Welcome back to the 236th episode of the Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today's podcast is Shauna Mace. Shauna is the founder of Inspire Growth, a sales consulting firm that helps financial advisors establish and refine their business development processes to more systematically convert leads into clients.
What's unique about Shauna, though, is her focus on helping advisors achieve real growth results without coming across as “too salesy”, by instead teaching advisors how to create relevance for prospects by actively listening to their responses to open-ended questions, uncovering their needs, and demonstrating what working together would really entail.
In this episode, we talk in depth about Shauna’s three goals of listening during initial meetings with leads, which include determining if the lead would be a good fit for the advisor, uncovering their most pressing needs, and booking the next meeting to keep moving forward (if appropriate), the importance of asking the potential client for permission as they move through the four stages of the sales process from being a lead all the way to being either “won” or “lost”, and Shauna’s suggested cadence for following up with prospects… as many as seven times over the span of a month.
We also talk about the gaps that Shauna finds that advisors have in their business development process, particularly when it comes to overcoming the mindset that they simply “aren’t good at sales” (which can otherwise lead advisors to not prioritize developing those skills as a result), the ways that Shauna helps her financial advisor clients bridge those gaps by systematizing the workflows, templates, and execution of a sales process so they can feel more confident in their ability to grow, and the key performance indicators that Shauna feels best measure whether or not the dollars an advisory firm is allocating towards marketing are being used effectively.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Shauna shares her experiences going out on her own to launch her new consulting business just as the world was coming to grips with the reality of the pandemic, the importance of having an action plan for each and every day and executing on that plan (especially when you’re in the early stages of growth), and the emphasis that Shauna puts on prioritizing self-care and setting personal goals (both for herself, and the advisors she works with) as a means of managing the inevitable stresses that arise from being an entrepreneur.
So whether you're interested in learning about how Shauna helps advisors systematize their sales process, the prospect follow-up sequence she recommends, and the key sales KPIs that advisors should be tracking, then we hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast, with Shauna Mace.
Resources Featured In This Episode:
- Shauna Mace
- Inspire Growth
- Sales Builder Worksheet
- Sample Email Templates
- 3-D Action Exercise
- Certified High Performance Coach
- Dale Carnegie's "How To Win Friends And Influence People"
Michael: Welcome, Shauna Mace to the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.
Shauna: Thank you, Michael, for having me.
Michael: I'm excited about today's discussion and talking about what I think for a lot of our advicer audience is kind of a taboo bad word. Sales.
Shauna: It certainly is.
Michael: Yeah. I think for so many in the advice world, until relatively recently, you couldn't really start out getting a job in the advice business. You start out getting a job in the product, insurance products, annuity products, investment products, some kind of product. And if you were good enough and you did it long enough, you were allowed to go back and get more education and become an advisor who could actually charge planning fees and get paid for advice and maybe morph into an advisory model. And so, so many of us, I think, kind of grew up in a sales world, if only because we had to. Sometimes saw the not-so-positive parts of sales in the product sales world. And I find particularly, in our sort of fiduciary advice realm, there's really this very negative connotation around sales and anything salesy or sales oriented.
And I've always been struck that at the end of the day, even if you're in the advice business, you still have to sell something. I mean, you're selling yourself and your expertise and your firm's services. Like, you still have to sell. You still have to convince someone at the end of the day to agree to do business and sign an agreement and pay you. And I worry at this point, I think, maybe the pendulum has swung so far that even, and especially amongst the advice community, we don't even talk about what it takes to be effective at selling the value of advice, selling ourselves and our skills and our capabilities and our services to the point that, I'll admit, sometimes I worry that our advice world isn't growing faster because we've put sales in such a negative light and connotation that we don't even get around to figure out how to help ourselves like to sell the great stuff that we do more effectively.
Shauna: Yeah, even just to influence clients' decision-making, that's sales.
And I'm with you, I think I started my career very much... If you'd told me I would be doing sales consulting, I would have laughed at you. Very similar mindset of “sales is bad, sales is negative”. And what I learned over the years is that sales is really about relationship building and relevance.
And I think, for me, a big part of why I started Inspire Growth is about this larger mission of redefining sales, specifically within the RIA community, within financial services, because yeah, it does have a bad rap. And at the same time, people that's hurting the most to not have this mindset process or skill set are these great advisors who if they could get more clients, and more of the right clients, could have a real impact on their lives. So I really understand and empathize with the negative mindset around sales. And at the same time, it's just my mission to help people own and become really proud about their ability to build these deep relationships and deliver relevance and influence in the way that they define sales. Not letting the industry define it but letting them define what that means to them and be doing it in the way that really makes sense for their business and their values.
Michael: So I'm struck around your framing of sales is about relationship building and relevance, that I feel like I see a lot of advisory firms do it, at least a version of that, which is essentially, “I spent a lot of time with my clients, some time with prospects as well, I try to show how the stuff that I do is so great, and then I let them reach out and sign up when they're ready.” And there was sort of this, like, “I'm trying to build relationships, I'm trying to show that I'm relevant, but they don't always get the desired results. I see a lot of advisors that, at the end of the day, are really frustrated that, I do good work. I know I do good work. My clients love what I do. I'm not getting very many new clients. My phone is not ringing. They're not reaching out. And, in fact, sometimes I see people I'm talking to end out sign up with another advisor “who I know isn't as good at this as what I do. But for some reason, they sign up with that person and not me.”
Help me understand is there a difference between “I try to create relationships with prospects and clients and show that I'm relevant and let them sign up and decide to work with me when they're ready,” and what you're talking about when you say, sales is about relationship and building and relevance. Like, is there a difference here between what we do and what you're talking about?
What Shauna Means By “Building Relevance And Influence” As A Financial Advisor [07:46]
Shauna: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. It comes to, imagine you go to the doctor, and the doctor tells you there's something you need to work on with your health. Now, the whole reason why there are these holistic more private practice doctors today is because there's this kind of need for someone to support them along the way. And by just my doctor seeing them once a year, and then giving me some advice on my health, is that going to change my habits and behavior? Probably not. Unless it's really dire and I really am motivated by the diagnosis. And I think it's the same thing for potential investors and clients, creating that urgency and action, they need someone to help them understand... And when I say relevance, what I mean by relevance is about real need. So it's about uncovering real needs for your investors and for your clients and helping them... And sometimes they don't recognize there's a need there. And that's where that guidance is needed.
And so, my background is in consultative sales. And it really is about need-based sales, where you're really understanding, listening to have a specialty in a specific group of advisors, or with someone you're speaking to, and you are not focused on why financial planning and investment management is important, but you're talking about it in a way that's relevant to them, or relevant... It's really just changing the conversation around what is relevant for them at that moment in time. And part of that comes from listening and understanding. Part of it comes from just having the experience in working with these sorts of people, and you know things that they don't because you've been through this hundreds of times. This is their first time going through whatever it is. Maybe it's retirement or a job change or some life transition.
And that's the real value. And that's where you start to build influence in that you can help them articulate what the need is, and you can help guide them to gain clarity on what the goals are. But you then can create the urgency around, “O kay, this is how we address it, this is the next step.” It's much more about quarterbacking with intention, versus just kind of sharing what value you can provide. It’s about being intentional and leading with needs.
Michael: So can you maybe just give me an example and help us visualize this a little bit more because I'm envisioning what I think is the average advisor who's sitting in front of a prospect saying, “We provide comprehensive financial planning, it's always customized to your individual needs and circumstances, we can help you with whatever it is that you're going to deal with along the way to try to bring you some peace of mind in your financial life. We have CFP certification and years of experience to do this well.” We, I think, try to talk about it in a way that we believe is relevant and is going to address their needs and circumstances, particularly since the whole nature of comprehensive financial planning is,” Whatever it is you got to deal with, I'm here for you.” Why is that still not working so well for us? What's the difference between that and what you're talking about? Is that relevance or is that not really relevance and is there a different way we should be positioning it?
How Financial Advisors Should Be Positioning Themselves In Front Of Prospects [11:02]
Shauna: So, if I think about a sales process and having that first conversation with the lead who's maybe unqualified, or maybe they are qualified, you know that this could be a great client, that first conversation is hopefully, is much more the prospect talking. So it'd be starting with, “I would love to learn more about you.” Period. Let them talk. It's about listening and picking out the things of relevance and then positioning yourself or your services or your value or your process or your team or experience. To some extent, you're customizing how you're framing the value of the potential engagement and the potential impact and you're bringing it to life in their own words, you're bringing it to life based on their actual needs, you're helping to uncover needs in some cases where they may not be able to articulate it, or you're listening for what you're not actually hearing, or what they're not saying. And it's really less about delivering the elevator pitch and more about being really interested in them first, and then using what you've learned to help provide relevance around the conversation, all centered around what's in it for them, and kind of bringing to life what that might look if they were to partner with you.
So again, I would really not be talking about myself, really, at all, until maybe later in the conversation. It's really about just getting to know them as a person, getting to understand more about what made them actually reach out to you? What made them ask for that referral? What brought them to that point? There's obviously a reason. And really just listening first. And then that informs what other questions you ask, or the way in which you position yourself and your solutions.
Michael: So, can you give me an example of this? So I'm just trying to vision like what is different between what you're talking about and us saying, “We provide comprehensive financial planning for all of your retirement needs. Because I specialize in retirees.” I feel like we say we're here to help with anything that they need, ”so tell me more about what you need.” But it's clearly not working that well for most of us, because most firms are not exactly crushing it on organic growth from new clients.
Shauna: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So if I'm the advisor, and you're the client... And I say, “Michael, thank you so much for the time today. I'm really interested. Tell me more about yourself.” I don't know where you bring that. You could bring it...
Michael: “So I've been building some businesses for a while thinking about getting to the point of retiring here, but I'm not really sure how to make the transition. I've been working in these businesses for so long. I'm not even sure I know what to do with myself if I retired.”
Shauna: “Okay. Okay. So that's really interesting. So it sounds like you're kind of at the cusp of this new chapter in your life. Tell me, how does that feel? That must be, on one hand exciting, and on the other hand, very scary. What does that feel like?”
Michael: “It kind of feels like a scary leap. I've spent so much time in the business and the work that we do, and I really, really enjoyed the work that we do. So there's enough value to the business that I could sell and retire. But I don't really know what I would do even if I did. So just kind of keep working because I guess I have nothing else to do.”
Shauna: “Got it. So it's part of your financial situation, even figuring out if you're going to sell a business or not?”
Michael: “Yeah, I guess I'm not even sure if I would. There's value, but I don't know what I'd do with myself if I did.”
Shauna: “Got it. Got it. Yeah. So it's, if you even did, what's next for you? Interesting. Well, it's funny, we actually work with a number of business owners who have gone through transitions like this. And part of our process is helping them think through not just the financial implications of that, which are obviously very important, but also helping them gain clarity on what is the future that they really desire. And how can we make that possible? And what that looks like from a financial perspective. What's the impact? Depending on the decision you make, is that something that would be helpful?”
Michael: “Yeah, that's basically what I'm dealing with. Like, what you've done with all of your other clients, that's what I need. Cool.”
Shauna: Okay, so that's an example. Right? So it's about understanding what is really going on. And that was really quick. Part of it can also be taking a journey, kind of dreaming with them. Like getting them excited about some future that they say they want, but they may be a little afraid to take that leap. And they're saying, “I t's because of the impact to my financial situation.” Likely, it's a lot of other things too. And so, again, as an advisor, you wear many hats. You are a technical expert, whether it's planning, investments, both, or some other area of expertise, but then you also are largely a therapist or coach. And part of that is... I have coach training. So I'm a Certified High Performance Coach. And I have gained a lot of and increased my acumen in sales just by going through that because so much of it is just continuing to dig in and ask open-ended questions and really helping to guide the prospect or the client to the answers that are already within them, they just maybe don't realize it.
In general, these conversations are less about telling them what they need or like diagnosing them, and more about taking the journey with them to help them uncover and acknowledge on their own the needs that are there. So you gain real quick buy-in and rapport by structuring the conversations in a series of asking open-ended questions, listen, clarify, continue to clarify until you get some acknowledgement, asking another open-ended question if it makes sense.
And the other thing is you don't have to ask a thousand open-ended questions. There's a point of question fatigue where once you get general buy-in and you can make some recommendation on the next step, do that. Because you don't want to be asking like 20 questions and be on the phone for an hour the first meeting. The first meeting should be pretty brief. It's about connecting and quickly trying to really get at the crux of what's going on here? And can I help? And maybe the answer is, “No, I can't.” And hopefully, you have someone you can refer them to, or there is some advice that you can give them to support them in kind of the next stage of their discovery process and how do I solve these problems. But it really is about, initially, the sales process starts with very consultatively, listening, asking open-ended questions, and clarifying to get to the root of what's going on.
Michael: So is there a particular, series of sales questions or script or things that you start using to open this journey and conversation in particular?
Shauna: The first one that I use all the time, and I advise my clients to use is literally to ask the question, “I'd love to learn more about you. Tell me your story,” or, “Tell me what brought you here today.” And just let them talk. Or just “I'd love to learn more about you.” In the very beginning. Like that first conversation. Because that is very open, and they're going to take it where they want to take it. And that in itself is really powerful information.
Shauna’s Three Levels Of Listening For First Meetings And How She Makes A “Recommendation” To Move A Prospect Through The Sales Process [18:13]
Where you go from there. There's three different levels of listening. And in that first conversation, you do want to have some sort of agenda. The goal of that first meeting is to first qualify. “Is this someone who even should be a client and I can help, would be someone that I want to take on as a client?” And to uncover needs. “Am I the right person to help this potential client?” And so you know that those are your goals, and then if you check those boxes, the next step is the goal is to get the next meeting so that you start to really do your discovery and gather more of the quantitative information that you need to do some of the work that you're going to do with this prospect, and hopefully, client.
And so yeah, the first one is just very open. “Tell me more about yourself,” see where they take it. And what you want to do with your follow-up questions is your goal is to uncover a need. It doesn't need to be every single need they have. You can do that later. But your goal is to uncover enough of a need or needs that they have that they acknowledge that you can make a recommendation based on what you're hearing. And that's really important that idea of... And it's okay to take a stab. And if they're like, “No, it's not actually really it,” because it gives them information. And you're like, “Okay, well, then what tell me more about X, Y, and Z.” So it's okay to reiterate what you're hearing. Like, acknowledge what you're hearing and check in with them.
“So for you, it sounds you're in this transition. And really, the first step it sounds like is just what decision are you going to make as you continue toward the end of your business journey? Or maybe not. Like, is it, ‘You’re going to sell the business or you're not?’ I'm interested to learn more about what are some of the concerns there? What are some of the questions that you would to have answered?” And again, open-ended questions. And you just need enough of a nugget to say, “Okay,” (you can ask more questions, of course), “based on your situation, I think we can really help. This is how we've worked with people like you in the past.”
Michael: And can you explain a little bit more just what that ‘recommendation’, as you put it, is building up to? So, I think for a lot of us, when I hear recommendation, I'm thinking like, “Well, we just had a conversation, gathered some information. So I'm making The Recommendation,” like the financial advisor planning recommendation. And then my alarm bells are going off like, “Haven’t really gathered all the data. I don't know if I know all your information yet, didn't put it in my planning software. I haven't done my analysis.” What level of recommendation are we talking about when you're saying, “We're trying to uncover a need and get to a ’recommendation’ in the first meeting here?”
Shauna: Yeah, that's a great question. So the recommendation is how you could engage as a client and advisor. So it's not a recommendation on what to do in your portfolio, or what to do as far as planning. It's a recommendation on how you can partner, how I can help address the needs you have. So, many advisors, they have one service model or a multiple. And so the recommendation, depending on these different services or products that you have, could be, “I think that it makes a lot of sense for us to consider working together as a wealth management client.” And start to provide a little bit of context as to what that means, but it's a recommendation of, “how you would engage with me, the adviser, as a client.”
And so what I've seen work really well is to kind of give them space to think through and process this conversation you just had. And so you make this recommendation, and then you say, “You know what? I think what a really great next step would be is I'm going to provide you with a sample,” whatever, or maybe it's a, I would say a sample if you're recommending a specific service model, “I want to provide you with a sample of what a plan would look like,” or even just a case study of a similar situation. Provide them with something so that after the conversation, and they go home, and maybe they're talking to their spouse about the conversation they just had, or they're talking to trusted friends or family, you are having some influence still on the conversation and what they're remembering and taking away. And that's where you start to use your marketing and you start to kind of show not just tell the things that are of value.
And again, it has to be something that's relevant, it can't just be something random. It could be an article, but it's just reiterating that you can help solve the need or the problem and reiterating the things that you think are important to your brand. It could be, again, kind of the more elevator-pitchy sort of language that you want them to really hear that maybe they heard in the conversation, and maybe they didn't, who knows. Most people hear very little or remember very little of what they actually are told or hear or see. And so it's helpful to reiterate those things over and over and over again. And you can do that really effectively in some sort of tangible takeaway.
Why It’s Important For Advisors To Ask Prospects For Permission To Take The Next Step [23:37]
Michael: And I'm just trying to visualize like, where does the line come between doing that, and the fear that at least a lot of advicers have of not being seen as being too pushy? We tend have a lot of negative connotations around pushy salespeople.
Shauna: Yeah, yeah. So the first thing I would say is, as part of making the recommendation, you can and you should be asking for permission. “So Michael, I'd recommend that I think a financial plan, an investment management engagement, a holistic wealth management engagement makes a lot of sense for your situation because you have both planning components as well as investment components, or needs. Now, I'm interested, does that sound like something you're interested in exploring more?” So you should be asking for permission along the way. And they may say, “No.” They may say, “No, I don't know. That's not maybe what I'm looking for.” And that's fine. Then you clarify. Well, tell me what about that is not okay. Because I want to understand...
Michael: I was going to say just that transition right there of just building up to, “Does that sound like something you'd be interested in?” If they say yes, they are opening the door for continuing the conversation in that direction. And if they say no, well, what a wonderful gift and time saver right there. Either, not a good fit, because you literally just gave them the opportunity to say it and they said it, or an opportunity to clarify further like, “Then help me understand just what I missed or wasn't aligned there.” And maybe you get a better understanding of their situation by process of elimination. “I thought they wanted ‘blank’. I just literally asked them and they said no. So let's get a little bit deeper about what they actually do want to see if I can suss out this client situation and this prospect situation a little bit more.”
Shauna: Absolutely. Yeah, I think that that key or that tool of asking for permission or checking in, however you want to say it, can be really powerful in both prospect and client situations where you're just checking in, “How does that sound?” Yes, or no. You're going to get feedback really quickly. And that can really inform very quickly positive next steps.
What Shauna’s Overall Sales Process Looks Like [25:42]
Michael: So help me understand what this overall sales process looks as you would advocate it. Because it like sounds like ultimately, we're still in a first meeting, you've alluded to the fact that there may be a second meeting because I go on the first thing is just to close for a second meeting. So what's the overall process that we're trying to walk through? Like, how many meetings should a good sales process be? And what are we ultimately trying to do or get to in each stage of the meeting process?
Shauna: Yeah. And I'm happy to share it with your listeners. I have a sales process, builder worksheet, and literally, I recommend keeping it as simple as possible. So usually, it's right around four stages. And the way that I name them, or I recommend naming them, would be “lead”. It's typically someone who's unqualified. And the goal of that stage is to one, connect with them. First, just connect as human beings. Two is to qualify them. Make the recommendation and get the next meeting. So you get the buy-in or acknowledgement from them that they want to continue on, they like what they're hearing, they think it can address their needs. And that would lead them to the second stage, which is ‘prospect’. So it's interesting. And there's InvestmentNews 2020 Pricing & Profitability Study, if you get someone to that prospect meeting, if you get someone who's fully engaged with you, your chances of converting them to client go up by like over 30%. So it's a very strong signal that they're very engaged. And most advisors at this point, a lot of them say, once I get someone who's interested and fully engaged, my close rate is 75%, 80%. Sometimes higher.
So that prospect meeting, for the investor, it's about kicking the tires and understanding the logistics of the relationship, understanding the logistics of like what happens once I become a client, understanding fees, of course, that's important, and really kind of just doing their checklist of like are you who you are. I want to make sure I agree with your approach, and you can actually, for real, address my issues and needs, that there's some depth here. Like all of the things that they need to get comfortable enough with making that decision and ultimately moving their assets from either one institution to another, or just having you be their main source of financial advice.
And that prospect meeting is going to be more, I would say, there, you're doing more talking for sure. Because it's a little more of you're flipping the script, they should be asking you some more questions. And if they aren't, that's fine. You can be leading that conversation knowing that that's what they're doing. So you're making it easy for them. They may not even know what to ask. And it's okay to say things like, “I get this question a lot. If they don't bring up fees, you should be talking about it because they're probably not going to make a decision without knowing what your fees are. “I get this question a lot. This is how we charge clients.” And be transparent about it.
But for that prospect meeting, and you got to feel it out, but once you kind of generally get the sense that they are conceptually on board, at least, it's about starting to lay out the next steps. “Okay, so this is what the onboarding process looks like. It takes about X number of weeks. This is how we work together. At this point, we'll be starting to implement your assets into your portfolio, and we're going to be going through this process to help you gain clarity on whether you should sell or stay in your business and what those implications are going to look like in your portfolio.”
You really want to decrease any uncertainty, any reason for concern, be asking openly, like checking in with them. Other questions you have. “Anything that we haven't talked about that you want to make sure that we address?” It's really getting into more of the nuts and bolts of what that relationship looks like, what it will feel like, what it will actually be for them to lead to that, “Okay, well, as far as next steps, if you're ready to go, these are the next steps.” And that can be really helpful for the investor in that it's not this black box and then they're too scared to ask the questions or don't even know what the questions to ask. You just address all the potential objections or questions upfront if they aren't already asking them.
Michael: Okay. So this is stage two of the process. I guess like the funnel, the flow. So what's next? Or where do we go from there?
Shauna: Yeah. So next would be, if you haven't already provided some sort of formal proposal, if they aren't on board, if they are still wavering, that's where you can offer to provide a proposal. It's a formalized version of what you've talked about. And so, again, you're supporting their decision-making process. And it gives you a reason to check back in. At this point, ideally, what happens is in the second meeting, they're like, “Okay, this sounds really great. I just need to maybe need a couple of days to just talk it over.” But they're very close to making a decision.
If they aren't very close to making a decision, maybe they're in the process of interviewing other advisors, which is totally fine. It's okay at this point to say, again, you can be path-provided or provide a formal proposal, which would be like, “This is the situation as we see it. This is the recommendation that I'm making. This is what that will look as far as next steps, if you decide to come on, these are the fees associated with becoming a client.” You would check-in and say “When would be a good time to follow up? I know that you're interviewing other people, or I know that you're busy at work. You let me know, what would be a good time for us to review this when you feel you've had time to talk it through and kind of come to terms as far as what are the next steps on your end?” And they hopefully, give you some timeframe that's realistic? If not, it could even be, “And the next week, could we check-in? Let's get some time on the calendar and we can check in on where you're at. It sounds like we could certainly help with the situation. I would love to partner with you. Is it okay if I check in with you at the end of next week?” Yes or no? Again, you're going to get a pretty good signal right there. Kind of how engaged are they or aren't they at this point?
Michael: And then what's stage four or part four if we get that far?
Shauna: So at that point, it's either it's ‘won’ or it's ‘lost’. They either become a client or they're lost. And granted, there may need to be follow-up. So if you're essentially, waiting on a decision, and it's very clear you're waiting on a decision, it is appropriate to follow up, I would say at least once a week with that person and just continue to check in. If they completely go silent on you after following up with them for, I would say a solid month, I would at that point if they're silent, I would ask permission to continue to include them on whatever sort of regular mailings you have. It could be like a newsletter, or maybe it's a quarterly investment update, just to try to get some engagement with them. And if they don't respond, I would include them on your drip marketing, if you have it, or your nurture marketing if you have it, or newsletters, and kind of move on at that point. But after that much engagement, they're likely not going to go silent, they're going to let one way or another that either they're on board or they're not ready.
If they're not ready, then you can try to have another conversation to uncover what's going on. And some of it may need to be that you need to help just kind of think through whatever the objections are. And I don't think you can necessarily overcome objections. It's hard, you can't change people's minds, but you can provide a different perspective and reframe, or just even remind them about why they reached out in the first place, that can be a very helpful way to help them kind of overcome that objection.
Michael: So it sounds overall, this is sort of a two/three meeting process. Like, I'm going to do an initial meeting where they're the lead, it's mostly about them, I'm trying to understand their situation, figure out if they're actually a good prospect, if so, make some kind of recommendation. “Bob, it sounds like you've got a tough retirement transition. It turns out that we specialize in people going through tough retirement transition. I think we'd be a great fit together I'd love to have a follow-up meeting with you or we can talk a little bit more about just what we actually do and how we might be able to help.”
Shauna: Yes, yeah, absolutely. And listen, if someone's ready earlier, great. Don't oversell. That's something that I think we all tend to do, is we try to oversell. A lot of the art is actually knowing when to stop and let it happen. Like, if they're ready to go in the first meeting, you don't need to have a second meeting. It's like “Okay, great. I'm going to quickly have to pivot and I'm going to talk about what our next step is as far as onboarding.” So be ready for that. Because it could happen. But yeah, you don't want to be overselling it. “Well, my process is now we have a second meeting.” It's like no, if they're ready, they're ready, and you go with it.
Michael: Otherwise, I'm at least going to a second meeting. And so it sounds the second meeting is, “We're going to talk about our process, we're going to talk about what we actually do and how we do it. I'm going to answer all their questions about just literally what do we do and how do we do it? How do you work with us? What's the process is going to be trying to get them on board at that level,” with the hope at the end of that meeting of either, if they're ready to come on board, great. If they're not, “Can I send you a follow-up proposal that just commemorates all of this and we can touch base next week to just talk through it?”
Shauna: Yes. Yep. That's right. Exactly.
Michael: Okay. And is the idea that often comes out to be a third meeting, and that I should anticipate three meetings with the prospect to get through this if they aren't so kind as to just shortcut my process by saying yes, faster?
Shauna: Yeah, some people, they may be at that ‘proposal sent’ stage for a longer period of time. Some people need more handholding. There may be multiple decision-makers in the decision and different people may be at different places as far as kind of feeling ready. And so I think that, yeah, again, depending on the prospect, is this someone you really want to work with who would be a great fit, who you can really help, is this someone who is not an ideal client and probably you need to let go? Like that's a decision you have to make. But if you've gone through this initial process of getting to know them, them getting to know you, everything's on the table, and they're not ready but they're continuing to engage with you, depending on the quality of the prospect, for someone who's a really great opportunity, then you continue the journey, of course. Like, you continue the journey, you support their needs.
Again, you always want to be very clearly driving towards what the next step is. “This is the paperwork that we would need you to fill out for the accounts.” And you can check-in. Like, “What are some of the concerns you have? We've gone through this process. Really, I feel really confidently that we can help you here. And I get it. It's a big decision.” Acknowledge that this is a big decision. “Help me understand so that we can talk through kind of what's going on as far as what's holding you back from taking this action that you've told me is really important to you. And it's going to be impactful to the long-term success and confidence for your family and your financial life. So what's going on?”
How Shauna Pulls The Various Prospect Stages Together [37:22]
Michael: And so, how much do you, I guess, template, the supporting materials that go with this? You've talked about proposal, sample financial plan, talking through the logistics of what we do. Are these meant to be conversational? Are these things that should be documents? Should I have all of this templated out with a pitch book that shows all my stuff? How do you prescribe, actually, I guess like systematizing this or bringing it together?
Shauna: Yeah. So it's going to be a little different for everyone. So in the sales process builder worksheet, we have the sales stage names, and then the milestones. Like essentially, at what point does someone go from lead to prospect? Like, what are the things that we're trying to accomplish? And then the tactics and processes. So this is where you'd identify, what are the materials? And again, if it's more than just you, you're going to want your team to be on the same page as to what does process look like? How do we document it? What does follow-up look like? What materials are we using? So there is consistency amongst multiple advisors, that's really important. But ideally, what you're going to want to do is, in the beginning, some experimentation. Maybe you've been doing this, and you kind of have a sense of what's working at certain stages and other stages you're like, we're getting stuck here, we're getting stuck at kind of the second meeting, and we're not seeing them move on, or we're not getting from the first to the second meeting. So if there are things that are working for you, don't change those things. Keep them the way they are. If they're working don't change them.
For the areas that are not necessarily working, you're going to want to do some experimentation. And you'll figure out very quickly what works and what doesn't. But typically, for the lead stage, for example, you're going to want to have a follow-up process, you're going to want to have that be defined as to the cadence of follow-up. Ideally, you're having even sample emails that you can use and leverage if you're comfortable or you have a marketing automation system, you could automate that. But in the meantime, you can do that manually as well.
So again, I have a follow-up process that I share with people, and I again, I'm happy to share that as well as sample email templates with your listeners. But that's an example. You're going to want to have a follow-up email process. Like, at what point do you call someone to check in, if that's the appropriate next step? So that's one. And again, I would have those things created, so you don't have to think about it. Because then that takes more time and energy, and it's not fun.
When it comes to providing a sample, again, you know your clients and your ideal clients, I would have a few things in the queue of like these are the things that we generally use for follow-up. So to give you an example, my business, I have a sample growth plan. And that's something I use a lot with prospects because it covers like a large variety of needs. And all it does is really show like this is the level of detail, or this is the process in which we go through in order to get to the point where you actually have a plan. So, depending on your ideal client profile, you may be focused on business owners, you may be focused on physicians, pre-retirees, retirees. What is the one thing that your clients who meet that persona really value? I would be focusing there. And if you can create something that's generic enough that it can be reused in most situations, that's great, because then it gives you something that's really like kind of very flexible.
How (And How Often) Shauna Suggests Advisors Should Follow Up With Prospects [40:49]
Michael: And what is the suggested cadence? Or just how quickly or often do we follow up in pursuing this? Because this is an area, in particular, I think a lot of advisors get, again, just overly sensitive about are we being too salesy? Are we being too pushy?
Shauna: Yeah, and this is probably going to sound too salesy for a lot of people. And when they actually go through the samples communications they're like, “Okay, it's not so bad.” So for leads or someone who you consider a lead, so let's say they completed a form on your site, and they've reached out to you, they're a warm lead. Like, they have expressed some engagement and interest in your services. I recommend following up between five to seven times really over a month period. And that may sound like a lot, but the follow-up, it's not like intense follow-up. And along the way, you're adding value. So what that looks is, especially in the first couple of weeks, you should be reaching out at least twice a week. And again, you're probably hopefully getting some response back. You're not literally going to have to do seven follow-ups, hopefully.
But what that looks like as far as follow-up in a template could be, first you acknowledge, so the acronym for effective follow-up with AARP. So the first thing you do is Acknowledge why you're reaching out. “Thank you for reaching out via my website.” Ask. “I would love to learn more about you.” Ask about them. Make a Recommended next step. “Here's my calendar. Feel free to schedule a time so we can meet.” Really basic. If you have a calendar link, certainly use that. That's a lot easier than going back and forth. And then provide something of value, is P. And so if they downloaded a white paper on retirement, it may be, “Thank you for downloading the white paper on a successful retirement, I thought you may be interested in our retirement checklist.” Or it's just they went through a form, it could be as simple as, here's our most popular article on, or here's a list of frequently asked questions that we get from prospects. Something that's more generic. So AARP. Acknowledge, Ask, provide a Recommendation, and then Provide value. And if you do that, as long as you're continuing to provide value and you're not being obnoxious or pushy, people don't seem to mind the frequency.
Michael: So I get the initial response. Like someone submitted a thing through a website so reply like acknowledging that Shauna reached out, “Really appreciate that, would love to learn more about you. Here's a link to my calendar so we can connect. In the meantime, here's a retirement checklist you might be interested in.” Right. I hit my AARP.
So, okay, that's like the first follow-up. You said about five to seven. What comes next? Because I'm assuming I can't really use that script a second time. It's kind of weird the second time after I sent an email that says that the first time.
Shauna: It's not. I mean, don't think it is at least. So you reply to the email that you sent. And you said again, thank you again for reaching out. I would love to meet with you. It's very similar. And, of course, you change the language a little bit. So it's not exactly the same. But I would love to meet with you. Here's my calendar. And then provide something different as far as adding value. Maybe it's...
Michael: So you really do just still go down that step. Like, “I know you reached out a week and a half ago, we haven't been able to connect yet. But I'd still love to learn more about you. Here's my calendar link so that we can connect. And in the meantime, here's another checklist that you might find interesting.”
Shauna: Exactly. Now, third or fourth, I would check in and say, “I provided these things I just want to check in and see if these are of relevance. And if you do want to follow-up and have a conversation, do check-in. Like, do you want to do this or you want me to stop?” Give them the opportunity to stop. If they don't respond, I would send another one. And then another email that's kind of more generic, like the first couple. And then at that fifth email point, you can directly say, “I just want to check in with you. Would you prefer me to put you on our subscription list? Or do you want to connect?” You could be more direct in checking in with them. And the seven would be, if you had their phone number, you may try to call them.
Michael: Okay. And so the idea is I'm just going to do that five to seven times after they reach out until basically, they say yes, and we're meeting or they just say, “No, please stop contacting me.”
Shauna: Yeah, yeah. Or if they don't respond at all, you can, again, in one of your last emails, just say, “I haven't heard back from you. No problem. If it's okay with you, I'm going to put you on our newsletter, just to provide relevant insights around planning and investment topics,” or whatever you write about. Or if you do have anything like that. If you don't, then there's not much as far as follow-up you can do other than check with them maybe once a month. But if you do have some sort of drip tool in your toolkit, then certainly use that and just give them the opportunity to say no, but kind of make the assumption that they're okay with you adding them to the subscription list and add them to the list if they don't say no. If they say, “No, don't add me,” of course, you don't add them.
Michael: And then what about after I've gotten through the lead stage, we did the meeting, we got to follow-up, to prospect, I got to do my spiel. Here's what we do and the value we provide, and so forth. I find that the second biggest zone of death for a lot of advisors is, “I did my pitch, they said something in the effect of we've got to think about it. And now I'm back in, well, how much and how persistently do I follow up and what's too salesy and too pushy?” So how do you handle that zone? Like, after we did the second sales meeting, we did the prospect meeting, I made my pitch, they said, “We got to think about it.” And now I'm back in the follow-up purgatory again.
Shauna: Yeah. So ideally, you don't go in the purgatory. And the way you try not to do that is by, whether it's the first or second meeting with them, before you leave the meeting, you get the next meeting. So getting a read from them, like, hen would be a good time to check back in on this? In a week. Okay, great. So we're here, is there a time next week that would work for you?” Get that meeting then because you don't want to go back in that purgatory because that's not fun.
If you do go back in the purgatory and you do need to follow up to try to get a meeting with them. Typically, people are pretty responsive at that point, because they've engaged with you. But I would be following up once a week. And just checking in. I'm checking in on the proposal that we provided or I'm checking in on this conversation. “It was really great talking to you,” reiterating the value and the recommendation you made. “I really think that we can really help you through this transition. Let's schedule time to review what that looks like for you and to talk through more of the details of your situation.” Again, make it about them.
Michael: Okay, okay. And how long do I keep going after them if I'm not getting follow-up if I'm not getting results?
Shauna: Again, if it's a person you really want to work with, you don't stop. And I'm not saying every single week you email them. But you check in with them once a month. I would say the first month you're check in weekly, and then after that, it's once a month. If it's someone that you're like, I don't know that they're the best fit anyway, after a month, two maybe if you want to work with them to some extent. After that, you stop. And hopefully, they're on your nurture list, your newsletter. But at that point, it's your effort, it's your time and you need to stop.
Shauna’s Path Towards A Career As A Sales Process Consultant [48:22]
Michael: So then help us understand like, how did you come to just this path, this world of consulting with advisers on their sales processes and building coaching on sales processes? What was your background and journey in the industry? Because I think you'd said earlier on you didn't necessarily envision at this point you would be doing sales coaching and consulting for advisors. So where did it start for you?
Shauna: Yeah. So I graduated from Villanova with a political science degree. So very little to do with sales. And I actively remember when I was looking for my first job out of college, or when I was in college looking for my first job, you know how they have career fairs? I actively avoided any of the booths that would potentially be like a sales role.
Michael: Which pretty much crosses out most of the financial services jobs.
Shauna: Right. Well, so I ended up getting, it was a marketing role at a RIA firm that was based outside of Philadelphia, where Villanova is. And so I started at an RIA firm. They had about maybe $200 million in AUM, doing this marketing role, which again is (they weren't huge firm) very rare to have a dedicated person doing that sort of work. And over time, it evolved into much more than marketing. It was, obviously, [business] development. There was running the day-to-day at the office, HR, compliance, all the different things that need to be done outside of the investments and the planning. So I started at this firm, TGS Financial Advisors, and I was there for eight years. And I joke with people, I drank the RIA Kool-Aid. I loved it. I really, really loved it. And the people were great, they were exceptional planners, they did great work by their clients. And I ended up leaving TGS after eight years, really, because I really at that point in time wanted to grow and learn from other people to be a better marketer. Because you can only grow so much when you're in a firm of eight people, and you're the only one who does marketing.
So I left TGS and I joined Fs Investments. And FS Investments is an alternative asset manager in Philadelphia. And I joined the marketing team. And about nine months into the job. So the background is FS, when I joined was only selling their investment products to broker-dealer advisors. They were only on broker-dealer platforms. And when I first joined, I was like, “What did I do?” I was so far out of my comfort zone. And I was very, like, “Oh my god, what did I do?” But nine months in, they decided to diversify the business and build out an RIA-specific sales team. And having come from that world, they...
Michael: That turned out to be a very good positioning for you.
Shauna: Yeah. Oh, my God, it was amazing.
Michael: “As chance would have it. I've got some familiarity with this.”
Shauna: Right. And it's funny, they had no one else there. Not one other person at the firm had had experience in the channel. When I joined, I was employee, I think like 100 maybe. When I left 7 years later, there was 350 employees. So it was a very different company when I left. But when I joined, they had a lot of expertise in the broker-dealer world, at least in the sales and marketing side of the business. But nobody had any experience in the RIA space. And so they were, “Well, Shauna, can you help us build it out?” And I was like, “Yes, I can.” It was so much fun. I was myself and two other people.
And so I was in marketing. And I was helping to develop the marketing and the messaging and strategy and the content for that channel. But because it was just three of us, I ended up really doing much more than marketing. It was really a business strategy. It was sales. They didn't have a sales team for a while. It takes time to hire salespeople. So I was covering conferences. Like I was covering the NAPFA Conference, Schwab Conference, TD Conference. So I really had this kind of very odd experience of being put in the sales role that I didn't necessarily expect. But it was fun. I didn't not want to do it. It was a lot of fun. I learned along the way. It helped inform the marketing. Like, it was very productive for myself and for the business.
So, as they continued to grow, they ended up asking me to run the internal sales desk. So it ended up being right around, I think, eight internal salespeople. So they were in the office, and they were supporting external salespeople. And I was horrified, frankly, because I was like, “Wait, I'm not a sales manager. I don't know what I'm doing.” But they said, “No, you can do this. And we will train you. And you have support. And there's other sales managers that will help support you with the things that aren't comfortable.” I was really good at the business management, and territory management, and helping with pipelines, and managing the day-to-day, very good at the processes and supporting the internal and external salespeople or territories in how to develop business plans and execute on them.
What I had to learn, and luckily, they trained me, was on consultative sales. And so I was trained in consultative sales, they had an outside firm that did the training for them, and they were excellent. And I would do like call coaching every day. It was just a very different world. So I'm doing call coaching, I'm managing the sales desk, having never technically done direct sales, but it was like learning by fire. It was the best learning experience.
And then, a couple of years later, they asked me to run what they called their sales strategy and analytics team. And what that was, was essentially a sales enablement or sales operations team. So I just got this amazing education. And I learned, they were midsize, what these small to large asset managers are doing. How are they using data? How are they using analytics? What are best practices as far as incentivizing people around activity?
There was just so much that I learned. And I know there's this huge gap in the advisors' space, largely because there is this kind of negative connotation around sales. And I realized through my experience, it can be negative, and it can be pushy and forceful. And it also doesn't have to be. The most successful salespeople that I partnered with were exceptionally consultative. They had very deep relationships with the advisors that they served. Really great people. And that's really what I looked to bring to the advisor community are the mindsets, the processes, and some of the basics consultative skills that can enable you to just really amplify what you're doing in a way that's beneficial to not just your business but to your clients and the prospects that hopefully become clients.
The Biggest Gaps That Shauna Sees That Advisors Have Around Sales [55:14]
Michael: So as you're doing all of this sales, management and sales strategy and data around sales management and sales strategy, I'm just curious, what were the biggest gaps or differences you see between what an organization like that was doing, granted, with some size and scale and infrastructure, but what were the biggest gaps between what you saw in an organization like that doing when it came to sales and how advisory firms typically do this?
Shauna: Yeah, It's a great question. There are I would say, three big differences. One is that you have people in dedicated sales roles. So they already own, it's their responsibility to do sales. So they have defined roles. Versus, in many advisory firms, some have development roles, but most don't. And so it's like a shared responsibility across the organization, which is, frankly, fine, there's something wrong with that. But it's also easy to, if it is part of your job to help grow the business, but you also have clients to serve. And you also have other marketing to do. And whatever your other responsibilities are, which usually, advisors are wearing a lot of different hats. It's very easy to get busy. And it's very easy to focus on the areas that you're most comfortable in. And that you really just are the day-to-day. And so development tends to kind of take a backseat. So that's one is just like the mindset around I am doing this role, I'm dedicated to it versus it's a side hustle.
Two is process. Just the way that it is institutionalized at these larger organizations, there is so much process around it. And what I mean by that is the way they've built out their CRM, the data that they're capturing, the formality around what the sales process is, the attention to the data that goes in or is purchased in supporting the salesperson, the attention to how marketing is helping, and that collaboration between marketing and sales like connecting those two things together. There's just so much infrastructure there.
And again, for an advisory firm, you don't need all the bells and whistles by any stretch. But what I find is there are some basic processes that most advisors don't have. So, for example, sales process. Two-thirds of advisory firms, as reported in InvestmentNews Study, do not have a sales process, yet, they're spending 2% of revenue on marketing. So if you're putting money and effort into generating leads, why wouldn't you want to increase your chances of converting those leads to clients? And without process or without a game plan to do that, you're putting yourself in a tough position. And I hear that all the time. So process is certainly one gap that I see.
And then the last one I would say is just the commitment to developing the skill or acumen around sales. You don't need to be an expert in sales to be successful in selling or in influencing. There are some really basic skills. And it comes down to even the best salespeople do this. They practice it.
So, one of the things that I do with a lot of my clients is I literally practice having conversations. We practice what I call value messaging, or elevator pitch, whatever you want to call it. We actually practice saying it out loud. And it's uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier and easier with every rep. And the point is you want to be ready so that you don't feel uncomfortable and you're overthinking and you're nervous and you just start rambling. You want to be ready, and you want to be able to... It's really about having the confidence to not, again, oversell, and to be really consistent. And again, that's something that I see a lot of firms, especially with multiple advisors struggle with is just having this consistency around, what are we saying? How are we saying it?
Actually, I just was on a call with a prospect, a large firm, a prospect RIA. And there were five people on the call. They were all in senior leadership positions. They were the ones responsible for growth. And one of the guys on the call said, "Frankly, we just suck at sales.” And I'm like, "Yeah, but how does that work with your clients? Like, are you able to influence your clients to make good decisions around their money?" It's like, "Yeah. Well, it's different." I'm like, "No, it's not." Like, it's not different. But if you believe you suck at sales, and you're not willing to do the sales or have these conversations, you're not willing to practice, you're not willing to develop the skill a little bit, and you don't need to be an expert, then, yeah, you're going to suck at sales. But you don't actually suck at sales. Most of us are actually pretty okay at sales. It's just about mindset.
Michael: If you're persuading your clients to take your recommendations, you've been doing some selling.
Shauna: Right, exactly. But that value of the skill and the willingness to do some practice, again, we're all busy, I'm not saying people need to go out and train to become a salesperson. But if you have some value messaging, or if you're struggling with a part of the sales process or a certain type of meeting, practice it, roleplay it, it's going to get easier, that's how you get better. That's how it works in life with everything.
How Advisors Can Learn More About Developing Their Sales Skills [1:00:25]
Michael: So where does the typical advisor go to learn this or learn about this, given that we don't necessarily have the relationships for established sales trainers for everybody that comes through the way that sounds like FS did when you were going through this process?
Shauna: Yeah, I think, usually what happens, at least what I've seen in my experience is that you watch the more senior people in the firm, right? So other advisors learn from each other, they learn from the founder. Oftentimes what happens is it almost is like a black box. I remember that for a number of years at TGS, where it's like we'd get to the meeting and then like Jim or Dave, the guys who ran the business would go in the meeting, and then we'd come out and be like, “How did it go?”
And eventually, you'd be in the meeting, and you'd learn and you'd see how they did it. And that's kind of how you learn. It's very much like a mentorship almost. You learn from the people around you. They learned it probably the same way.
And so that's really how I see people learning in the industry. There certainly are some sales trainers out there. But I mostly see peer-to-peer learning happening today.
Michael: And so what do advisors do if they're you out on the road and not already in multi-advisor firms? I get it if you're in a firm with a bunch of advisors. It's like, go watch your senior advisors and sit it on them if you can. But what if you're not necessarily in that position? So many people get hired into the business and it's, "eat what you kill" and find your clients from day one. It's like we don't necessarily get that opportunity.
Shauna: Right, right. Yeah, certainly I know, a lot of advisors read different books, or there's different blogs they follow or people they follow. I provide sales tips weekly. I provide a short two to three-minute video on a specific sales skill. I think if you want to you go out and seek it. If your comfort level isn't there, you kind of struggle through it. You learn by your mistakes. And listen, some people are naturally good at doing this. They don't need me to tell them how to do it. And frankly, maybe this is not right to say, but what I found is that a lot of women naturally are consultative in these early meetings. Like, almost to a fault, they tend to be more consultative in their nature and can connect really quickly. Again, just an observation that I've had. But if you're a man or woman, and you're starting out and you don't have a support system around you, either, A, you learn from your mistakes, and it's painful. Or you are seeking information from books. If you search sales skills, you're going to find something. It may not be specific to the industry, but you're going to be able to at least understand some of the basics around sales.
So a lot of my clients are like, “I went and read these books, and I still need more help.” And we go from there. So the advisor growth community, there are these groups of advisors that are XY planning, like obviously, there are these industry groups that are great and that they're providing support for newer advisors or for advisors that may be on their own in order to help with this peer-to-peer sharing to create that environment that may not exist naturally for them.
Michael: Well, I guess I'm just wondering, you had mentioned books out there as well? Is there a particular book that you're a fan of that you think is a good anchor or a starting point for this?
Shauna: Yeah, so it's funny. I read this book early in my career. And you're going to probably laugh because everyone references this book. But it was so helpful in just the basics of emotional intelligence an getting to a win-win, which is, frankly, what good sales is. And it's Dale Carnegie's, "How to Win Friends and Influence People." So much of this is just connecting, listening, looking, and finding that win-win. And I think I tend to like more emotional intelligence resources. I think that's what consultative sales is largely, just continuing to improve your emotional intelligence.
Why Shauna Decided To Launch Her Own Business [1:04:23]
Michael: And so then what came next for you? You're not at FS anymore? So what came next?
Shauna: Yeah, so in April of 2020, so just over a year ago, I left FS and started a growth consulting and coaching firm, Inspire Growth. So I am one of those crazy people who in the beginning of a pandemic...
Michael: I was going to say that was quite some timing. April... So was that like the pandemic was breaking on and I said, “I want to do a shift,” or was this like it had been coming for many months of building up and you had your date set and then a pandemic broke out and it was like, “Oh, I guess I'm kind of committed now because I told them I'm leaving.”
Shauna: Yeah, exactly. It was the latter. Yeah, but at least I'm really grateful. So it had been a long time coming. Even when I left TGS, in the back of my mind, there was this voice that was like, you can do this for other advisors. But I was, how old was I then? I was much younger. My early-30's. So I just didn't feel ready. And I just thought, you know what? Let me get some more experience under my belt. And it had been literally on my mind for like, 10 years, like a long time to do this consulting work. And in December of 2019, it got real and the decision was made.
Now, it ended up being, frankly, I think, really great timing, which is very odd to say. If I had known the pandemic was happening, I would definitely not have made the leap. I would have found a way to like probably figure it out. And actually, there was a moment in time when I was going to be working as a contractor for FS in a pretty big way. And you got to trust your gut. And FS was great, and the people were great there. I just was like, “I f I don't do this, and I don't do it, 100%, then I think I'm going to regret it.” And I just really was like, “I just need to do this and see what happens. And if it doesn't work out, then I'll know at least and I'll move on from there.”
And I decided to just fully go out on my own. And I didn't have clients set up or anything. Frankly, for my type-A personality, it felt like a very big leap. And it was certainly a trying first few months of like, “Oh my god, what did I just do? That was not smart.” And it was very scary. But like anything, I just said, You know what? I have a plan. Literally, I had a game plan for every single day, I had to accomplish specific things. And that I focused day by day in the beginning, because that's about all I could focus on.
Michael: So what was the game plan? How did you structure that? Because I feel like there's a lot of parallels for almost anybody who takes a leap to launch an advisory business or any kind of thing where you're building from scratch?
Shauna: Yeah, that's a great point. When I do the work with clients, it's really about breaking down the big goal into very, very small, or even if you don't have the big goal, you don't even have clarity on that. You're just like, “I'm just not in the right place.” Breaking down to a day to day or week to week level, like, “What are the things I need to accomplish to feel like I'm making some progress?” Because that is like the mental piece of it. Like, developing the habits and the mindset and staying positive because it can be hard. Sometimes you just have to zoom way down to the details.
So what I did was my goal was to have one call a day that I thought in some way would help me either connect to the right people, or ideally, it would be some sort of potential opportunity. And so every single day I had one call. And I also took that time when I had more time where I wasn't as busy with client work to really start to generate content. So one of my plans or strategies was to start just to teach people, like, make accessible all of the knowledge that I had in a way relevant to financial advisors. And I started to write. And I didn't even realize this until I looked back in December. Over that, it wasn't even a year, it was like 9 months, I wrote 40 articles. You're a prolific writer. So you're like the gold standard. But for me, I wasn't doing that before. So it was a big deal.
So I wrote 40 articles. Every single article I wrote, my kind of stipulation was that I had to make it good enough and valuable enough that someone would pick it up, that wasn't just me. So I had to leverage other people's platforms where advisors were. So I have gotten so many leads from those articles. Now I'm doing video and some longer-form videos, some short videos, longer-form videos, podcasts. Obviously, I started to do a podcast. Like, I did a webinar. I really looked for opportunities to add value to other people in the industry in a complementary way.
So the two things were, every single day, I had to have some productive conversation, even if it wasn't productive, just a conversation with an outside person. And I would have certain people I would try to be essentially targeting that I thought I could add value to. It was all about how can I help you, and then figuring out how to really leverage different partnerships and platforms by adding value to either their listeners or their audience through articles, through content, through speaking, and that's where most of my leads have come from, which is kind of crazy. So I've probably gotten, I don't know, like warm, warm leads, like people that have reached out to me via my website, almost 70 people, over the past year, which is great. And most of them I have talked to and if it's the right situation, had a lot of success working with. So that was very, very successful was that content marketing strategy.
What Shauna Does For Her Clients [1:10:06]
Michael: So help us understand just what do you do at this point? Like what does Inspire Growth do? What do advisors hire you for?
Shauna: And I have to be honest, it's frankly evolving as I learn as I go. So what I do though, is I do one on one consulting. So that would be if an advisor has a specific growth goal, that could be AUM or revenue, that could not be it. It could be that I really want to grow with a specific type of client, or I really want to work less. And that's a goal too. If they have a specific goal in mind, then I go through a process with them and develop a plan together and support them in implementing the plan. And so that always starts with goals, their ideal client, who's going to help get them there, and the strengths or resources that they have.
Now, if someone comes to me and doesn't have a specific goal in mind, which happens a lot. Oftentimes, it could be like a solopreneur or someone... Essentially, they're like, I'm functioning in a vacuum. And I just need an outside perspective. It's almost like an advisor to an advisor. I work in a retainer capacity with those advisors in that we are spending time monthly together. We're organizing everything around a strategic planner. And so we're staying focused on very short-term goals.
And oftentimes out of the process, they gain clarity of like, “What do I really want?” And that's, frankly, one of the hardest parts of growth, I think is, what I see is oftentimes advisors get to a certain point of success, or maybe they're in a point where they're just frustrated, and they don't have clarity of what they want. And that can be incredibly demotivating and scary and doesn't feel good, especially if you consider yourself high-performing, or you've gotten yourself to this point where you've started the business, failure isn't an option. So what do I do? So, in that capacity, I also partner with advisors.
But if I do my job well, they don't need me forever. And I know that. And so I think...
Michael: Your assumption is if we work together and this goes well, then the relationship will come to an end. Because I've got you to a point where you're having more sales and business development success. I wish you well.
Shauna: Exactly. Yeah. Well, and of course, I want to check in and hear what's going on. And if they need updates, provide some updates to their plans, or their strategy. But ideally, yeah, we get the processes in place, the infrastructure in place for them to be doing this on their own, for their teams to be supporting them where they feel they're having success. And they feel like they're meeting their goals as far as growth. That's the goal. So a lot of the tangible work is around developing the processes and developing the skills. That's the work that people come to me for. But I think probably the most value is around the mindset work that we do as part of the process, which is more around helping them get to the point where they don't say, “I suck at sales, where they're proud to be, I'm good at development. Like, I got this.” To me, that's where you are successful when you are like, “I can do this. And even if I don't know how to do it, I'm going to find the person who can help me or I'm willing to learn. Like, I have an open mindset around sales and growth and the answers are out there. It's within me. Like, I have what I need. I'm not incomplete. I'm not missing something.”
That part is frankly, my favorite part of it is seeing the evolution of engagement and confidence and just joy around growing their business, which before was usually like, “Ugh, I have to do this development work. This is terrible.” Changing that script and changing that experience. Again, we all work a lot, right? So you might as well enjoy it. It shouldn't be painful. So that part of it is, I think, the most fun transformation that I see from my clients.
Michael: Well, I know you have this wonderful message on the homepage for your website that 80% of growth is the belief that it's possible. And I think it's just a really powerful statement for how many of us deep down are struggling to grow and don't really think we can and don't really think that's going to work and that, at some point, that becomes the self-fulfilling prophecy. And just if you believe it's going to work, you tend to approach it very differently. And often, that actually just ends up working better.
Shauna: Yes, oh, my God. Our subconscious drives 90% or more of our decision-making. If we fear growth, if we have fear around any of this, our brains are going to protect us, that's its job. And it can be incredibly powerful when you have clarity and belief and positive energy around what you do. One, it tends to be more fun. And two, you tend to have just better success.
The Most Common Gaps That Advisors Have In Their Business Development Process [1:14:57]
Michael: Right. So what do you find most advisors miss when it comes to the business development process? Like, what are the most common gaps you see where we're getting it wrong?
Shauna: Definitely the mindset thing around, the number of people that tell me, I'm a portfolio manager, or I'm a financial planner, I'm not a salesperson. Like that mindset shift is one big thing. If you can just start there, just start labeling yourself in a certain way. That's a big challenge, I think for a lot of people because if you can't envision yourself as being successful, you're not going to start doing it. So that's one. The second one I would say is just the defining process in your business. It's so powerful.
And again, you may not be the person to do it, and maybe that you have someone on your team who's more operationally focused who can do this work, I actually just spoke to a group HIFON, which is operation-focused community of RIAs. And I just talked to them about this, and like, “You are uniquely positioned to really help with development, even though you may not ever think of yourself in that way, just around your ability to develop and implement process.”
And part of process is obviously, buy-in, like you have to gain commitment across an organization to not just build the process, but use the process. And so, really, it is around just systematizing how you want people to feel and the experience that you're providing. And for a number of reasons that is helpful. One, it's good business. Two, it provides you with ways to automate and scale. So as you do grow, you get busy. And then once you get busy, you can't do the things that you need and want to do for your clients. But if you can develop processes, then you start to enable yourself to scale through leveraging people or technology.
So I would say, again, the two things, if I had to pick one it'd be mindset for sure. Around just like labeling yourself as ‘not good at sales’ or having a negative connotation with sales. Like, “Drop it because you're in it, whether you like it or not. So you might as well define it yourself and do the best you can.” And then two would be process.
Michael: And how do we reconcile just the process dynamic of what we do is customized and individualized for every client. That's still to me by far the number one reason why I hear most advisors talking about why they don't have more systematized process is because every client is different and unique, and our value is that we provide customized individualized advice for your unique circumstances. Like, how do you envision bridging the gap between individual clients with individual needs and the kind of process standardization that you're talking about?
Shauna: Well, I think there's kind of three major buckets. There's like the prospect. There's certainly process. If you're spending money on marketing, or if you want to grow, you, hopefully, are being intentional about how you're trying to do that. Whether it's through referrals, or content marketing, or social media, or paid advertising, or however you're doing it is fine. But if you're spending money, you should have a game plan for when you actually get a lead. Like that's one process. And we talked about sales process. Like the sales process is you should have a game plan, again, for when you get that lead, like how do you most successfully bring them to client? Can you change it? Absolutely. But you want to know where they are along the way? Because that's going to help give you important business information.
When it comes to serving clients, I would think about like, yes, absolutely. There are a lot of people out there who provide completely customized solutions for their clients. And that's totally fine. But at a minimum, if you say, which most advisors do say that they add value or they provide a high-level of service, well, you at least need to define what that means to you at a minimum level, and at least be meeting that.
Now, however, that means a certain amount of touches, or engagements, fine, but it doesn't need to be anything complex. But how do you know you're doing that well? I mean, I don't know. How do you know you're doing that well, if you say you're providing great service and you don't define what that means, I don't know how you're doing that well or not.
And then I would say the other processes are more around the business. So things like looking at important metrics, like business metrics, quarterly, or annually, or monthly, whatever cadence you want. There's value to understanding the health of your business via specific metrics or KPIs in your organization. Like that's just being a responsible business owner.
Other processes would be around things management of your people. Like, I mean, you can just free-for-all, and that's fine. But if you want to get the most out of people, we know that people need the ability to develop, they need to feel valued, they need to understand what's going on. So again, that's a process. Do you do weekly meeting team meetings? Do you do performance reviews? When do you get feedback? Again, the processes is just the ideal. And it gives you at least the baseline in order to like, “Okay, I need you to meet this expectation. If I go above it, great.” But it kind of holds you accountable to at least be performing at a certain level.
Key Performance Indicators For Advisor Business Development And Sales And Key Lessons Shauna Has Learned As She Started Her Business [1:20:16]
Michael: And when it comes to the sales and business development, in particular, are there specific KPIs that you like to track and look at and focus on?
Shauna: Yeah, definitely. Again, I like to keep it simple. If you're doing marketing, I think it's important to be focusing on how is that working. And I would be looking at the number of qualified leads. And qualified meeting or quality leads is maybe the right way to say it. So there's many attributes to a lead, like not all leads are the same. So you need to be clear about what am I trying to accomplish as far as generating leads? And what am I actually accomplishing? So, I would be looking at the number of leads, and then depending on the other attributes of the lead that matter to you, there's five, in my perspective, at least, it's quality, quantity, warmth, your ability to kind of control like the volume of leads. You got to figure out what matters to you and how close you're coming to that based on what you're doing. Like, is there ROI there? So I would start with just the number of leads is one important one. Your conversion rate. So lead- to- client is another important one that I would be looking at.
Michael: And what do you shoot for or what do you consider to be a viable conversion rate?
Shauna: I can tell you the stats around it. It's tough to answer because your lead- to- client is going to depend on the warmth of your lead. So, someone who comes in as a referral is much more likely to convert as a client than someone who fills out a form on your website. That's just the nature of leads. There's different kinds of warmth. But according to industry research, lead- to- client. So again, lead being someone who comes in, say, through your marketing efforts, the average conversion rate is 46%. Once you get that meeting and you consider them an actual prospect, you actually engage with them and they're qualified, that jumps up to 78%. In general, if someone's actually meeting with me, if I'm working with an advisor, and they have someone meeting with them, we assume 75% close rate.
Now, I always ask, I'm like, “Historically, does that feel right?” In some people it's lower, in some people it's higher.
Michael: So, what surprised you the most about trying to build your own consulting business? As you have to now create all these marketing and sales and business development processes for yourself?
Shauna: Yeah, yeah, it's interesting. What surprised me the most was just kind of the level of learning. My perspective today is so different than my perspective a year ago. I'm the type of person who creates plans for people, right? Just financial plans advisors create for their clients. You need to be flexible. Like, you need to allow yourself to change the plan if needed and be constantly learning along the way and realize that what you think might be a great idea, and you start on today, might not really work. And that's okay. So just the kind of amount of learning has been crazy and exponential. And just really, in the short- term, I need to focus on the things that really matter. So like, be open to being flexible and continuing to evolve, but also being disciplined enough to have a game plan that you're actually consistently executing on in the short term.
Michael: And just what was it about the perspective that's so different now from where you were a year ago?
Shauna: Well, just like anyone who started a business, you learn what you really like, what you really don't like, what you're really good at, what you're really not. Until you're in it, you think you know, and then you go through it and you're like, “Oh yeah, I would do that differently.” Or like, for me, I really shied away from some of the softer stuff in the beginning, like the mindset and the energy and more of the coaching side, because I felt like that wasn't valuable enough. Like that's not what people wanted. So that's not what I'm going to focus on. And as I continue to work with clients, and I see the results, and I see the impact, and I talk to more and more advisors and partners, like that's the stuff that everyone's struggling with. And that's the stuff that really moves the needle. And it's just a matter of kind of gaining the confidence to be more explicit and gaining the skills too. Like, I've done a number of coaching trainings over the last year, and I've gotten better at it. I do a lot of reading around it. So I've certainly gotten better, but gaining the confidence to have the conversations that I want to have that are typically the ones that are more impactful. I just didn't have the confidence in the beginning to do that.
The Low Point On Shauna’s Journey And What Success Means To Her [1:24:44]
Michael: So what's been the low point for you on this journey?
Shauna: Oh, God. The low point I think is, frankly, it's kind of a little bit constant in that I feel like I'm never successful enough. I mean, it's really hard to be looking on social media and be talking to my peers. And you hear a lot of success, you tend to, again, iceberg of illusion, you're hearing all this successful stuff. It's hard to kind of continue to maintain the energy.
Michael: You see everybody else's successful stuff on social media and not all the horrible stuff that was happening behind the scenes over the past three weeks that got to the point where the thing finally worked out okay and they tweeted out the good news and not the three weeks of pain.
Shauna: Right. Exactly. Yeah. And so, for me, it's a constant practice of... Like, I'm part of a group coaching program, I journal, I work out. Like I do a lot of self-care things to keep my energy up. And I know when I am feeling down, I'm really digging into it. So I have to say it's not there's been a specific low point. Well, I shouldn't say that. I would say the first three months I was like, “Oh my god, what did I just do with COVID?” That was scary. But at that point, what are you going to do? I survived.
So the advice I would give for younger or newer advisors, first, it would be to not try to do it alone. So make sure that you have the support that you need. And whether that's peers, other advisors, whether that's a coach, definitely trying to force it is hard. Even as someone who is a subject matter expert in certain areas, like high- performance and sales, like, it's still hard. There are still times when I fail and I don't do well in those specific areas. And I'm like, Oh, my God. And the best thing that I've found and the quickest way to get through those things is to not try to figure it out on your own but to ask for help. So instead of how, it's who can help me. I would definitely be focused on who can I get help for instead of trying to figure it all out on your own.
And the other thing would be, just, don't be afraid to fail. Like, experiment. There's endless opportunity out there. It's not like you have limited chances to grow your business, to serve your client. Like, if you're a good person and you're doing the right thing, you're going to get more opportunity. Have that abundance mindset of like, “I'm going to fail, it's going to be okay, the sun will still come up. But I got to try. I got to experiment. I got to do these things in order to grow.” So definitely, don't do it alone. And don't be afraid to fail.
Michael: So, as we wrap up, this is a podcast around success. And one of the themes always that comes up is, just the word success means very different things to different people. And so you're off on this great path for success with the new consulting firm and leads and opportunities coming in and it's growing. But how do you define success for yourself?
Shauna: So, professionally, success is really redefining sales in the industry. I would love to help people turn the switch in themselves, like get confident, like, “I got this. I can do this development work, no problem.” So it's really about impact. It's really around educating and having impact in the industry. And actually, personally, I really believe in having specific goals to work towards. So like today, one of my specific goals is I want to win a tennis match on this new tennis team I'm playing. So that's like the very specific goal of success in the short term is I want to get much better at tennis than I am today, and I'd be really proud of that accomplishment. And then learning to serve is probably the next one.
Michael: Very cool. And so is there a master-level goal or are you just like, set one every month or every year and pick a new personal goal every year?
Shauna: Yeah, I have some big ones too. We actually have a board in our kitchen. And we all have aspirational experiences or goals that we put on a board. And when we actually accomplish them, we move them down, which is pretty cool to see everything you accomplish.
So yeah, I have many, but one master-level level goal is to do a TED talk and to write a book.
Michael: And these are all up on the board to move down?
Shauna: Yeah, exactly. And I think it's important. I want my kids to see the short-term stuff and the bigger stuff too. And they can change. That's okay. But yeah, they're on the board. And the kids have them too. Theirs are a little different. But they're still pretty cool to see them setting those goals at this age.
Michael: Very cool. Very cool. Well, thank you, Shauna, for joining us on the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.