Are You A Trusted Adviser?

by Guest Blogger Michael Harrison

Too many business owners operate on a transaction-by-transaction basis. Think about it. A real estate agent is going to focus on the next hot lead because that’s where the income is.

The buyer of a life insurance policy is too often viewed as a one-time transaction, when in fact these happy customers can easily become part of an ever-expanding client base. Instead of the insurance guy who sold a term life policy, you can become the client’s insurance adviser. (I can hear the howls of protest at that comment but orphan policyholder statistics bear me out.)

Once a customer has had a successful buying experience with you or your business associates, they become prime candidates to become life-long clients – people who turn to you whether they’re buying or not.

And you’re there to answer their questions and help them make critical decisions because you ARE their professional. This kind of stickiness is essential to building a client base.

So, how do you turn a single transaction into a life-long professional (and friendly) business relationship? Here are some suggestions.

1. Act quickly.

After a successful experience with you or your business, that buyer is an ideal candidate to become a life-long client. Instead of viewing prospects as transactions, view them as potential repeat buyers – people with whom you maintain contact even when they aren’t buying a new policy or looking for a new investment.

Follow them up within 30 days to make sure they don’t have any unanswered questions.

2. Ask questions. Be helpful

Don’t sell. Help.

Let’s say a new prospect calls looking for car insurance. You can say “I don’t sell car insurance” or treat that customer as a one off enquiry or you can start asking questions to define other exposures to risk and then make a recommendation to an associate you trust. Most people don’t know what they don’t know but as their financial authority – their expert – they turn to you with all of their business-related questions.

And you’ve converted a single transaction into a life-long centre of influence.

3. Contact regularly

Provide useful information.

You can use brochures, post cards, video updates and other media; you can use a web site, a seminar, a webinar or even a podcast – the ways to stay in touch grow with the introduction of each new technology.

Develop a series of customer groups. Some customers want to buy superannuation. Some want to buy an investment. Some may even want to invest in commercial real estate. Send information relevant to that group and the needs of the members.

4. Build your authority.

Contact the local media and pitch story ideas. Newspapers and print media are often looking for content that you can provide. I wrote a weekly column in a capital city Sunday paper for some time. If your offer fails, create your own blog.

Example? You’re a financial adviser. So, each week, you write “The “Nest Egg,”- a column or blog that provides impartial, unbiased information to prospects. This builds your credibility and builds you as a brand. “Hey, I read your article every week!” That person will become a client, not just a customer.

5. Maintain your reputation

Your reputation is something that has real value. You’re honest. You provide good advice. You put the needs of the client before your own needs.

Your reputation precedes you. Customers know who you are. They know through a personal referral from a friend that you’re a straight shooter. You’re reputation is one of the best selling tools you have. Protect it at all costs.

Always put the needs of your clients ahead of your own needs. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll convert one-time transactional customers into life-long clients and advocates, expanding your client base each day.

6. Show you’re a good corporate citizen.

Sponsor a local sports team. Organise a blood bank drive. Participate in community activities. Join civic groups. Stand for your local council. All of these are means of representing your business as a good member of the community.

You’ll get a lot more business this way than you will through advertising in the local newspaper.

7. Give it away.

Offer classes through a local adult education program. One friend, an investment adviser, teaches investment basics. The class is free and it’s always filled. And each semester, that adviser picks up a few new clients who now use her as their financial adviser.

Host a seminar. Free. Even pay for the coffee and pastries. It’s a small price to pay to build word of mouth advertising (WOM) – the best advertising a small business can have. A referral from a friend is solid gold. The friend – a client of yours – recommends you to another friend who recommends you to a group of co-workers. You get the idea.

WOM spreads, your reputation grows and you’ve spent a little money on coffee and donuts.

I work with lots of businesses – insurance companies, funds managers, insurance brokerages, accountants, financial planners, even mortgage professionals. And all-too-often I see wasted opportunities – business owners who view each client as a single transaction that will generate immediate income and business revenue. This is short sighted thinking.

Instead of being a salesperson who handles or facilitates a single transaction, turn yourself into the client’s broker, adviser, authority, expert – the go-to guy or girl when information is needed.

Turn yourself into their professional – not just their financial adviser but the person they talk to first whenever they have a question about insurance, investments or money. Become the hub of their financial information.

This long-term approach to business building may take some extra time to set up, but it’ll pay dividends for years to come, and more than pay for the time you spend creating a stable, expanding client base by providing advisory services that generate word of mouth.

And a lot of those one-time transactions will turn in to life-long commitments to you and your business, spelling business success for decades.

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