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How You Can Avoid the ‘Substitutability Trap’

Have you noticed that it is getting increasingly difficult to stand out and to gain the attention of the very clients you wish to engage? To stay competitive, advisors must avoid the “Substitutability Trap,” which is a damaging trend that results when service and sales conversations become too similar to those of other advisors. The degree to which you either stand out or blend in will affect your level of success, so each advisor must look for opportunities to unlock client value their competition is not.

Advisors can differentiate themselves by improving the frequency of their client communication, which is an area in which the industry as a whole must improve. By viewing client communication as a marketing tool, you have the potential to help improve the customer experience. If your client communication is leveraged correctly, you ultimately can generate an increase in referrals. Industry organizations provide advisors with access to resources and ideas to help them accelerate the growth of their practice. For example, my membership in the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) has given me access to influential professionals and advisors as well as exemplary resources to stay at the forefront of my clients’ needs.

Unprecedented opportunity exists for those who follow a new set of rules instead of the “copycat” strategy. The best-performing advisors don’t always get it right the first time, but they stay creative and persistent. Stephen Rothschild, one of the industry’s great leaders and past president of MDRT, shared how he accelerated growth by focusing on his clients in relevant and meaningful ways that his competition was not.

Stephen works with ultra-affluent families who have a large layer of wealth they will never spend. In building his firm’s new playbook, he shifted his focus from what the competition was doing to how he could deliver value to families in different ways. He recognized that, as wealth increased for these families, managing it became more complex for them. The families would hire multiple advisors independent from one another to handle the complexity. This created a unique problem for the families because, although the advisors were cooperating, they were not collaborating in their clients’ best interest.

Stephen learned that if he could take a group of individuals and get them to collaborate as a team consistently, the quality of advice as a whole improved. Stephen stopped focusing on the products, and shifted his attention to what his clients needed. As a result, he developed a team that worked collectively and delivered the best solutions for the client. Influential people like Stephen become successful because they develop the habit of spotting things others miss, and take the chance to re-invent themselves.

Advisors historically try to benchmark and then out-do one another. As a result, they actually hurt their practice by offering services that are only marginally better than their competitors, instead of doing something completely new and valuable. Below are questions to help you avoid the “Substitutability Trap:”

» What untapped potential could you uncover if your sales conversations suddenly were different?

» What if, not only what you sold was different, but you also could communicate with your client and deliver your offerings faster, more consistently and with fewer resources than ever before?

» How would that impact your ability to achieve your business vision?

In the high stakes game of life insurance sales, you can play by everyone else’s rules or you can set them. Successful professionals continuously question themselves, experiment with new approaches and keep their focus on their clients. Those who thrive don’t compete, they create.

Charles Hollander Jr. is the founder of Red Flag, a performance training firm. He is a past president of The Forum 400 and member of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT). He can be reached at [email protected] .

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