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Blogs - The Advisors' Coach
Creating “Wow” in 5 Minutes or Less
Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It’s still not time to explain what you do. You still need to overcome the problem of “I know what you do.” Remember that you want to keep the listener fully engaged and interested. Your introduction is intended to lead to a more extensive conversation and possibly a professional engagement in the future.

Be aware that a significant majority of the investors you’ll meet already have one or more financial advisors. According to a Cerulli Associates’ analysis of a year’s worth of studies on financial advisory relationships, 70% of clients allocate assets to more than one advisor or directed-brokerage account. Therefore, there’s a good chance your audience knows what an advisor is and does. So, before you deliver your introduction, address the issue of familiarity by saying, “I’m sure you know what a financial advisor does; you probably have an advisor whom you work with. Well, although I’m a financial professional, what I do is very different from what the typical advisor does for his clients.” As you say this, it’s helpful to sweep your hands from left to right in front of you, as if moving an object away from you and the other person to imply, “I’m not like those people!”

You’ve now accomplished several important goals in the conversation: you’ve established a high level of novelty, the other person has asked you twice to introduce yourself, you’ve suggested that what you do is different, and you’ve swept their current advisor out of the conversation.

All this has taken about a minute from the time you were first asked, “What do you do?”

The Grass Is Always Greener

Now it’s time to close—the only point in your introduction that you need to think about strategically. You’ve brought the conversation to a sharp point of focus, and the person you’re talking with is using mental energy, ready to hear about what you do. Now it’s time to reveal your specialization.

The most common mistake advisors make when introducing themselves is to be far too general so as not to alienate anyone. By trying to be all things to all people, you actually succeed in being meaningless and boring; remember the problems of familiarity and attention deficit? Rather than alienating prospective clients, creating a clearly defined barrier actually increases your appeal.

Here’s a simple, three-step process for creating this part of your introduction:

  • Step One: Define a very specific group or type of investor you work with or a group whom you’ve served well. The key here is to be very specific.
  • Step Two: Describe a painful problem investors have or a danger to which they are exposed. Again, be very specific.
  • Step Three: Describe how you solve the problem in simple terms.

Now you can introduce yourself properly: “I specialize in [name the problem you solve] for [whom you solve it for] who are concerned about [the problem or danger they’re exposed to].” Your strategy is to reveal yourself as a highly talented and focused professional who has the knowledge and ability to solve important problems. This also tends to cause the other person to ask for specifics—most often either the nature of the problem or the features of the solution. Either way, the conversation is started with you sounding very knowledgeable.

For example, you might introduce yourself by saying, “I specialize in performing municipal bond analyses for qualified investors who are concerned about protecting themselves from rising interest rates by shifting from passive to active management.” Almost any person you would want as a client will have two immediate reactions to this: one, she will be curious about the specifics of the problem and the details of your solution; and two, she will wonder if she will qualify to work with you. More often than not, the other person’s advisor is a generalist, and your specialist role automatically raises your status in the listener’s eyes.

By pointing to a specific benefit or service you provide that’s both credible and describable, you get to the heart of an issue: your process, specific solution or particular benefit that you provide to your clients. Be confident that following the steps outlined here will enable you to create the “Wow!” you’ve been seeking.

Ken Haman is the Managing Director at the AllianceBernstein Advisor Institute, visit http://ria.alliancebernstein.com.

(5) Comments
Hi Ken, I enjoyed your article. Creating a memorable introduction is a big challenge for many advisors. I like your thoughts on the importance of the structure of engagement. Best, Jim
Posted by Jim B | Thursday, January 31 2013 at 8:37AM ET
Wow, Ken, this is a very refreshing take on the elevator speech. I've always been very uncomfortable with the usual saleman-like approach. Thanks.
Posted by Mack C | Thursday, January 31 2013 at 10:19AM ET

Great explanation of a challenging and uncomfortable task. It mirrors exactly what I do now. Unfortunately, it took me quit a few years to realize this is the only way to avoid that feeling, they are wanting to run away now because you were fire-hosing them with every aspect of our business - you first have to show you are interested in THEM and WAIT for them to ask that proverbial question "what do you do" and than I talk about my client specialty. I feel at ease talking about it with an attitude that I'm not chasing them as a client.

Thanks for the conformation Don H

Posted by Donald H | Thursday, January 31 2013 at 10:59AM ET
Wow, what a manipulative approach!!!! You may get people to do what you want and build a practice by manipulating them but this is not the definition of success. Ironically you talk about people's approach being akin to a used car salesman, but your article is just that. People don't need to be manipulated. Just tell them what you do and they will decide on their own whether to work with you. Your personality should be enough to entice them to work with you.
Posted by Brad T | Thursday, January 31 2013 at 3:17PM ET
Wow! I would run for the door if someone said that to me.
Posted by William G | Thursday, January 31 2013 at 4:54PM ET
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