Before we know it, the ball will drop from Times Square and we’ll ring in 2014 with Ryan Seacrest. In the midst of the New Year’s Eve revelry, some advisors will look back and ask themselves: “How did I miss my targets for last year?”
By the time we get to Dec. 31, it’s too late for you, your family and, most important, your clients. Yet today, right now, your clients need you more than ever.
The economy is gaining some stability after a horrible four years but, across the nation, life insurance sales are anemic at best. The sale of stable retirement products, even with meager guarantees, continues to skyrocket as investors seek any assurance that they can live with dignity in their post-employment years. Meanwhile, the business press has pretty much declared 529 education plans to be out of favor. And boomer-aged business owners – the largest number in history – are contemplating when and how to transfer their assets to family members or others. With insecurity – but also opportunity – all around you and a few months to kick it out of the stadium, what’s stopping you?
Three years ago, most insurance compliance leaders offered stern, sobering lectures. They proclaimed that social networking is filled with risk, while executives and board members nodded in agreement.
Progressive companies employed a Bobby Kennedy type of positive skepticism and asked, “Why not?” They acted with a sense of: “Our competitors are old school and obsolete – there’s a new world out there and we have a year to get this right.” Subsequently, they crushed their competitors so quickly with web sales and social networking that the mighty were caught off guard.
If you have an active social networking presence in which you are messaging and leveraging connections, you’re my hero. But if these words are just words to you and you don’t understand how to harness the opportunities from Square and other tools, your competitors may be delighted. And if someone says, “Well, I’m on Facebook,“ you can reply, “That’s great for pictures of your trip to Bermuda.” Get LinkedIn or get locked out, seriously.
The Starbucks Maverick
We’ve all heard of creative ways to reach new clients. I’m particularly proud of one of The American College’s most accomplished graduates, Jerry Borrowman, CLU, ChFC, from Utah. Last year he held a “59 l/2” birthday party for himself at a local restaurant and invited his clients. He was astounded to see a swarm of attendees, most of them curious about what age 59 l/2 means to Jerry. What an innovative way to engage your clients, talk about retirement strategies and network with established clients who still have to enjoy lunch. The main difference is that now, they are hostage with you, possibly for the first time in years.
But Jerry, there’s someone on your tail.
A Scottsdale, Ariz., advisor – we’ll call him Jake – has a concept that landed him three new, strong clients in one hour. According to the receipt he showed me, that concept cost him $257.80. He told me, “Dr. Barton, I hang at the same Starbucks every morning. I told the manager that everyone in the place on Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. – I’m always there from 7 to 7:30 – would receive free coffee or whatever drink they wanted for the next half hour. All I wanted was for the cashier to say, ‘This is a gift from a friend.’ If the customer asked who the friend was, they could take the card left at the register and the cashier would say, ‘The financial advisor over in the corner with his laptop is here every day. He’s a regular.’”
So, Jake, can you give me a dollar value on this very “un-corporate-like” way to secure three new clients? He did, and I was floored. He is now doing this once a month, on different days. The store manager is thrilled, the advisor is thrilled, and Jake has gained friends, credibility and engagement. It’s not high tech. It’s high touch. Is it unconventional? Yes. Would your territory sales leader approve? It all depends on your culture, your appetite for coffee and your willingness to embrace the new. But for anyone who says, “Oh, this brings life insurance and investment sales to a new low,” try thinking back four decades and going door-to-door and running your debit. I’ll take this method over direct mail and cold calling any day.
What! Me? Volunteer?
As a financial advisor, you already are likely to be committed to one or more charitable causes in your community – that’s the good nature of the men and women who make up this industry. Consider donating a few days a year to offer complimentary financial counsel to persons of need in your community. Will this boost your income so that 2013 is a colossal hit? Likely not. In fact, it will cost you money if you’re away from the desk, so to speak. That is likely to be what you will hear from the territory leaders. But – sssshhh! – I have a secret to share with you, and with them.
Remarkably, many people who are needy work with, are supported by, and later become, people of means. They need your help now, and you have an opportunity to help them. And later, if they recommend you to friends, colleagues and contemporaries, it is the yield that no advertisement or seminar can produce. Think about the benefit that your philanthropy of time and talent can generate. If you believe in “do unto others” as a credo of life, you also may benefit from the credo of “the good you generate will be rewarded.”
The year 2013 will be a fair year for some and a spectacular year for others. You still have weeks to make a difference. I’d suggest you think of innovative ways to jump start that engine now. No driver at NASCAR ever won a race by remaining in idle.