How to Grow Your Financial Services Business - Act Different. Be Different.

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When I was 40, I left a firm of 120,000 employees to join one of 120. I almost wanted to go back into the womb, but it was too late! My new firm was a small trust company/ wealth management firm headquartered in Boston. They tagged me to move to Denver and open the firm’s first de novo office.

I know how to build a book of business, and then grow it into a meaningful office. I opened up in a new city with “me and a desk”, built a great team, and grew it to a little under $1 billion in AUM. That all took nine years. We added $1.4 million of net fees each of my last two years there.

Here’s a question for you. Have you ever been a buyer of what you do? Have you been on the other end? That was one of my most eye-opening experiences. And, I was no young puppy. We hear it. All the training drills it in. Understand the buyer – put yourself in their shoes. However, trying to do that mentally is nothing compared to actually being the buyer.

About two years into my new gig with the trust company, we picked up a little $800 million trust account. Our firm was one of three co-trustees, and I was the human being in that role. They wanted an outside investment consulting firm, and I took the lead on the search. In effect, I was the client looking for an investment consultant. I interviewed 16 firms, as I recall. Narrowed it down to three, and we, the trustee group, made a final decision. We ended up hiring a great firm out of St. Louis called Asset Consulting Group, which is still there today.

I thought “With all of my experience and knowhow I will be able to pick these firms apart.” As I got into the process, what struck me the most was this. YOU GUYS ALL LOOK ALIKE! And, I used to be one of “you guys.”

I guarantee all of those firms thought they were way different. They were competent people who knew how to talk about their strengths and so forth. But, when it got down to the core group of contenders, it was almost comical. It was clear how different they all thought they were. But, to the buyer, overstated only slightly, they were all the same. I think we kid ourselves way too much.

I guarantee all of those firms thought they were way different. They were competent people who knew how to talk about their strengths and so forth. But, when it got down to the core group of contenders, it was almost comical. It was clear how different they all thought they were. But, to the buyer, overstated only slightly, they were all the same. I think we kid ourselves way too much.

Why do we get this outcome? That being, buyers interviewing three different investment management firms and not grasping the truth of the differences between them. Not always, of course. But, often.

There are at least three contributors to this unwanted confusion.

1. There really aren’t a whole lot of differences in the first place. That’s heresy, but a lot of the time you could almost toss a coin between Brand X and Brand Y.

2. The buyer is unsophisticated, bored, and doesn’t care enough about the details to understand what you’d like her to know. She is at 40,000’ and you are never going to get her below 30,000’.

3. You! Most sales people, even seasoned ones, are presenters. I know, I know, I know… You’ve all been working on your art. You understand open-ended questions and the other dos and don't's. But, and I have been one and been around hundreds... Most of us humans fundamentally can’t wait to tell our story. We can’t wait to present. We think our presentation is different. To an awful lot of our potential buyers, it is not.

How do you create a different result? How can you shake up your sales funnel and create far greater engagement than you have ever experienced? Let’s go back to the basics. It’s the same core message that runs through all of my blogs and everything I do. It is real and powerful, and I know the difference in the outcomes firsthand.

Recommendation #1: Of course, understand what your differentiators are relative to your competitors. Be real about it though. If it is not POWERFUL. If it doesn’t really make a compelling difference to the buyer. If you can’t make that powerful difference clear. Then forget about it. Do not diffuse your efforts by trying to focus on a loser (something different that should matter, but that they aren’t likely to act upon).

Recommendation #2: Slow down. Move from open-end questions and active listening to the higher levels of “heart-centered listening” and “seeing the loving essence” of the other person. I know that sounds corny. I know you can read the words and sort of get what I am talking about. I am telling you to see into the soul of the other person. To allow him or her to be heard and fully understood. To forget your agenda and let time stop. To let him feel he is understood and cared for. Take it to a new level.

Recommendation #3: My mentor used to say “Give us a scalpel and we’ll do brain surgery!” That stands for the notion that you want to know every pain, every need, every opportunity. If he wants to tell you the barn needs painting, you want to understand why. We all want to bring it back to us and what we have to sell. I get that, but give it time. Once you really understand his world at a deep level, and he knows it, he’ll want more of you and your help.

It will only work 100% of the time! If you want more, see a few of my earlier blogs, such as Higher Connections parts I and II. READ PART ONE HEREREAD PART TWO HERE.