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Expand Your Business As A One-Stop Source

In our ever-changing world, marketing methods, client-relationship strategies and selling techniques seem destined for continual evolution. Although some age-old methods for achieving success may never become outdated, acquiring and offering better products and improved delivery systems are essential progressions. The '80s office manager who didn't understand all the hype over the new fax machine would deem it laughable to be without one now. Who would have guessed, not many years ago, how computers would be affecting our lives today? Change is not only imminent, it is necessary.

The diversification of financially related services

It's an undeniable fact that the demographics and attitude of the general public are permanently changing how financial-planning, risk-management and estate-planning needs are being addressed. An increasing number of people, especially more mature and sophisticated clientele, are looking for a one-stop office where they can get it all done in one place. That's why banks are busy hiring, housing and promoting insurance agents and broker/dealer (B/D) registered representatives. The number of accountants and attorneys procuring licenses to sell financial/ insurance products is increasing. Many B/Ds and mutual fund companies now offer an assortment of financial services including checking account liquidity, asset management and (most currently) estate planning. Why? Simply to maintain control!

Important elements to any family plan

There are essentially four financial components for most family estates: accumulation, growth, preservation and transfer of assets. Most financial advisors (i.e., planners, brokers, agents and accountants who sell insurance and/or securities or who provide fee-only advisory services) are trained to help the client grow and preserve the family estate. But the fourth component-the transfer of assets-has been customarily disregarded by the advisor and unwisely left to others. If you, as an agent/advisor, are not able to assist your clients at a basic level with their estate-planning needs, then it is unfortunate for both you and your clients. The funding process and the all-important follow-through are usually essential parts in the implementation of most any estate plan. Full and complete plan implementation for your clients is not going to happen without you being involved in a collaborative, multidisciplinary effort toward that end.

Be prepared to address your client's planning questions

The chances are that, sooner or later, your client will confide in you with certain estate-planning questions. Here are some examples: "What should I do about planning my estate?"; "Should I have a will or a trust in place, or use some other method(s) to meet my goals?"; "What actually is probate and should I be concerned?"; "How does life insurance affect my estate for tax purposes?"; "Are there potential problems associated with rights-of-survivorship clauses in my realty deeds?"; "How can I arrange to help my dependent child (or grandchild) maintain a level of control regarding specific family conditions after I am gone?" If you have only limited knowledge or experience with which to discuss your client's concerns, you may dutifully recommend him to a lawyer upon whom you have performed little or no personal due diligence as to that person's character and ability. This is a common practice that often creates disappointment, if not real problems, for all parties.

Control over client relationships is vitally important

After your client visits the professional to whom you referred him, you discover that the estate-planning work that should have been done to address the issues initially brought up to you was never completed, inadequately installed or even totally disregarded. Moreover, the thoughtful insurance/investment recommendations that you made earlier were discounted by the referral contact. Alas, your client is now frustrated and (worse) starts questioning your judgment and professional ability. It is at this point that you lose meaningful control of your client relationship. But take heart: the rules of engagement are changing! In today's environment-with the emergence of multidisciplinary networking practices-the concerned financial advisor can and should take positive action to avoid the loss of client control through ill-fated referrals.

Don't lose the advantage of your existing position

If you are selling insurance products, you are already involved with frontline estate-planning issues. (Don't you already assist your clients in choosing beneficiaries of their insurance policies?) However, you most likely usually end up only skirting the outer circles of your clients' other important planning concerns and leave it at that. As a result, your clients' overall estate-planning objectives are still left unattended- notwithstanding their insurance policies that are now in place-and they still have more questions than answers. By not taking advantage of this crucial situation, you are probably forgoing any additional opportunities with those particular clients. If you find that you are unable to assist your clients at any further point, then you will almost always be: (a) forcing your clients to look elsewhere to meet their estate-planning needs, thereby (b) leaving additional business on the table for someone else and, ultimately, (c) forfeiting long-term client relationships.

Multidisciplinary networking- a powerful tool

The advisor who recognizes the issues should seek out and network with qualified professionals in an environment that he controls. In working within a multidisciplinary environment that he can manage, the advisor can turn this potentially adverse one-stop-office trend into an opportunity. Multidisciplinary networking relationships can exponentially increase the advisor's knowledge, ability and effectiveness in the marketplace. So, by incorporating and applying this network application into your practice, you as an advisor can provide information, products and services to your clients that you could not otherwise offer alone, thereby significantly enhancing your value and position with your clients.

There has never been a better time

If you desire to thrive and build a longterm practice in today's financial marketplace, you'll do well acquiring broadbased estate-planning knowledge to apply for the benefit of your clients (and for your prosperity). Get involved in the estateplanning arena with reliable sources. Conduct estate-planning seminars. Talk one-on-one to your clients about their estate-planning needs; they have been waiting for your guidance. Without question, being directly involved in the estateplanning arena can open wide the doors of opportunity for you to achieve new levels of success

Eric Palmer is the Director of Advanced Markets for Brokers Alliance, Inc., and specializes in retirement and estate planning concepts using life insurance and annuities. Eric can be reached at 800-290-7226 ext. 103 or by email at [email protected] [email protected].

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