a strategy. What is the aim of your business development? What do you want to achieve? What is your message?

Here are seven business development activities for you to consider or share among your team:

1. Attend outside industry events. Attend at least one new event each month – an event where you won’t meet other advisers

2. Focus on other organisations where your prospective client works. Propose some educational seminars/workshops that you could hold to bring their employees up to speed with all things financial – related to them, of course!
3. Use content marketing to create your reputation and visibility. Commit, share and build your online audience

4. Consider developing professional groups where other professionals come and network – this can be online or offline

5. Develop a call register to stay top of mind with all strategic business partners

6. Develop some key sponsorship relationships that support your brand value and attend the events

7. Participate in some research. Look at partnering with another organisation to complete it. Develop the research paper and attend presentations where you talk about the findings

Business development should undoubtedly be part of your overall growth strategy. The question is, do you have one? Have you considered giving that responsibility to someone in your business or perhaps it’s a new role that needs to be created – one with the right key performance indicators so you can measure the success.

Relying on your current clients to make you more visible and get new clients isn’t a sustainable proposition for an advice business. Think about where your ideal client works and then develop the stepping stones – the strategy to get in front of them – before another advice business does.

Chris Unwin ‘Chrisisms’

Are you doing your client a favour by being their adviser, or is your client doing you a favour in having you as their adviser? Chris Unwin has a firm view on this question, and in his second pearl of wisdom, Chris reflects on exactly how advisers – especially risk-focussed advisers, add value for their clients…

 

Who’s Doing Who the Favour?

How often do financial advisers (especially newer ones) think that someone is doing them a favour by becoming a client? It is this very mindset that puts advisers on the back foot from the very start of a client engagement process.

I know that when I first started in the business, I thought someone who did business with me was doing me a favour as it was generating revenue for me and helping me achieve my targets and goals! But then in those early days I also wasn’t exactly selective about who I took on board as a client – it was called the mirror test: “Breathe on this mirror and if it clouds over, you’re in!”.

Over time I was able to become more selective about whom I took on as clients and I gained a proper perspective of who was doing whom the favour when someone became a client.
In this day and age, as we inexorably move away from a commission based remuneration model (even in the risk advice space) and towards a fee based remuneration model, our perception of who is doing whom the favour becomes all the more important.

Understanding, appreciating and communicating the value that we represent to our clients in all aspects of financial planning becomes absolutely crucial in creating the right mindset for transitioning to a fee-for-advice scenario, and the right mindset is what enables us to get on the front foot with our clients from day one.

When you take on a new long-term client as a financial planner, which of the two parties is going to be the biggest beneficiary financially over the full duration of your business relationship? It’s going to be your client, isn’t it? And by a country mile. So who is doing whom the favour when a new client comes on board?

Let’s put your perception of the value that you represent to your clients to one more test. If an individual decides for whatever reason not to become a client of yours, what impact will that person’s decision have on your financial goals?
Answer: No impact whatsoever – plenty more where they came from.

And what impact will that same person’s decision not to become a client have on their financial goals? Answer: Huge! In all probability, they will not achieve their financial goals without your help.
If you do not believe these answers to be true, then you will have a problem getting on the front foot and justifying a fee to your clients. After all, who is doing whom the favour?

Communicating Your Value

The current changes to risk adviser remuneration models remind me somewhat of the introduction of commission disclosure back in the 90s, which meant that for the first time risk advisers had to disclose the amount of commission they were being paid for the cover they were recommending. An awful lot of seasoned advisers threw their hands in the air and exclaimed: “I don’t want to tell my clients how much I earn.”

I would say: “Don’t, then”. And they would say: “But I have to now by law.”

And I would say: “You don’t have to tell your clients how much you earn – tell them how little you earn.”

If you think you’re being overpaid for the value that you represent to your clients, then you should probably get out of the business.

Realistically moving forward, most risk advisers will be looking at embracing a remuneration model that combines commission and fees, but I find that a lot of advisers are struggling with the concept of incorporating fees into their remuneration – which of course is totally understandable having operated purely on commission for such a long time.

Having engaged with many advisers on this topic over the past couple of years, I believe the large majority of the problems in this area are in your head; not the client’s. You are already delivering huge amounts of value to your clients, therefore any changes needed will typically be changes to your mindset rather than to your process.

When the concept of value reared its head in the risk advice space a few years ago, I think a lot of advisers grabbed a piece of paper and started to draw up a list of boxes that had to be ticked in order to be seen to be giving value.

But here’s the thing; value is not something that is specified – it is something that is perceived. It is an awareness on the part of the client and it stems from the client enjoying a quality experience rather than simply experiencing a transaction.

Moving forward I believe paying for quality advice and service will be an expectation of quality clients – therefore, the key will be to get off the back foot and on to the front foot as early in the engagement process as possible. What better time to pre-position your fees than at the FSG stage of the process?

Off the back of outlining the range of services you can offer your client over time, you have a perfect opportunity to start talking about which fee structure will be appropriate for this particular client, rather than whether any fee at all will be payable.

Chris Unwin is a former financial adviser with 37 years standing and was a specialist risk adviser for 22 years. His training and consulting business has operated for 16 years and it specialises in helping advisers across the full spectrum of experience with their client engagement skills, both in the risk advice specific space as well as in the more generic soft skills space.

 

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