One of the most important things financial advisors can learn is how to make a good first impression.
You’ve probably heard the phrase: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” After all, a bad impression can seldom be fixed. Especially in today’s instant-gratification world, where prospects are only one click away from another financial advisor.
The science behind first impressions confirms this, too. Check this out…
In less than one-tenth of a second after seeing someone for the first time, the human brain processes information about the face, which leads to quick conclusions about that person’s abilities, according to a 2006 study published in Psychological Science.
For financial advisors, first impressions go far beyond prospects looking at their faces. They carry over to their marketing materials and how they conduct business as a whole.
Why is this so important? Because…
Prospects Are More Skeptical Than Ever Before
Which means they are literally looking for a reason not to do business with you.
In a 2016 poll by the American Association of Individual Investors, 65% of respondents said they don’t trust advisors, with only 2% saying they trust them “a lot”.
Think of that… only 2% of people are predisposed to fully trusting you before working with you. This misplaced suspicion is a huge roadblock between you and the prospects you want to serve.
Some of the questions skeptical prospects are asking when they first meet you include:
“Is this advisor real?”
They want to know that you’re genuine. That you’re really a financial advisor and that you really have their best interests at heart.
“Is this advisor telling the truth?”
It’s sad to say but we live in a world where people keep their guards up and sometimes assume you’re going to lie to them. Making sure you come across as honest and trustworthy is a crucial part of forming a solid first impression.
“Is this advisor competent?”
Prospects want to know that you’re able to help them. With all the current rules and regulations surrounding the industry, displaying competency is tricky but it can be done. I’ll show you how later in the article.
“Is this advisor appropriate for me?”
This last question is a major stumbling block for most financial advisors. They work so hard to come across as real, trustworthy, and competent but fail to convince their prospects that they’re appropriate for them.
In other words, the prospect is left thinking, “Yeah, you may be a great advisor but you’re not the one for me.”
A great way to answer this question in your prospect’s mind is by serving a specific niche. The old adage “when everybody’s your customer, nobody’s your customer” is more relevant today than ever before. When I ask financial advisors about their market and they say “everybody”, I know they’re in big trouble. Specialization can transform an ordinary financial advisor into an extraordinary one. Plus, when you specialize in a niche, you can eventually know that niche inside and out.
There’s a reason specialists get paid more than generalists. Just like there’s a reason custom cabinets cost more money than the ones sitting on the shelf at Home Depot.
To someone like you or me, scheduling an appointment with a financial advisor is no big deal. Yet, to your prospects, it is a looming, intimidating ordeal. When you accentuate your positive traits, you make them less afraid to take the next step.
Here’s a quick check you can run on yourself…
Many people are afraid of trusting financial advisors with their personal information. Take a look at what’s on your desk right now. Is there any paperwork? How about open folders? That stuff may seem harmless to you (and it may indeed BE harmless) but it’s an awfully frightening thing to prospects. It gives them the impression that their confidential information could be easily viewed by others.
Now, since trust is the biggest building block in forming a positive first impression as a financial advisor, you may be curious as to how you build said trust. Well, let me tell you…
Trust Comes From The Following Areas…
Two of the most obvious areas from which trust stems are authority and credibility.
Authority is all about positioning yourself as a leader or expert. Professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and police officers have built-in authority. As a financial advisor, you have authority too. You likely have experience, certifications, and designations that your prospects do not have.
Credibility is all about being believable. It’s remarkably difficult to overcome skepticism if your credibility is shot. Sometimes financial advisors destroy their credibility by having all the answers, pretending to be someone they’re not, or not telling their prospects what they need to hear… good or bad.
However, trust is most closely connected to affinity. Your prospects form an affinity for you when they sense common characteristics. Maybe you’re both married with children. Maybe you both have similar backgrounds at similar companies. Who knows? The idea is to find something upon which common ground can be built.
Also, consider the personality of your prospects. If you’d like to gain insight into their attitudes and worldviews, take a look at their social media accounts before you meet with them. Don’t be afraid to do your research.
Another way to facilitate affinity between you and your prospects is through the “mere exposure effect”, and it’s a psychological phenomenon by which people feel a preference for something merely because they’re familiar with it.
Have you ever listened to a song and hated it at first? Then, after hearing it a few times… suddenly liked it?
That’s the mere exposure effect at work. It literally forces your brain to like things.
The most famous mere exposure researcher was the late psychologist Robert Zajonc. He tested how people responded to nonsense words like “zebulons” or “worbus”. The more often these words were repeated to subjects, the more favorably they responded to them.
In another test, he showed subjects symbols that looked like Chinese characters but were really completely made up. The more often the subjects saw the nonsense characters, the more likely they were to have positive feelings toward them.
What’s even crazier is that animals respond to this effect. Baby chicks still in their eggs were played a tone of a certain frequency and even after they hatched, they preferred that tone to a different one.
One of the reasons my email marketing system works so well is because, when you implement it correctly, prospects will begin to feel a deep, intimate bond with you because of the mere exposure effect.
It’s not “fair”. It’s not “logical”. But it works.
It’s also why…
Forming A Good First Impression Requires A Multi-Factored Approach
I’ve always loved Brian Tracy’s philosophy that “everything counts”. I remember him explaining how everything you do adds or takes away from your credibility and capability to influence people.
Because everything counts, making a good first impression requires a multi-factored approach. This is especially true for financial advisors, who have prospects who can reach them in multiple areas. I encourage you to look at the following areas:
What you wear plays a major role in the impression you give prospects and clients. For financial advisors, there’s no hard and fast rule. I’ve seen financial advisors wear suits to meetings as well as dark jeans and a vintage t-shirt. The name of the game is being intentional about what you wear and the image you want to project.
What you wear also plays a major role in whether or not you fit in with your clients. In The Ultimate Financial Advisor’s Guide to Getting More Clients, I wrote about a financial advisor who worked in a beachy area who got laughed out of town for wearing a suit when everyone else wore khakis and a polo. In this case, formal attire was a big no-no.
In one of my previous Inner Circle newsletters, I discussed the idea of wearing designer watches as an advisor. Some clients appreciate the status symbols and all the hard work that goes into attaining them, while others (the traditional “Millionaire Next Door” types) mock them behind closed doors.
In the same way that your clothes send a message to prospects and clients, so does your office.
It is my belief that your office should be comfortable and send the message that prospects can relax. If you have brochures or business cards, place them on end tables or somewhere easy to access, not at the reception desk. People are more likely to take one after they’ve settled in.
Wall decor is also important. I’ve shared some effective methods to improve your office in my newsletter but a good idea is to hang photos taken at your client appreciation events and any other activities you’ve hosted. This helps demonstrate your commitment to getting to know your clients.
To really dig into the first impression people get when visiting your office, ask a friend to visit and give you feedback. Sometimes getting a fresh pair of eyes from someone willing to provide you with honest feedback is all it takes to make a positive change.
Your Passion For What You Do
Enthusiasm is contagious. I can’t explain it but prospects seemingly have a sixth sense for whether or not you genuinely love what you do.People will mirror your attitude, tone of voice, and body language. If you’re upbeat, people will tend to be upbeat with you. If you’re hesitant, people will be hesitant with you.
Yet, being enthusiastic goes well beyond setting a good first impression. If you’re in a leadership role, your passion sets the example for all of your employees. They will look to you to set the example to demonstrate what engagement looks like on a day-to-day basis and they’ll follow your lead.
I’ve done many, many website reviews and I’m afraid to report that the overwhelming majority of financial advisor websites fail to make a positive first impression.Here’s the challenge: if people can’t find what they’re looking for right away, they’ll leave. This doesn’t even give you enough time to form a positive first impression. You must make it abundantly clear on your website WHAT you do and WHO you help, especially on your homepage because it tends to get the most traffic.
Another problem I constantly see with financial advisors is that they hire fancy web designers who are trained to make websites look good. In other words, they’re experts at cranking out pretty sites. But here’s the problem…
Pretty doesn’t convert.
And unfortunately, web designers rarely have the marketing expertise necessary to know what works and what doesn’t. My personal philosophy is that your website should be making you money.
I could care less about looks or design. I’m running a business, not a fashion show. In my opinion, the purpose of a website is to maximize the chances of turning a web visitor into a lead and then into a client. The way to do that is to focus on conversion first.
An easy way to boost conversions is to tell visitors exactly what you want them to do. Don’t be afraid to have call-to-action buttons which say:
- “Learn More About Our Process”
- “Download Our Free Report Now”
- “Book An Appointment”
And more. In order to get people to respond online, you must be crystal-clear about what you want them to do.
Your Social Media Profiles
More and more people are looking online for information about financial advisors.Even referral marketing doesn’t work as well as it used to if a financial advisor doesn’t have a strong online presence. After all, when someone shares a financial advisor’s name, the first thing the referral is probably going to do is pull out his/her phone and Google it.
And guess where prospects love to look?
You guessed it, the advisor’s social media profiles.
Especially LinkedIn. Because your LinkedIn profile likely shows up on the first page of search results for your own name. When prospects search for your name, they’ll see it and click on it.
This is GREAT news. Why? Because your LinkedIn profile is something you can control and use to your own benefit. Plus, it’s hands-down one of the best prospecting tools an advisor can employ. I talk about this in detail in How To Get Clients With LinkedIn.
Your Email Marketing
Just like with social media, the great thing about email marketing is you have direct control. When someone opts-in to your email list, you get to decide what to say in the first email. If you want to change it, you can. You can do the same for all the subsequent emails in your sequence.One of the reasons I love email marketing so much is because it allows you to build rapport, trust, and credibility with prospects on autopilot. The only “trick” is knowing what to say in those emails.
The mistake most advisors make is thinking prospects want information.
They want ideas, perspectives, stories, and entertainment.
In fact, my approach to email works so well because I’m not constantly trying to “educate!” people by cramming information down their throats.
Too many people get wrapped up in trying to become a “thought leader” (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) that they forget people just want to find someone they can trust. Without trust, people will never take meaningful action.
Who do you trust more? The professor who lectures you on a better way to do things… or the friend who sits you down and shares a relevant story with you?
When you approach your marketing like a friend, prospects connect with you. And connectivity is the fuel that allows people to take the next step forward
The Bottom Line
You may never get a second chance to make a first impression… but you can definitely make an effort to make the best first impression possible.
In some areas (like your website, social profiles, and emails), you have control over the impression you give and can craft it according to your needs. In any case, your first impression should serve you. It should establish how you want to be perceived by your clients and prospects.
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