Clear, consistent business processes bring assured success, according to Nelson Simoes, one of approximately 65 advisors in the downtown Vancouver office of the Freedom 55 Financial division of London Life.
Mr. Simoes, who has qualified for Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) membership since beginning his practice more than four years ago, says that taking a process driven approach has paid off for him."By sticking to the process, nothing really gets left on the table," he says. "When I stick to a defined process nothing gets missed. Nothing gets left out. Nothing’s getting forgotten," he told
The Insurance Journal during an interview following a presentation he gave to financial advisors attending the Advocis Banff School last summer where he suggested his processes help the advisor cope with ‘the infinite challenge’ of financial planning.
"Every day is a new day. Every month is a new month. Every quarter is a new quarter and every year you have to start at zero," he told attendees.
"We work in such a dynamic industry that’s evolving, our clients are changing. Markets are changing. The products that we provide are changing so it’s incumbent on us to ensure that we’re one step ahead of the game."
That maxim, he says, combines with the need for each advisor to be – or to become – a self-motivated entrepreneur, a strategy he finds lacking in some of his contemporaries.
Many of his processes fall into what he identifies as three main focal points of his work: contacting people, preparing to meet with people, and meeting with people.
In the contacting people category, an early process proved so successful in gathering clients that he has at least temporarily abandoned it since he already has numerous clients and is too busy already. At the beginning of setting up his practice, he had a no-fail policy has reserving 10 a.m. to 12-noon, Monday to Friday for outgoing telephone calls to recruit new clients.
"Soon enough I didn’t have time to make anymore telephone calls because I was too busy meeting people," he told the audience. He also uses strategies such as client seminars, newsletters and a web site, which he credits with a large proportion of his new business each year.
In the meeting with people category, he has what almost amounts to a tightly scripted series of four ‘programs’ or meetings with very little variation between individual meetings. "Regardless of what clients I’m meeting with, every meeting that I have is identical whether it’s first, second, third or fourth," he said.
This strict adherence produces personal benefits, he believes. "It allows me to have the confidence and the conviction when I’m speaking with a client. I know what I’m talking about; I’m sticking to the same process."
In the first meeting, he introduces his products and services and gets as much information as possible from the client or client prospect.
In the second meeting, he makes product and other recommendations connected to the client’s needs. To cover all of this material, and stay "on format," he may need several editions of the second meeting before proceeding to the third meeting, he explains. In the third meeting, he answers questions and in the fourth meeting finalizes arrangements and documents.
As a part of the meeting process, he uses scripts, delivered almost word-for-word at each meeting, a strategy he says enables him to become extremely efficient and effective. "I have a tremendous amount of confidence and attention," he says, suggesting that his focus on consistency saves time and energy. "It’s the same thing every time. Scripts are so important," he says, defending them by stressing the obligation of financial planners to communicate clearly with clients. "When you are sitting down with a client you need to get the message across explaining to them why they need the products or the services that you provide and you need to do so effectively and need to do so with conviction."
His scripts contain numerous one-line exhortations aimed at client motivation. Mr. Simoes pointed to a hypothetical client question posed by another speaker at a Banff School seminar: "If you save as much in the next five years as in the past five years, what would you have?" the speaker had suggested as a motivation line. "I think that is so powerful I can’t wait to use that on my clients," Mr. Simoes told the attendees, suggesting that this line will produce the desired effect since he has friends and clients who are not saving effectively.
The Golden Rule
Another secret to effective processes is a financial planning version of the golden rule.
"Do business with your clients as you want business done with you. Imagine yourself walking into your own office and meeting with you," he said, urging attendees to look into the clients’ mindset. "What do you think is going through their minds? They’re probably wondering why they’re here. They’re probably wondering what the purpose of the meeting is. They’re probably wondering what the process is and how long is this going to take? How much is this going to cost?
That means incorporating explanations into his scripts in a sequence that he describes as "purpose-process-payoff." In the first meeting, the purpose-process-payoff portion of the script would include:
"The purpose of our meeting today is to get to know each other and to see if there is anything that I can do to help with financial services. The process is I’m going to get as much information from you as I possibly can. The payoff to you is maybe I can help you retire the way you want to retire. I’m going to help you save money, and make sure that your estate gets passed on to your beneficiaries, your children, in a tax effective manner."
In the client management category, his process includes restricting meetings to his office and lunches. This reflects both his own and his clientele’s preference for doing business during office hours. His clientele is made up of downtown professionals generally with $150,000, individual or couple, in investible assets.
He believes that he cannot execute the scripts as effectively in clients’ homes. "When you’re sitting at someone’s kitchen table the phone’s ringing. The dog’s barking. The baby’s crying. You just don’t have their full attention."
The client management process also includes regularly trimming his client roster by dropping what he describes as the "bottom 10% or so of my clientele – people that aren’t growing as fast as I am."
His planning also follows a strict process. In each quarter, he takes off for a day, often to a hotel for seclusion and reviews the results of his previous quarter, including strengths, weaknesses, and relative revenues from insurance and investments, using the review to crystallize plans for the next quarter and beyond.
"I know exactly what my goals are this year. I know what my goals are next year. I know where I’m going to be and where I see myself in five years I know what my trailers and residuals are going to be in ten years," he says, speaking in a way that reflects his business style: no nonsense, direct and to the point.