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Increasing Client Security and Satisfaction: A Guide to Cross-Selling for Advisors

The Value of Cross-Selling

Regrettably, industry stats reveal that advisors are only selling 1.1 or 1.2 products per client on average. This is a surprising statistic – especially when you consider how much cross-selling deepens client relationships. Cross-selling makes advisors less vulnerable to competitors offering full-service approaches. It is the most efficient way to generate revenue and the best way to make relationships profitable.

And, although, it’s about three times easier and six times cheaper to sell to an existing client than to find and close a new prospect, cross-selling doesn’t only benefit the advisor. The real importance of cross-selling is that it enables each advisor to serve more of their clients’ needs. In short, it makes advisors more effective in their role.

How great practitioners take a strategic approach to cross-selling in their practices

Evidently, there exists a significant opportunity for advisors to enhance both their clients' experiences and their own success by strategically addressing this untapped opportunity. However, this potential often goes unrealized among many advisors due to the absence of a well-defined and consistently applied cross-selling strategy. Let's explore how top-notch advisors approach cross-selling strategically within their practices:

Define your vision:

In order to develop an effective cross-selling system that will work for you, you first need to establish what you want to achieve. This starts with clearly defining and articulating your vision for your practice.

What is a vision statement?

A carefully crafted vision statement serves as the response to the fundamental question: "Where are we going?" Think of it as the guiding light for a company, ensuring it stays on course towards its intended path. The vision statement provides the business and its stakeholders a clear sense of the direction it intends to follow, essentially serving as a roadmap for the future.

The vision you ultimately design may look very different from another advisor’s. For example, some advisors might want to aggressively grow their business over the next few years, while others may be more interested in creating a comfortable future in which they work fewer hours.

How to create a vision statement as an advisor

To sync the revenue potential and level of activity of your cross-selling system with your goals, create a Vision Statement for your practice that describes what your practice will look like in five-year’s time. When considering your Vision think about the following questions:

  • How big will your business be?
  • How many clients will you have?
  • How much time do you devote to them?
  • How much time do you spend finding new clients?
  • What activities do you want to focus on?
  • What products and services do you provide?
  • How much time do you spend on the business?

The vision you create after answering these questions will guide you in designing your cross-selling system. You may choose a comprehensive set of strategies that will enable you to grow aggressively. Or, if your vision is to scale back your efforts, you may focus more on a few strategies that give you greater efficiencies—providing similar revenue with less effort. Getting clarity around your vision may lead you to decide to focus your efforts more on developing deeper relations with existing top clients and spending less time trying to find new ones.

Segment your client base

The next step in creating your cross-selling system is to segment your client base. You can break out your ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ clients according to how important they are to your business, with the goal of delivering appropriate levels of value to each. Keep in mind, we’re not saying your other clients aren’t important or should be ignored. You will still serve all of their needs. But segmentation allows you to focus your added-value efforts on doing more with those who bring the biggest benefit.

Next, identify the product you will focus your cross-selling system on. Identify the needs it meets, then create a profile of an ideal client for that product. Then you can use your CRM to search your client base for potential matches. When it comes to your cross-selling efforts you can use your CRM’s filters and tags to find all the clients within your ‘A’ group, for instance, who would benefit the most from the product you wish to focus on.

You may find matches in your ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ segments, which is great. As you’ll see in the next section, when we get into actual cross-selling strategies you can implement, you will likely conduct different activities for each segment.

Then you can target your events, promotion, marketing and communications to that defined group—making your efforts efficient and very likely to meet your clients’ needs.

Create your cross-selling system

Once you’ve defined your vision for your practice and segmented your client base, you’re ready to build the cross-selling system that benefits your practice and your clients the most.

If you are pursuing aggressive growth, you may want to push the boundaries of all of the following strategies—which will mean leaning heavily on your technology and delegating a lot of work to your staff. On the other hand, if you are transitioning out of the business in the next five to ten years, perhaps you would be more interested in defining the processes involved in each strategy you choose and creating systems that are defined in your CRM so that your practice runs most efficiently—and when the time comes to sell you will get full value for your book of business.

No matter which strategies you choose to fulfill your vision, the key is to create processes that will not just be effective in the short-term, but that are structured and automated to the extent that you can focus on the parts of the system you most enjoy—meeting with clients—so that you don’t lose enthusiasm or focus over time.

Specific strategies you may implement in your cross-selling system

Strategy 1: Leverage annual reviews to most effectively serve clients

This is a cornerstone strategy that is employed with all clients. The point of view you take into the review process is very important. Although we’re talking about cross-selling here, the reason you conduct annual reviews is to uncover client needs, educate and provide solutions that will reduce their pain and risk. In short, this process is the embodiment of what it means to be a trusted advisor.

Optimizing the review process means:

  • Defining the steps involved in scheduling, conducting and following up on a review
  • Mapping them out in your CRM so that you can follow that defined process consistently with each client
  • Using CRM activity management tools to keep staff focused on the activities that make reviews happen
  • Creating templates for emails, review agendas, follow-up communication that you can use automatically with each client
  • Using an integrated financial needs analysis tool to access up to date customer information before you sit down with them—saving time and effort, and ensuring compliance

Strategy 2: Ask the right questions

Financial advisors can effectively uncover their existing clients' needs by asking the right questions during their interactions. These are questions that can help guide the advisor in uncovering the unique financial goals, concerns, and aspirations of their clients. Below, we'll explore effective strategies that financial advisors can use to inquire thoughtfully, listen actively, and ultimately, uncover the precise needs of their clients.

  1. Preparation is key: Before meeting with your clients, review their financial history and your previous conversations. Understand their current financial situation, goals, and any recent life changes.
  2. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Ask open-ended questions that encourage clients to talk about their goals, concerns, and aspirations. These questions can't be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." For example: "Can you tell me about your short-term and long-term financial goals?" or "What are your major concerns about your financial future?"
  3. For examples of questions to get you started, check out this article on the 20 Questions Every Advisor Should Ask During Prospect and Client Meetings
  4. Practice Active Listening: Pay close attention to your client’s responses and nonverbal cues. Listen more than you speak and show that you're genuinely interested. Ask follow-up questions and leverage non-verbal signals such as nodding or smiling to signal your interest and attention.
  5. Follow-Up: After the meeting, follow up with a summary of the discussion and the proposed action plan. This demonstrates your commitment to helping them achieve their financial goals. Make sure to note all key discussion points in your CRM for future reference. Check out the next section on follow-up for a more detailed overview.

Strategy 3: ‘A’ client education and networking events

The goal behind this strategy is to provide high levels of value for your top clients. Whether you prefer to conduct lunches or dinners or some other type of event, the key to making this strategy successful is to find speakers to provide your clients with information they can’t get elsewhere. Make sure the talk is targeted at clients’ specific needs and interests—and on a subject that is tied to the product or service you are focused on.

Ask each client to bring someone they know who would benefit from the experience. This will create great networking opportunities for both you and them. Examples of events might include a speaker from a heart illness foundation on prevention strategies or a doctor speaking on the emotional and monetary costs of serious illness.

Use technology to optimize the process for organizing the events, inviting clients and ensuring their attendance, and following up afterward to discuss needs and the solutions you can offer.

Strategy 4: Seminars and Webinars

For your ‘B’ and ‘C’ clients, you may want to take advantage of the same speakers you used in strategy two to headline large group seminars. Again, the idea is to educate your clients about a subject that is related to the products and services you are focussed on.

You can adjust the processes and steps you mapped into your CRM for strategy two to optimize the delivery of seminars and webinars. Forms, templates, secure email and activity management tools can automate the follow-up process to save you time and effort during the actual discovery and sales process.

Strategy 5: Leverage social media as a tool for client education

Social media is a powerful tool for financial advisors to not only connect with clients but also to educate and engage with them effectively. Establishing a professional presence on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok will allow you to share valuable insights, offer educational content, and keep clients informed about financial matters. Sharing information and knowledge with your clients on social media will allow you to educate them in an easy, bite-size format, which can make it easier to uncover their needs and opportunities for cross-selling when you meet in person.

Financial advisors can effectively leverage social media to educate and engage their clients by following these strategies:

  • Content Planning: Develop a content calendar outlining the topics and themes you'll cover. This can be done monthly, quarterly, or even yearly. For example, you could include topics such as financial planning, investment insights, tax strategies, and market updates.
  • Educational Content: Share educational content that provides value to your clients. This can include articles, videos, infographics, and webinars. People often shy away from creating content because they feel like it needs to be perfect and polished to be published. The beauty of social media is that it doesn’t have to be! You can simply film yourself talking about important topics, like the importance of financial planning- and you’re good to go.
  • Client Stories and Case Studies: Highlight the achievements of your clients by showcasing success stories and case studies that demonstrate how you've assisted them in reaching their financial objectives. The beauty of leveraging social media lies in the potential for collaboration and authenticity. One approach is to showcase a case study, testimonial, or client narrative, and tag the featured client. You can also encourage the client to share the post within their own network. Alternatively, you might ask the client to record a video testimonial or craft a written one to post on their profile.
  • Live Q&A Sessions: Host live question-and-answer sessions where clients can ask questions in real time and receive immediate responses. You can later share this recording on your profile.
  • Promote Events and Webinars: Use social media to promote webinars, workshops, or seminars you are hosting

Strategy 6: Effective and consistent follow-up

A key link in the cross-selling process is the follow-up after an event or seminar. For the sake of consistency and effectiveness, it helps to take advantage of technology to automate the process as much as possible, and to target your follow-up to each particular client and their needs.

Follow-up usually involves a number of linked activities. You will likely send a follow-up email to each client and to any new prospects you were introduced to. You can include a short educational piece, created as a form or template in your CRM, that describes your offering and how it fits with their needs. Then, a staff member will email or call to schedule a meeting.

All of this can be scheduled in your CRM, attached to each client’s contact, and assigned to the staff member who will execute the task. When the time is right, your CRM will automatically alert your staff about the step that must be completed. Since the emails and forms already reside within your CRM, no real effort is required.

Remember to treat each touch and each meeting with every client as strictly educational—they aren’t about pressuring the client by trying to make a sale but should be focused on adding value.

Wrap up

To create a cross-selling system tailored to you, first define what you want your firm to look like in five years by defining your vision. Use your CRM to segment your clients so that you can target your communications, marketing, and solutions to those with the biggest needs. Then choose the appropriate cross-selling strategies for you—the ones that will best help you make your vision a reality. Implementing those strategies through your CRM on a consistent basis will ensure you work effectively and efficiently. You’ll save time, serve your clients better, and create deeper relationships.

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