In this article, Wayne Miller, Associate Vice-President, Strategic Business Development, Individual Insurance and Wealth, Sun Life Financial, discusses how your strategy and where you spend your time can make a difference in offering the most value to your clients.

Having a financial advisor increases an individual’s confidence that they will be able to retire comfortably.1 And yet, many Canadians are still hesitant to solicit advice from an advisor and may even be avoiding it. These opposing facts suggest there are barriers standing in the way of your advice and they are preventing Canadians from being fully retirement-ready. One of these barriers is a lack of understanding of the breadth and depth an advisor can provide. That could be because, in the eyes of the average prospect, there appears to be two types of people licensed to sell financial products: 1) the salesperson; and 2) the trusted advisor.

The salesperson is essentially a transactional product seller. They talk a lot about the products they sell and know them well. As such, the salesperson is adept at answering virtually any such question the prospect asks. They tend to work alone, except for an administrative assistant, and have some very effective packaged product concepts they offer to the masses.

The trusted advisor is in the advice business. They tend to ask a lot more questions than the salesperson — questions about dreams and goals and worries. They focus on the lifelong relationship over the transactional product sale. They are excellent team players and listen more than they talk.

Read: Feeling ignored? 2 Barriers standing in the way of your advice

When compared to a salesperson, an advisor is clearly better able to provide value to their clients. Such clients are seeing the benefits; those who have a relationship with an advisor show greater retirement readiness compared with those without an advisor.2 And high-net-worth clients rate their primary advisor “good” or “excellent,” 81% of the time.3

How can you ensure your clients and prospects understand that you’re a trusted advisor (assuming you are) and therefore better able to help them prepare for retirement? One of the ways is to run your practice in the business paradigm.

Sales vs. business paradigm4

Advisors’ businesses can be categorized into one of three general paradigms:

  1. Sales – where most of an advisor’s time is spent prospecting and selling products to the mass market. Income potential in this paradigm is limited by the number of hours the advisor is at work because without prospecting and selling, there isn’t any income. And ultimate success is based on product performance and/or price — much of which the advisor can’t control.
  2. Marketing – where the traditional 1:1 prospecting is replaced by marketing initiatives that reach many prospects — typically targeted prospects — all at once. Advisors in this paradigm are in the advice business and their success will be measured by the value of said advice.
  3. Business – where the advisor is clearly an entrepreneur running a business that will live on beyond the advisor’s departure from it. This advisor is focused on creating partnerships with other professionals to deliver the most trusted relationship and magnetic client experience. In order to accomplish this, the advisor’s time is spent not only working in the business, but also on their business.
Your strategy Product Advice Partnership
Your success factor Product performance Value of advice Trusted relationship
Your target market Anyone Narrowed Focused
(e.g., business owners)
Your time Prospecting Marketing and selling activities Working on and in the business

Have you given much thought as to whether you operate in a sales, marketing or business paradigm? Your strategy, success factor and how you spend your time make a difference in your ability to offer the most value to your clients; there’s a return on energy for the types of things you do and how you spend your time.

Throughout my career, several advisors have told me, “While business owners are generally wealthier, they’re harder to sell to because they always say their best investment is their business.” The irony here is that the advisors who tell me this also tend to view any recommended business development initiative as an expense rather than an investment. Running your practice in a business paradigm is a mindset. Those advisors who view practice management improvements as an investment vs. an expense end up wealthier and more successful. They understand what it means to be an entrepreneur and usually have no trouble competing with salespeople. It all comes down to this simple fact: if you invest in your business, your clients and prospects will invest in you.

Best practices of leading advisors

A study by Environics Research Group, on behalf of Sun Life Financial, revealed that Canada’s leading advisors share commonalities in how they manage and grow their business.5 These commonalities, or best practices, are key signs that they’re operating their advisory practice as a business. While there’s no magic formula to growing one’s business, there is a strong correlation between the number of best practices employed and the success of the advisory practice.

So, how can operating in a business paradigm have an impact on the value of your advice and your clients’ retirement readiness?

Top advisors suggest the best 6 client management tips are:

  1. Define your target markets. Leading advisors understand who they’re best positioned to serve, and gradually create a client base that reflects their target market. The client benefit is an advisor who better understands them vs. an advisor who would deal with anyone.
  2. Define your sales process – and make it known. Prospects tend to come into advisor meetings with a perception that someone is going to “sell them something.” However, if they know from the start what your process is, you can pleasantly surprise and impress them.
  3. Educate clients through seminars and content marketing. There’s a literacy gap; someone has to close the gap before business is done, and it might as well be you. Offer seminars on topics that matter most to your client base and follow up with articles that provide insights on those topics.
  4. Implement annual client appreciation. This is an easy way to let your clients know how much your relationship with them matters to you. Showing your appreciation can also help increase referrals.
  5. Perform annual reviews with your clients. Doing so helps keep your clients on track to meeting their goals – and therefore more likely to be retirement-ready.
  6. Regularly ask clients for feedback. Feedback works best when it’s a continual process. Use it as an opportunity to hear first-hand what you do well, how you can improve and what you’re not doing – but should.

When you apply these principles to your business, you’re better aligning to and refining what your clients want and need and therefore better able to overcome the barriers to advice. And, by operating in a business model, you can offer more value to your clients, helping to ensure they achieve lifetime financial security.

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1 Montmarquette and Viennot-Briot, Econometric Models on the Value of Advice of a Financial Advisor, 9.

2 Gauthier, Indice Autorité, 112. Based on Canadians living in Quebec.

3 Sun Life HNW research, 2016.

4 All “Sales, marketing and business paradigm” references have been sourced from The Covenant Group.

5 Environics Research Group surveyed the opinions of 293 leading Canadian advisors, selected on the basis of high first-year insurance commissions (average of $1.2M).

Wayne Miller is an Associate Vice-President, Strategic Business Development, Individual Insurance and Wealth, Sun Life Financial.

Over the course of Wayne’s almost 30 years at Sun Life Financial, his respect for advisors has only grown. As the holder of Associate designations in both the Society of Actuaries and Canadian Institute of Actuaries, he spent the first 10 years of his career in product development, with the balance being in Marketing and Distribution. In his current role as Associate Vice-President, Strategic Business Development, Wayne oversees a team of thought leaders that focuses on professional development, practice management, and market development. Wayne holds an Honours BA in Mathematics, Actuarial Science from the University of Waterloo. He has many industry accolades, including his associateships in the Society of Actuaries and the Canadian Institute of Actuaries; his membership in Advocis, GAMA and CALU; as a conference speaker at events sponsored by the CIA, CLHIA, CALU, CAILBA and Advocis; and through his published articles in Advocis’ Forum magazine.

Wayne is leading the advice revolution. He’s a founding member and past Chair of CLHIA’s Task Force on Sales Illustrations, which mandated increased disclosure and sensitivity analysis for life insurance sales illustrations. He developed the industry’s first disclosure booklet on participating life insurance; co-authored a white paper on life insurance as an asset class; and authored many published articles on topics ranging from demutualization, industry trends, product mechanics and suitability.