–Charlene Li, Founder of Altimeter Group and best-selling author
Late last week, I had a conversation with a newly minted financial advisor. “John” recently started working for a large insurance/investment firm and had just completed his series 6, 63, and 65 licenses. Doing as he had been instructed to do by his manager John called my wife (whom he knows from church), trying to build his network of prospects. As soon as my wife heard what he was doing, she suggested that he and I talk.
I’m not sure what John was expecting when we connected, but you could tell that he was a bit uncomfortable. After a few minutes, I told him about my position at SEI and how I have spent almost 30 years working with advisors. At this point, I am not sure if he was happy that he could talk about building a business, or disappointed that he was not going to get a sale. Either way, we began to discuss how it was going for him as he was beginning to build a business. As you would expect, it’s been tough and he is struggling in his new career.
The need for a niche
John said that his two biggest struggles so far are a lack of direction from his management, and a knee-jerk response from prospects: “I don’t need insurance.” While I can’t help with the manager, I did suggest that we may be able to help with some ideas. (See what I did there? I just added you all into the conversation. You get to help and you can’t back out now; he is counting on you.)
My first bit of advice was to think about his target client or who he wants his target to be. I suggested that the most successful advisors are those who truly understood their niches. Those successful advisors understand what their niche is thinking, they read what their niche is reading, and they communicate with their niche in the ways that their niche communicates with each other. John doesn’t have a niche yet, but he can try to focus on one type of client and he can use that in his conversations. Instead of saying “I work for XYZ firm,” wouldn’t it be better to say “I focus on teachers who are less than five years from retirement,” or “I help parents with young children to balance education, risk, and retirement planning.” It will certainly change the response from prospects who “don’t need insurance.”
Narrowing the field
As far as I am concerned, it wouldn’t have been a successful call unless there was some homework on each of our parts. John’s homework was to sit down and list out the answers to three questions:
- Who do I want to work with, or what type of individual do I want my firm to be set up to serve?
- What obstacles are those individuals facing? (What are their challenges in reaching their goals?)
- What services will I provide to overcome those obstacles?
I told John that if he can answer those three questions, he and I could create a value proposition together that he can start sharing as he begins to build a network. By starting the conversation the right way (with the right audience), he would do much better than trying to be everything to everybody. I also suggested that the value proposition would probably get narrower the longer he is in the business.
Where you come in
My homework from the call was to see if I could collect some other ideas that would help John as he begins his career as a financial advisor. And just like my days at Earlville High, I am going to try to get others to do my homework for me. That, my friends, is where you come in.
Think back to when you got started in the business, what was the best tip or piece of advice that someone gave you? Share it in the comments section below or on twitter, using the hashtag #HelpANewAdvisor. Check back often, hopefully there will be some advice that everyone can use.
Most of this blog’s readership is made up of successful advisors – so share an idea, tip, or story. Go ahead, pay it forward.
Reminder: Advisors, you have until mid-April to submit data for the FAInsight survey “Growth by Design.” Firms interested in participating can visit http://www.fainsight.com/#!home. When prompted, indicate “SEI” as your group code. The Growth by Design study is supported by Investment Advisor, FA Insight’s media marketing partner.
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