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Is it Okay for Financial Advisors to Swear in Front of Clients?

It does the trick like nothing else can – sometimes there’s just no better way to make the point. Is it okay for Financial Advisors to swear in front of clients?

Should Financial Advisors Swear in Front of Clients?

Several years ago I attended a 3 day long workshop about sales training. Now very few people know this about me but I’m not the world’s biggest technology person but nonetheless I found myself in a seminar given by a technology CEO about how to sell IT support services. It was an afternoon session, right after lunch, and so I found myself slipping into a coma.

I was about three seconds from dozing off and so wasn’t everybody else. The speaker sensed this and when somebody asked a question about how to suggest a server upgrade he retorted:

“Just tell him to get rid of the [explicit] thing! The whole [explicit] thing. Just tell him to throw that [explicit] piece of [explicit] in the [explicit] trash can!”

Needless to say I snapped out of my food coma. Unprofessional? Yes. But highly entertaining.

The point of this anecdote is that I wouldn’t suggest swearing all the time but once in a while you can use it to:

  • Get somebody’s attention when you’re being ignored
  • Add emphasis to a point
  • Make people laugh
  • Come across as real and authentic
  • Portray high conviction
  • Be a little edgy

Some guidelines for swearing:

  • Only use it selectively and in the right circumstances
  • You always run the risk that it will offend some people so chose the audience wisely
  • Never use swear directly when speaking about a person, (e.g. “he’s a—.”)
  • Keep in mind that once you do this, there’s no going back. If you write it in a blog or say it on a recorded line or a podcast, it’s out there forever. If you think this is not going to align with the future of your brand then it’s best to refrain.
  • Don’t assume that just because they swear, you can swear.

Sara’s Upshot

Swearing is a big no-no for advisors to do in front of clients, but if done correctly (and that’s a big “if”), swearing can set you apart from other brands that may not have the courage to be so raw. Just as the famous financial disclaimer goes: higher risk, higher potential reward.

Authenticity is what matters most in any financial advisor who wants to get new clients. Learn the no BS way to use social media to get new clients by joining my membership here.

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Is it Okay for Financial Advisors to Cry in Front of Clients?

I’ve talked before about how instead of being shrouded and veiled, advisors should come across in a more human and relatable way with clients and prospects. But how raw can get you before you step over the line –is it okay for financial advisors to cry in front of clients? Sometimes the authenticity can say more about your authenticity than any marketing pitch.

The Tears were Not Scripted

When I was an advisor years ago, I had a client who was a young couple that was expecting their first child. I had recently sold them an insurance policy when the wife was in the end of her second trimester. When I called the wife’s office to confirm something about her application, her secretary said that the woman had been rushed to the hospital earlier that week. She had given birth two months early apparently due to a bout of preeclampsia.

I stared at the receiver, stunned, unable to believe what I had heard.

A baby can survive as early as 22 weeks in gestation, but being so severely premature there are serious risks to both the baby and mother’s lives. As someone who had recently had a child, I felt this pain so deeply. It was always my worst fear that I would suffer a misfortune like this during my pregnancy.

I immediately called the husband who answered who very stoically told me what had happened. He sounded so catatonic as if he were in a state of shock. As I tried to discuss their insurance coverage, I couldn’t get the words out without breaking down and crying while my client remained silent on the other end of the line. I felt so selfish getting emotional in front of him. And what gave me the right to get so upset anyways? These people weren’t my family, for goodness sake, this was a business relationship!

I was overjoyed a few weeks later I received word that the mother and baby had recovered. The wife was home but the baby had to stay at the hospital for a few weeks. The next of our interactions were far more lighthearted. I gave them a baby gift and we continued on with our relationship but it was different. Whereas before they had been a little stand-offish, it was as if they had seen my true colors. They were warmer and more open with me as their advisor, all because of this experience where I had inadvertently shown them my raw emotion. Nothing I ever said about finance could have moved them this way.

What I took away from that experience is that being professional doesn’t mean you have to be a robot. Sometimes it doesn’t go according to the script when your heart takes over, but it’s those moments where clients feel you present as a human being in their lives. Once in a great while it may be exactly what they need.

Sara’s Upshot

Authenticity is what matters most in any financial advisor who wants to get new clients. Learn the no BS way to use social media to get new clients by joining my membership here.

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How to Tell If Your Office Set Up Is Killing Financial Advisor Lead Generation

Financial advisor lead generation is a brutal task so make it easier by doing everything you can to increase motivation, starting with how your office is set up.

Advisors Hate Telemarketing

To all the advisors who are reading this, tell me how many times you’ve called back after you had a meeting and somebody didn’t respond?

Probably two people will say they’ve ever done this.

There is an abysmal lack of follow up in sales, in general, and financial services is no exception. I find that when I follow up more than twice, the prospect is often awed by my action. I’ve closed so many sales because I had to grit to make the call one more time, despite being ignored.

Look, I’m not going to sugar coat it. Financial advisor lead generation over the phone is brutal bloody murder. But the people who do it consistently, in conjunction with other forms of marketing such as social media or blogging, and with some degree of skill can get amazing results. I made a nice business for myself calling young attorneys at Big Law firms in New York City.

The Bottom Line:

If you want a bigger pipeline, get on the phone and call some rich people up. You can do this more easily by going through your LinkedIn connections and thoughtfully messaging them using tools like this.

Yes, I know it’s painful and easier said than done. But the simple fact is that you can write all the blogs you want, but at some point somebody is going to have to get the prospect on the phone and get them to come in for a meeting.

If you want to get better sales results then make sure that every single factor is working in favor of supporting the people who are in the hardest role at your firm: the sales people. Here’s how to do it using your office design.

Nap Rooms

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was at a point in my career when my job involved heavy phone prospecting. I used to get so sleepy after lunch (every single day at 1:30 in the afternoon) that I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open.

No lie, I had to hold my head up with my hand and doze off sitting in my chair for 5 minutes at a time (and hope the bosses didn’t see me).

It made the whole thing so tiring. I would call nonstop for 15 minutes at a time and then stop for 2 minutes, and then start again. If you do that, it’s easier to get into a groove and you get less distracted. But it’s pretty exhausting mentally.

Takeaway for higher financial advisor lead generation:

Take a little corner of the conference room and put a yoga mat on the floor. Tell your employees to bring their own blanket and pillowcase and allow the salespeople to take a nap after lunch.

Games

Do you know how hard it is to heavily prospect over the phone all day? I mean, to really sit there and dial staring at the wall, getting hung up on, blown off, treated like a second class citizen, cursed at, and shamed, over and over and over again?

The easiest way to motivate people is to make their jobs fun. By incorporate games into the office, you can help them structure their day with work/play intervals that chop up a block of boring phone calls.

If you really want to get them cranking, I recommend having your phone marketers call for 20 minutes, take a 2 minute break, and then start on the next set. At the end of very two hours they get a 10 minute break to go play ping pong.

Takeaway for higher financial advisor lead generation:

If you make work fun for people they’re more likely to be productive. Try a video game center maybe. Google has slides, no kidding, it’s a slide like your kids play on at the playground. Whatever you need to do to introduce an element of fun, do it.

Try ping pong tables, board games, video games, or even a full fledged game area.

Healthy Food

Do you ever notice that you tend to eat bad food when you’re under stress? In a bad moment, people tend not to appreciate weight gain from eating the first piece of junk they can get their hands on at work. Usually it’s soda or potato chips. Make this a positive rather than negative experience for them.

Takeaway for higher financial advisor lead generation:

At the end of the day we’re all animals subject to the same basic needs. Once in a while, let’s say once a week, hire a chef to come in and prepare meals. Offer your salespeople healthy snacks (vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, organic, etc.)

Phone Booths

When I used to phone prospect, I was in an open plan office environment and everyone heard my calls. It was pretty embarrassing when I’d get rejected.

Takeaway for higher financial advisor lead generation:

Not everyone has thick skin so create a place where salespeople can have a discrete conversation with a prospect. It can be as simple as a conference room with a comfortable chair and a computer terminal.

Or, you could integrate a phone booth, yes an actual phone booth, into the design. This will be of great use to your financial advisor lead generation but it will also help your team in general. With open plan offices, it can get a bit touchy when someone has to take a personal call. Take the awkwardness out of the equation and improve the comfort level of your entire team.

Sara’s Upshot

Creating a fun work environment for your team can motivate them to take more action over the phone and expand your pipeline, and a great office design can make a difference. Financial advisor lead generation to some extent is about the numbers and about taking action. Advisors who whine about competition from the roboadvisors or about fee compression can beat these challenges by taking action and filling up the pipeline.

The phone is still a lethal weapon if you have trained professionals who are willing to dial the call. It’s a painful process but if you are willing to take as much pain out of the experience for them as possible you may find they see it as not so bad after all.

Thanks for reading!

And if you like my ideas there’s more of them where they came from – consider joining my monthly membership here.

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Should I Move my RIA Firm to the Cloud?

Sara Grillo - Marketing Firms In The Clouds

The cost savings of moving a small RIA firm to the cloud are pretty tempting. I interviewed John Boulanger of Investment Technology Partners and Marco Naylon of MTN Group to get the story on what the risks and rewards may be for RIA firms considering moving to the cloud.

What RIA Firms Should Know about Cloud Security

According to Boulanger, the biggest thing that financial firms misunderstand or underestimate when it comes to cybersecurity is perception. Many firms believe they are safe if their data is up in the private cloud (i.e. Charles Schwab or Fidelity).

In reality, though, making your RIA firm safe in the cloud is more about policy and less about product. Security Best Practice requires that an organization have a comprehensive cyber security policy first. You can then determine what cyber products fit your policy once you have that established.

The other issue is documentation. Let’s say that you purchased Trend Micro for PCs and Mobile. Trend Micro does provide endpoint security, but we need to show regulators we monitor our endpoints daily for Malware, and if found we remediated it.  All must be documented.

In Boulanger’s view, the mobile security area will sooner than later not be allowed to be off limits in SEC audits. Compliance officers currently can write policy dictating that no mobile devices are allowed to communicate directly to a client. This removes mobile off the audit review. This is likely to change.

Choosing a Cloud Provider for Your RIA Firm

According to Marco Naylon, the biggest misconception with the Cloud as an IT solution is that it needs to be a binary decision between traditional on-premise IT and a Cloud provider. The Cloud is capable of incorporating a hybrid solution that maintains some data and processes on local resources and moving others to the Cloud.

Furthermore, the hybrid solution can be completely customized to meet your firm’s internal and external requirements. For example, a firm can implement an archiving solution that keeps frequently accessed files or data on local resources and move older assets to low-cost storage in the cloud. An archiving policy could be created to automate the process and freeing up local storage while meeting your firm’s record retention requirements.

Before choosing a cloud provider, a firm should have an accurate assessment of their current IT needs and spending. Also, they should have a strategic plan for their firm and how IT will be used to meet their business objectives. An RIA firm should look at three things: Technology Offerings & Services, Pricing Model, and Security.

Cloud Offerings

The offerings and services of a cloud provider should fit the firm’s needs for storage, computing and processing power as well as the ability to manage the development and deployment of applications.

Cloud Pricing Model

Firm’s need to understand the pricing model for what and how usage charges occur. The cloud provider should be able to provide detailed costs reports across their various services for firms to track their usage and spending trends.

Cloud Security

Finally, a firm needs to understand the security offerings and protocols of a cloud provider. They should understand how and where their data is stored, as well as retaining full-ownership of their data. Furthermore, firm’s need to distinguish between their security responsibilities and those of the cloud provider. Cloud providers should provide the ability for a firm to set and implement security policies on their cloud environments.

Cloud Migration for RIA Firms

To begin testing the waters of a cloud solution, Naylon recommends starting with a small non-mission critical process. Good candidates are workflows that contain repetitive processes that can be automated in the cloud.

Moving to the cloud isn’t a clean cut process for RIA firms. But regardless of if you move to the cloud or stay local, authenticity is what matters most in any financial advisor who wants to get new clients. Learn the no BS way to use social media to get new clients by joining my membership here.

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5 Painless Tips for Getting a Financial Advisor Blog Through Compliance

Sara Grillo - Woman punching a man with boxing gloves

Whether they are a financial advisor at an RIA firm or a broker-dealer, the conversation always seems to go the same way. Immediately after a financial advisor agrees that writing a blog post with me would be a great way to improve branding, the next words out of their mouth are always, “But what about getting a blog through my compliance department? Such a pain in the neck and it takes forever.” Have you ever said these words, or something to that effect? As someone who has both been a financial advisor in the past — and now writes financial advisor blogs for a living– I can offer 5 painless tips for getting your financial advisor blog (and investor decks, social media postings, or any other content) through compliance.

#1 Understand the Mindset of the Compliance Professional

The bell rings…ding, ding, ding…

In one corner, in the gold trunks weighing in at 180 pounds, three time Golden Glove Champion, your firm’s Chief Compliance Officer!

In the second corner, in the red and black trunks weighing in at 150 pounds, the challenger, Financial Advisor Joe!

What a battle. Sound like your situation? In my talks with financial advisors, I’ve heard the tone get downright adversarial when it comes to their experiences getting content through compliance. It doesn’t have to, and should not be, this way. Here’s why: compliance has ultimate authority over what goes through and what doesn’t. They make the decision. Fight them, and they will win. Understand their mindset and strive to cooperate as much as possible, and you’ll find that over time they’ll loosen up that tight upper lip and make things easier for you.

So let’s start by looking at what the Chief Compliance Officer at your firm thinks about as he or she is commuting to work everyday. Unlike financial advisors, they aren’t paid for productivity. They’re paid to minimize risk. Their worst nightmare is letting something slide that gets picked up by the regulators or results in a compliance breach, because that can only happen once or twice before they’re out on the street looking for a new job.

There’s no relationship and no trust most of the time.  The compliance officer has no incentive to cut you any slack because you’re just another number. You are not their friend, you are the enemy because you acting upon even the slightest oversight can get them canned, the slightest slip up, the most minor miscommunication. There are only two exceptions. I’ve found in my work with broker-dealer teams, the advisors who either are the top producers or have already established trust with compliance are the ones whose content gets placed at the top of the pecking order. But what do you do if you’re not one of these select few?

The answer is that you have to “sell” yourself to them. Just as you would to a prospect, build trust gradually. You wouldn’t expect to close a sale on the first phone call, would you? No. You take the time to do things like meet with the prospect, ask them questions to seek to understand their challenges and goals better, and then to set forth a plan of action that they will agree to. You see over time that this warms up even the toughest of skeptics.

That’s really critical: get their buy-in. How do you do that?

  • First of all, give compliance a long lead time when you first start to work together. Don’t make your first submission be about an event happening a week from now. Give them a ridiculous amount of lead time, as much as you can.
  • Give them a heads up. Either meet with them in person or have a phone conversation about what you want to write about, and be clear. Ask for their advice about what would make it easy to get it approved. Maybe even submit an outline of the posting before you write the content so that you don’t waste time writing on something they have to ding.
  • Make the content appealing and entertaining to read. Keep in mind they have to read a million dry, boring financial advisor blogs all day long. Using humor and other techniques that I’ll discuss later in this article might just make them enjoy reading what you write and let’s be honest that makes them feel more inclined to support what you’re trying to do.
  • Lastly, give them a break and steer clear of the problem areas. Just like that one teacher in school that everyone said was such a hard grader and would return your essay with red pen scratches everywhere, understand what it is likely to get their goat. I’ll comment more on this topic later in my article, but the list includes anything related to performance, track record, and advertising or soliciting your firm.

How do you make an article meaningful without discussing these topics, you may ask. Behold the answers in the next section!

#2 Avoid the Landmines

Financial advisors complain that they can’t get anything meaningful through compliance. In reality, though, most advisors feel that in order to show value they need to predict the market, pitch products, boost about past trades, or their firm. In reality (and especially if you are marketing to certain generations such as Millennials) it’s all been said before and if you really want to rise above the noise you have got to come up with something different anyways.

People choose you based upon service, not product, most of the time. So serve them like clients! Give them the gift of knowledge with an intriguing, spot on, highly relevant piece. The best financial advisor blogs answer questions that people have. The way Google and the social media engines work is through relevance. For example, if you were to do some online searches and research the questions that people tend to have about mortgages, it’s not about the intricacies of the paydown schedule. People use the Internet for “social learning”, reading threaded conversations where they can learn through the experiences of other people.

If I were a financial advisor who wanted to find the buzz uttered by people who were first time home buyers, I’d visit the Quora mortgage page (“Mortgages”, n.d). The biggest question people tend to have is about the mistakes first time home buyers make. Other topics involve the actual process of working with a loan officer, PMI, ARMs, and how to work with lenders. These are examples of great financial advisor blog topics. Establishing yourself as an expert by answering questions relevant to first time home buyers will get your content liked, shared, and indexed better by Google because you are, in a sense, providing a service online to people through your content.

What prevents many people from answering questions this way is the fear of doing work for free. Nobody can argue that getting paid is the end goal for everyone in business. Yet there is some grinding that you have to do before you can earn the privilege of getting paid 100% of the time for your wisdom. Most of the really successful people will say that, online or not, they only get paid for 25% of the work they do. Show enough value, and eventually the leads will come. Talk to what people want to hear about, and eventually the paying clients will hear you.

If you want to build your cybercredibility, traffic is what matters to Google. You may get 1k views and only one lead, but in a sense the rest of the 999 people have paid you with their view. I caution my clients not to underestimate the value of being followed online. A subscriber may not have an immediate need but over time chances are that they or someone connected to them will. Herein lies the importance of the financial advisor sales funnel. Touch them once or twice a month with value rich, insightful content through newsletters, social media, and even direct visits or calls, and you’ll see them convert over time.

#3 Find a Financial Copywriter

I find that many financial advisor blogs run into problems with compliance because of how they phrase things. This takes a certain degree of writing skill that may or may not be a priority for the advisor to have. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; hire a good financial copywriter, one who is familiar with FINRA and other regulations governing the copy, can save you the headache of going back and forth with compliance ad nauseam.

Here are some examples of phrasing that can improve compliance success. In each case, I’ve presented the novice phrasing as well as the way a professional financial copywriter would phrase it.

Distressed debt is a great addition to any large pension portfolio who wants to outperform.

Distressed debt has become a popular investment choice for many of the top global pension funds such as CalPERS.

What makes this good copy? The balanced view that it provides. While a novice writer would express a strong opinion that may be construed financial advice (which is the compliance officer’s pet peeve), a professional writer will couch this opinion in fact.

Technology is bound for a reversal and is one of the best places for your money in 2018.

When arranging a target asset allocation, investors may find it useful to consider a range of sectors where economic growth may likely be on the rebound. While the future can never be predicted, a likely source of economic growth in years to come will be the sizzling technology sector which has most likely hit rock bottom. Experts see this sector as due for a turnaround in 2018. Do you agree?

The lesson here is to ask, not advise. The language in the second statement is conditional rather than absolute, i.e. “may find”, “can never be predicted”, “most likely.” These words are soothing to the compliance officer’s ears!

Hedging strategies shield investors from dips in the market.

Hedging strategies are a form of risk management put in place when an investor wishes to obtain a way to protect the portfolio from dips in the market.

What makes the second example of copy easier on the compliance officer is the higher truthfulness of the second statement. While statement #1 is true is some cases, it’s not always what ends up happening. Compliance officers love it when you explain the strategy and the goal rather than making blanket statements about outcomes that may or may not apply in all situations.

Here are some tools that I myself have compiled to assist in the process of putting together financial advisor blogs.

One final caveat on hiring financial copywriters. Before you hire one, make sure that you get straight what kind of financial advisor blog content you’d like produced. Some copywriters just recycle canned content that has already been used elsewhere for other clients. You don’t want to be left holding the bag when it comes to plagiarism. Be sure to search on a few phrases by inputting them directly in Google just to make sure that what you get hasn’t been published elsewhere. Or, you can consult with one of the free plagiarism check services available through sites such as Grammarly.

#4 Include Graphics

As someone who produces digital copy for a living, it’s clear to me that the best received content is visual. I don’t mean graphs and charts, I mean imagery that conveys the message you’re trying to make. For example, if you’re talking about how a particular rebalancing technique works well for pension funds, include a picture of pension fund employees sitting around a conference table looking happy instead of a boring old graph of historical performance.

You know the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Spice up your piece with stock photos or designed images that convey your point creatively. Compliance won’t have anything to say about it and your audience will like the article better.

By the way, for those of you who are looking to penetrate a local market, including keyword-rich labelled graphics is a great way to juice up your SEO. So are Infographics. Google loves these!

Where can you find these images? Check out stock photo websites such as Pexels or  Shutterstock. For custom designed images, you can hire resources inexpensively through freelancer sites such as Fiverr.

#5 Distribute Like Crazy

Getting your content in front of a targeted audience is a great way to get views on the article without having to go to town on the content. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that there is ever a good reason for weak content. I’m saying that a well targeted message put in front of the right group will go far just because you’re speaking to the right people.

If you’re a compliance officer, which article do you review first (and possibly be a tiny bit more lenient towards). One, a financial advisor blog that went on a rep’s blog and got 50 views, no comments, no leads, and net-net did not earn money for the firm? Or scenario #2, let’s say that article got picked up by CNBC and featured as syndicated content, gaining attention for both the rep and the firm, got backlinked to by several websites, earned over 1,000 views and led to several new prospects getting in touch with the rep? These #2 articles make the compliance officer look great and would motivate them to put your order first the next time around.

Bonus tip: Don’t Forget LinkedIn Messaging!

LinkedIn has recently revised its platform to enable instant messaging to your contacts. This is not something to be taken lightly. Many people will engage over instant messaging just because they are online whereas if you sent an email they would never respond. As long as you are messaging one person at a time, this doesn’t count as “advertising.”  Many compliance departments will track this activity but do not require pre-approval. This is a great way to communicate freely over social media and get attention from prospects that might be in your network. Scour your contact list and see who might be a potential prospect or center of influence and then ping them.

So as you can see, there’s a rhyme and reason to getting your blog through financial advisor compliance.

Thanks for reading!

And if you like my ideas there’s more of them where they came from – consider joining my monthly membership here.

Sources: Mortgages. (n.d.) Quora. Retrieved from https://www.quora.com/topic/Mortgages. Accessed July 25, 2017.