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Ride out the perfect storm and restart your career

By Jim Ruta | April 17 2012 08:45PM

I’ve been successful in the past but have been barely holding my own for a couple of years.How do I get my excitement back?
You are not alone. A perfect storm has been raging against financial advisors for the past few years. Over-complication of the business, media hyper-scrutiny, regulatory and quasi-regulatory micromanagement, the lingering recession and now life insurance product pressure from new accounting rules (it’s breath-taking just writing it down) have all combined to make it tougher today than ever.

Companies are exiting complete product lines. MGAs are merging into the sort of monoliths they were invented to replace. Advisors are floundering.

But, all is not lost. Through these challenges, there is a business model that alleviates the pressure and gets you back in the business with a flourish. Courage is the ability to take bold action despite insecurity and uncertainty. You need it more today than ever.

A model that works is “Financial Team Leader”. I use this name rather than specialist because while specialists are busy and relatively unaffected by outside calamity, many people just can’t see their way to concentrate their business that much. Here’s another way to look at the role.

The most important decision you ever make in business is deciding with whom exactly you have the most natural influence and then working with them. These people naturally take your advice. They look to you for answers. When you call, they answer. You know them. They know you.

This is your natural audience and it’s the most important part of your business. If you pitch to the wrong people, you’ll never win. So, you may have to reposition yourself to only part of your current market but this is a critical first step.

Next, pick just one of the services or products you sell today. It has to be what you love to do most, are very good at and pays off well for you. You need all three. When you love your work you are naturally passionate and energized. That’s the excitement you want. Make this service your number one pitch to your natural audience. People will only ever know you for one thing anyway. You decide what that is. Remember your early career excitement? This is the same.

Any other related services are “provided as a service to your clients”, not the main pitch. You have to go in with only one “flag”. Hold it high.

Other services are best handled by a team. Lead a team of people over time. Don’t worry about finding them first. Get good and they’ll find you. And, ignore that talk that you have to offer everything or you can be sued. You do not. You can and must contract with clients to do what you do best. Do it with your Relationship Engagement Document.

Now, you have a favourite role with your favourite people. Start by calling your existing natural audience clients first. Reintroduce yourself and your new focus to them. Do a super job. You get new business by doing a great job with old business. Demonstrate your new passion and excitement.

Stick to this hybrid business model and you’re back.

What’s the best way to get started with some serious promotion?
Newspapers and Yellow Pages were once all we really had. Today, they might be the last places you spend your money. We now have so many low cost opportunities to get the word out that it can be overwhelming. Here are a few low cost ideas to get you going.

I like the idea of low cost to start because the only way you ever really know what works is to test it out. Low cost tests are good research. High cost tests can be dangerous if they fail. Still, you need to understand the nature of promotion.

First, promotion is a never-ending job. You can never stop promoting yourself. I’m reminded of the Guinness beer story in Ireland. They once stopped advertising in their home country because they thought they had the market cornered. Sales slid substantially immediately. Imagine, Guinness, in Ireland. So, it can happen to anyone regardless of how well known. If you stop promoting, the sense is you’ve stopped selling.

Second, keep your story simple and consistent. Complicated stories are not absorbed. They have minimal impact. Position yourself as something specific for some special people – what I call your expert identity. You can’t be the everything for everybody guy.

And, keep telling your story. Don’t worry about being repetitive. You need to be. When you get sick and tired of your message is about the time your audience is just starting to get it. This is why so much advisor advertising looks like it fails. It hasn’t. It just hasn’t had all the time it needs to work. You have to keep your same story selling for you every day to build momentum.

Tell your story everywhere you can for free first. Do you have a good story on LinkedIn.com? Have you connected with every possible prospect you can think of there? Many advisors are just connected to other advisors. Friendly, but foolish. They aren’t buying from you.

When connected to prospects, COIs and clients, you can build your reputation and keep top of mind. This is real prospecting in today’s world. It sure beats sitting around the office wondering whom to call.

Do you tweet? Think Twitter’s useless? It is if all you do is a play by play of your boring life. But, if you keep passing along great practical advice, you can make yourself well known for what you know. It’s a micro-blog - telling potent short stories that help people. And, don’t self-promote. If you’re just commercial, people tune you out. Check me out @JimRuta to see what I mean. You can even re-tweet my stuff to start.

The powerful part of tweeting is that you can now write something on Twitter and it automatically shows up on Facebook and LinkedIn. One effort with three results.

Be sure you have good profiles on social media as it is the best foundation for all the other promotion you do. Start today if you haven’t already. Be sure to let everyone know that you are on social media. Start with your email signature.

With that foundation and understanding of your value, you can expand to press releases on issues in the news, direct mail to open doors and some advertising to get your name out.

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