The most important success decision an advisor can make

By Jim Ruta | May 23 2017 07:00AM
What’s the most important decision I can make to improve my business?

Industry icons know one thing better than average advisors – their target market. It’s the key issue in a business plan and I hardly ever see it done right, except with industry icons.

A business plan is just an outline on “how you make money”. The first part of the plan is the “who” you serve to make money. Whether you are an insurance or investment advisor, decide first on a target audience if you want to excel. Once you know who you want to work with, you have the answers to many important business plan questions that make you more successful more quickly.

For instance, when you know “who”, you will know “where” to find them. Knowing where to find your market means you can advertise, market, prospect and target the right people more easily, effectively and cost-effectively.

If you want to work with middle income taxpayers – a huge, underserved market, you know exactly where they live, what they read and what they do. They will be more available to you immediately.

Then, you will know, or can easily find out, “what” that audience wants. The “what” is their specific “hot buttons” around which you can build presentations that attract the business you want. “Hot buttons” are just those financial issues that currently interest your market so much that they are willing and prepared to spend their time and money to fix them. Every market has their own.

“Who” also tells you “how” best to connect and communicate with your target audience. If your market is business owners, then you know that places like Chambers of Commerce are the place to prospect. You’ll know where to advertise and how to best spend your advertising dollars so you connect with the people you want. You’ll know the language to use and the best approaches to grab their attention.

Who also leads you to “when” is the best time to contact your market. There are better times of the year, month and week for all markets. When you know who you want to work with, you know the best when for them. This means you can be more effective in your sales approaches.

Finally, who tells you “why” they might want to speak with you to fix their problems. Knowing who means you know why they have problems and why they need help. You can be more compelling than ever when you can answer their why.

Who is the right who for you? Some advisors think that all the money is in business or professional markets. Don’t believe it. All markets are good if it’s the right fit for you. Icons work in all markets. There are no bad markets, just bad fits between advisors and markets.

Your best choice is your natural market – where you naturally have influence and insight. This who gives you the “what, where, when and why” you make money. You know them, their needs and their options. That fit makes all the difference in the world.

Find that market first and you can make your business plan make all the money you want.

What’s the best way to answer the question “What do you do?” I always hesitate.

Shouldn’t this be the easiest question to answer of all? If you don’t know what you do, how could anyone else? Still, it’s been a tough question for a lot of advisors for as long as I have been around and there are a couple reasons. Handle them and you won’t hesitate next time.

First, I believe life insurance advisors in particular, but all financial services practitioners in general, have a bad case of S.O.S. – “Shame of Selling” and especially of selling life insurance. Get this out of your head. They think selling is intrinsically bad so can’t mention it. But, everyone sells so that’s just the whining perspective. Take the winning perspective.

As for life insurance products - what shame could there be in selling a product that does so much good when so much bad has happened? I’ll tell you. None. You have a very noble profession and can be justifiably proud of it.

You really can say you “sell life insurance” and most insurance industry icons do just that. The question is whether you have the visceral fortitude to say it out loud with commitment.

The second problem that makes you hesitate is that many advisors think they need a long-winded, complicated response to what most people think is a simple question – a mission statement or elevator speech. But, Einstein was right. He said, “If you can’t say it simply, you don’t know it well enough.”

Here’s how to say it simply. I’ve coached a two-part response for years called the “Expert Identity”. The idea is to use about 5 to 10 words only to explain what you do and elicit the question, “How do you do that?” This simple approach makes it easy to respond eliminates complicated approaches.

The Expert Identity template is “Providing a specific benefit for a specific audience”. Decide on the “benefit” of the work you do in client terms – so they appreciate it. This is all about them. Imagine solving their “hot button” issue and how they feel because of it. That’s the benefit.

The second part is focusing that benefit on the best market for it – your natural audience. That focus sets you apart as someone who knows and cares about the needs of an identifiable group. It makes you their “go to” advisor and a natural advisor to it. Some examples are:

“I preserve family legacies for people who care” or “I customize Ideal Family Security Portfolios for Young Families”. (The IFSP could be for any audience) or “I protect lifestyles and legacies for entrepreneurs and their families” or “I provide primary financial care for young families” or maybe, “I provide will-funding to professionals and their families” (using my “Last Un-Will and Testament”)

Using your simple “Expert Identity” as an answer prompts the question: “How do you do that?” Then, you explain your process in detail. Just be sure you have a simple process and practiced and polished answer. Icons always do.

The Expert Identity answer is both simple and detailed but on target. And, when carefully prepared and diligently practiced, you’ll never have to hesitate again. That’s confidence.