September 25, 2007

Business Card Etiquette

In recent weeks, I've met advisors in different provinces and noticed poor business card etiquette. Are you guilty? If not, you've got a competitive advantage over the rest.

Carry Your Business Cards
Opportunity lurks everywhere. So carry your business cards with you. They're not much good if they're back in your car or somewhere else. To keep them clean and flat, put them in a holder. A metal holder looks nice but the sharp corners aren't always pocket friendly. Thanks to the principle of reciprocity, you'll get cards when you give out yours. Most of the time. Chances are that you'll give out more cards than you receive. That means that your cards will start rattling in your pocket. This can be as annoying as coins jingling. A leather case may be a solution.
Tip: If you don't care about logos, you can probably get a free card holder from a wholesaler.
Hand Them Out
Business cards cost money, but they are a cheap way to market and show your professionalism. If you have a weird name or weird spelling, your card helps folks with the spelling. Some people want to see your designations.

Order Refills In Advance
Are you the sort who doesn't fill the gas tank until it's nearly empty or buy new bus tickets until you're on your last one? If so, you'll have trouble ordering refills in advance. So you'll run out or spend extra for express service.

Business cards take time to order (or cost more for rush delivery). The simple solution is to order refills before you run out. Otherwise, you become less willing to give out cards as your supply diminishes (the principle of scarcity).
You most need cards when you're starting a new job and meeting people. You'll probably need to wait weeks. For some reason, cards are rarely ordered in advance.
Give Out Extras
You're easier to refer if you hand out extra cards. I'll sometimes give out two or three. When you're at a reception desk, hand over a card to help the receptionist grasp your name. Chances are that you'll get your card back and can recycle by giving it to the person you're meeting.

Discard Cards With Errors
A business card with errors belongs in the recycling bin. Handwritten corrections show
  • you didn't proofread before printing
  • you selected a sloppy printer
  • you didn't plan for new cards early enough (e.g., if moving)
Did you just get promoted? Then it's okay if your cards haven't arrived.

When interviewing movers, one simply put a preprinted sticker on someone else's business card. Next, please.

The Ideal Business Card
The perfect business card has
  • sharp corners (not bent or folded)
  • distinctive look
  • professional email address (no,,,, ...)
  • cell phone number (unless you're never going to give it out)
  • photo (helps match a name with a face)

September 18, 2007

Dan Sullivan on Selling Your Wisdom

I think that the most successful financial advisors will be paid for their wisdom, in addition to any compensation they receive for product sales or assets under management. --- Dan Sullivan, Strategic Coach
The words above come from a new interview with Dan Sullivan who points out that most advisors don't think of being paid for their wisdom. This got me thinking (even though I'm currently on a golf/wine/gambling excursion in Niagara Falls). He's right.

Most advisors stay away from fee-based services. They give away their wisdom in anticipation of a sale. This is what Seth Godin might call the "free prize inside". Do your clients recognize and value what you give them for free?

Two Ways To Charge
Some advisors do charge for their services. There are two models:
  • car repair model: charge for each service (e.g., a financial plan costs $x)
  • furnace maintenance plan: charge an ongoing fee (e.g., based on assets or income)
There are variations. For example, a refund of charges for a financial plan if the plan is implemented.

Among the advisors I see, ongoing fees encourage clients to ask questions without pressure. Rather, the client receives education and an opportunity to buy. Trust seems higher and relationships longer term. So implementing product solutions becomes easier.

Your Value Proposition
Why should your clients pay you for services they can get for free from other advisors?
If you consider lawyers, accountants, clergies, psychiatrists, doctors or any of the helpers in our society, the financial advisor is the only one who combines two fundamental dimensions, the financial and the emotional. --- Dan Sullivan
Most professionals charge for their services and enjoy high credibility. Think of accountants, architects, doctors, engineers and lawyers. Most financial advisors won't and don't.

To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. --- Marilyn vos Savant

September 10, 2007

How Does Anyone Know You're Any Good?

Question: Is this watch made in Switzerland?
Sales Clerk: It's made for Switzerland.
You're selling the invisible: financial services. How does a potential client know you're any good? Let's assume there's been no referral.

In Edmonton, my watch battery was running low. I got my watch in Switzerland years ago and the batteries only last 3-4 years. Last time, I went to a small "mom & pop" watch shop. The technician scratched the back titanium casing. So I didn't want to go just anywhere.

I went to West Edmonton Mall, which was nearby and looked for a countrywide chain in case the battery proved defective. Sears doesn't replace watch batteries. The Bay did, but my watch would need to be shipped to Vancouver so that special nonscratching tools could be used. Birks was next. They did not want to risk damage either and recommended a small watch shop nearby. There the technician changed the battery in 3 minutes without comment or damage. They were the best:
  • experienced
  • least damage (i.e., none)
  • fastest service
  • lowest price ($8.44 vs $11 in Toronto at the scratches-are-free jewelers)
If I didn't know that replacing the watch battery required skill and special tools, the Edmonton watch shop would have rated poorly because of three shortcomings:
  • date/time not reset
  • back casing not aligned "just right" before being locked into place
  • no warranty on the battery life (maybe the lower price arose from a poorer battery?)
The Connection With Financial Services
Since financial services are intangible, how can your clients gauge
  • your expertise
  • the quality of your service
  • the suitability of your recommendations
You could deliver the ideal solution without your clients discovering how good you are.