The idea of growing one’s business—without a direct effort to SELL—seems inconceivable. But that is exactly what Glenn Wessel has accomplished.
I recently interviewed Glenn at his office in Asheville, North Carolina. He spoke of getting into the business, his method of operation, sales tactics (or the lack thereof) and the communication he has with clients. I enjoy these conversations, because I am fascinated with the various ways financial advisors run their businesses. The meeting with Glenn was no different; what differs is his approach to growing his business.
Starting out as a credit analyst in Florida provided Glenn with the foundation in numbers and analysis he needed to jump into a career as a financial advisor. However, since he lacked grey hair, he felt he had to wait a few years before people would listen to him.
So he concentrated on getting the best qualifications he could: Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Financial Planner (CFP). There are very few financial advisors that bring all of these certifications to the table.
Perhaps it was the process of getting the certifications or sheer, genuine determination that has driven Glenn’s mode of operation—regardless, he is ruthlessly objective. In fact, Glenn would prefer to give the prospect the truth and spend his time focusing on the analysis for the client rather than preparing some false platitudes to convert a client. If sales were a required course that a person had to sit through each day, I could see Glenn playing hooky to engage in his other passions, like playing guitar and working out at the gym. His client engagement process is unique. But it works.
Treat Like Your Own Mother
This is not to say that Glenn does not sell. In fact, he may be a better salesperson than most because of a few unique attributes—he LISTENS, he is responsive and he sets out to “treat everyone as though the person is his own mother.”
With this conviction in place, it is not too hard to understand why clients seek him out for the down-to-earth person and advisor he is. Part of his success lies in a unique client engagement process that all financial advisors could benefit from emulating. Here’s what it looks like:
- Create financial plan and begin moving assets*
- Create estate plan
- Run Monty Carlos simulation
- Finalize asset allocation agreement
- Make investment changes
*Notice that it is not until the fifth step that Glenn makes investment changes. While he begins moving assets in the first step (if the client expresses an interest in the service), he does not alter the portfolio until the last step, after a client agrees in writing to the asset allocation. I think this encourages trust and conviction for clients that they are in the right hands.
Simple, Straightforward Marketing
For all the joking about Glenn’s lack of a sales plan, the reality is that he really does have one. It’s just not your typical sales plan, which includes attending seminars and embarking on a diverse marketing strategy. The most successful tool Glenn uses is the Paladin Registry and his own website. The Paladin Registry is a selective registry throughout the United States highlighting five-star advisors. Paladin’s founder, Jack Waymire, wrote Who’s Watching Your Money? The 17 Paladin Principals of Selecting a Financial Advisor.
Glenn receives a few inquiries from Paladin each month. The benefit is that these are warm leads that are in the process of seeking advice, so they are more likely to engage with Glenn than not. The end result is a much more cohesive Internet marketing program than most advisors have in place. The brilliance is in the simplicity.
Along the way, Glenn tried other marketing avenues like a radio show, but he was not good at them, because, as Glenn says, “I just presented concepts, and I’m not good at self-promoting.”
So Glenn found what works best for him.
Communication: Quality Over Quantity
I have long advocated for being proactive and consistent with communication to clients. But Glenn marches to the beat of his own drummer, just like he does with his own marketing. When it comes to client communication, Glenn focuses on setting expectations up front, and then providing clients with his investment insights four times a year in a thorough, well-thought-out letter during tranquil times. During times of more duress, he communicates with clients by both phone and email about critical news or information that merits comment, but he resists communicating with clients merely for the sake of sending monthly communications like many financial advisors fall trap to.
In addition to his reliable communications, Glenn believes it is extremely important to have a prompt response to clients. Being accessible via phone, email and in-person as well as being highly responsive to his clients’ needs is where his less frequent communications during tranquil times is made up for in sheer quality. In fact, he has a pledge that any client is always welcome to call or visit whenever they have questions, concerns or would like an objective opinion on a financial matter. By not focusing on superfluous push communications like monthly newsletters, Glenn truly puts his clients first.
In the downturn of 2002, I surveyed advisors that were using index funds and compared advisors that communicated frequently during the downturn versus those that did not communicate. What I found is that advisors who communicated frequently not only held onto their clients, but they also grew their business. Not surprisingly, I found the same outcome in 2008.
As such, seeing the success of Glenn’s communication approach is not that shocking. He ramps up communication when he needs to, dedicating his time to quality and responsiveness, which sets him apart.
Practice Passion and Simplicity
What can advisors take away from this look into an advisor’s practice? The first is the need to have an extreme passion for providing quality communications, managing expectations and honing delivery. The second is to keep the business simple. On the sales and marketing sides this means utilizing technology and converting those clients who are searching for a ruthlessly objective analysis of the financial condition.
Are you like Glenn or are you not? What can you do to grow your business, either through unconventional means or through tried-and-true quality standards? Take a step back, access and revise as necessary.
photo credit: http://cabinsofmadisoncounty.com/