Most financial advisors treat their clients well. Too bad they don’t give as much care to how they run their own firms, the Canada Sales Congress (CSC) was told.

“Unfortunately not a lot of us are out there working on our business,” said Kyle Richie, senior executive consultant with Toronto-based Richie Group Private Wealth Management.

Richie told the CSC in May that building a business takes time and thought. He himself believes in holistic financial planning, using a client-centric practice, speaking at lunch-and-learns and constantly prospecting – all in the name of distinguishing himself from all the other advisors out there.

“More importantly, how can we better practise our practice to the level that we deliver better services, better products, better advice to our clients?”

A client who buys a $250,000-term insurance policy and a little critical illness insurance can provide an advisor with some income. But Richie said to do better, you have to think better.

When asking for referrals, for example, describe exactly what kind of person you want as a client. At the same time, determine how to deliver better products and keep your eye on where you want to see your company going in one, three and five years down the road.

“You can’t soar with the eagles if you scratch with the turkeys,” he said. “[Determine your target market] and go with it. And then learn everything you can about that target market.”

Many financial advisors fail in their first year of practice, unable to maintain the momentum and perseverance needed to bring in new business.

All the reason why it’s crucial to develop good habits right from the time you set up your business, habits such as preparing in advance, not losing focus and getting good work habits, said Brian Scott, president, Scott Insurance Services Inc. in Whitby, ON. 

“What not to do? Don’t put the phone down, light up a cigar or give up momentum. You need to track what you’re doing. If it’s not working, revamp it. Always be top of mind and follow up,” said Scott, who formerly had a career in major junior and minor professional hockey.

Scott said life insurance is unique in that it not only provides funds for family, business or charity after death, but also because it’s treated very favourably by the Income Tax Act. This one bit of information is critical and those who don’t understand its benefits need to spend some time learning about it, he said.

Once an advisor has both knowledge and confidence in a product, then conviction begins to work for them automatically, he said.

Getting new clients is a lot of work even with referrals, acknowledged Scott, and new advisors should be realistic about how quickly they can grow. But he echoed strategic coach Dan Sullivan and his signature concept that it’s easier to multiply your business by 10 than it is to double it.

Like any professional, advisors must understand their business, keep learning and define the target market they’re going after.

“An amateur practises until they get it right. A professional practises until they can’t get it wrong,” said Richie.

Holistic financial planning

Being a life coach ensures Amy Tong always displays a contagious positive attitude.

Tong, president of AT Financial Group in Richmond Hill, ON, provides holistic financial planning for her clients, many of whom are doctors and dentists. Just as she works with a team of other professionals including lawyers, accountants, wealth consultants and tax specialists, Tong encourages her clients to learn from her to get the best advice possible.

“We grow together and we build together. I’m with them every step of the way,” said Tong, who often goes to various conferences with her clients to get and keep them motivated.

Tong encourages her clients to use social media to maintain relationships and tells them that they can reach her anywhere or any time.

Everyone has his/her own unique abilities – people just have to figure out what they are and then use them for the betterment of their clients, she said. Tong said her best attributes are her ability to prospect, connect as well as being a good closer. (She closes 300 cases a year).

Sometimes patience can be a financially worthwhile virtue. Many of Tong’s younger clients have lots of university debt right now, but she is looking 10-20 years down the road when the doctor or dentist will be doing well financially and they will continue to work together to find products that will protect them.

Advisors who take a genuine interest in their clients should teach them about risk and the important role life insurance plays, says David Hull, president of Hull Life Insurance Corporation of Toronto.

Hull described life insurance as being one of the most important cheques that arrives when most people are sending in bills.

One of the hardest parts of selling life insurance is to encourage people to buy even though clients think they don’t need it.

“People become uninsurable every single day,” said Hull. “You need to remember that. That’s why you need to get your prospects and clients to buy life insurance when they don’t need it – so they have it when it’s required.”

Hull suggests sending a detailed letter to clients about the insurance and its purpose every time.

Critical illness insurance

He also sells critical illness insurance, but only permanent with a return of premium rider. Hull says he has the same belief in CI that he does with life insurance – the importance of having available assets, including a tax-free CI payment, rather than being forced to liquidate assets during a difficult time.  

He stays in touch with his clients by sending them birthday, anniversary and Christmas cards and acknowledges all his emails within 24 hours.

And he also advocates that advisors take time off to get away from their business. Hull, for example, takes between 10 and 12 weeks off a year. It’s a tip he says he learned from strategic coach Dan Sullivan.

“And it’s been 100 per cent true for me,” says Hull. “Because I know that when I’m not taking time off I’m working and focused on the task at hand.

Clients for life

As a second-generation life insurance advisor, Whitney Hammond knew she had to build a business that generated income for herself as well as assemble clients for life.

Hammond, principal at Burlington, ON-based Sovereign Wealth Management, took a page from aviation and its “pilot in control” term to help build her company and uses that as a blueprint for moving ahead.

“Today my why is sharing my knowledge and sharing my experience — help people. If you get anything from my talk today: it’s help people. They need guidance on all levels. The most affluent are the most vulnerable and they are afraid to say it. Our job is to expose this vulnerability and to stabilize it. These people have all the same worries as we do.”

Private corporations

Hammond also likes to help people with their own businesses, particularly those with Canadian controlled private corporations, especially about how insurance can offset taxes on death and how to move money in a corporation more tax effectively.

She believes advisors need to teach clients about the beauty of long-term compounding, adding that she likes selling participating life insurance because the cash value outpaces GICs when it comes to providing solid returns.

“Really understand your product and how it works. Buy the biggest life insurance policy that you can’t afford and then work for it to pay for it. I’ve sold hundreds of thousands of premiums just showing my extraordinary cash value life insurance policy.”

Own your personal power

Sometimes shift happens.  Whether it’s technology, compliance or low interest rates, all of these can have an effect on how advisors conduct their business – that is, if they let them.

“You can choose to be in resistance to the shift or you can be in flow with it,” said Jennifer Powers, a Portland, Oregon, coach and author of “Oh, shift!”

Those who resist change will become irritated, lose motivation and can even become ill, said Powers. Those who go with the flow can find happiness, health, an increase in productivity and success.

You always have a choice of which way to go to create the reality you choose, she said.

“Own your personal power,” said Powers. “No one can take it away from you unless you give it to them. You can always choose your very next outcome and hopefully you choose your very biggest birthright which is joy.”