Ask any successful advisor about the steps he took to the top, and stay there, and his responses likely would include factors like willingness to work hard, success in identifying and effectively serving niche markets, putting the needs of clients above your own, and building long-lasting relationships with community leaders and members.
In a recent interview, InsuranceNewsNet asked Brian Haney to share some of the reasons for his success as a financial advisor. A 17-year veteran of the financial-services industry, Haney is Founder and President of The Haney Company.
He is also a past recipient of NAIFA’s Advisor Today’s Four Under Forty Award and was NAIFA’s 2021 Young Advisor Team Leader of the Year.
The key elements of Haney’s sustained growth and success boil down to some fairly basic practice components, he told us.
• Develop, refine, and master your process. “We take a consistent approach with every prospect and client, one we know works, and one that we constantly examine and refine to make the experience of our firm better, while reinforcing our value proposition and brand,” Haney said. “Developing a prolific process not only helped me stand out as a professional, because I did not approach business or sound like other professionals, but helped me manage each opportunity strategically to know where I was, where I had gone off track, and lead to a 70% close ratio in my first year and only rose thereafter.”
• Recognize what your job truly is. Haney said that it was important for him to recognize and remember what he was doing for people professionally. “My job was not to be the best dressed, most likeable, most knowledgeable financial professional…my job was simple: ask the right questions,” he added. Empower clients towards financial change and simply help them make the decisions they already want to make, but just don’t know how, he said.
• Build brand ambassadors. One thing Haney said the industry has missed is that it teaches professionals “how to generate referrals” but does not really help practitioners be referrable and build a standout brand.
His practice, Haney added, has been fortunate to have built a lot of relational equity in its key markets. “We are a known commodity, highly respected experts, and we have made it easy to refer people to us. If you want growth that’s sustainable, you need to develop a team of true ambassadors, not just develop the habit of asking for referrals.”
A brand ambassador can be a client who is a raving fan, or a center of influence that your firm has helped and supported, but what a brand ambassador does for you, Haney explained, goes beyond just sending you referrals. “They become part of your marketing department by telling your story in their sphere of influence,” he said.
• Systematize as much as possible. In this digital world, Haney said, the more things you can do to optimize your time, the better. “We constantly look at how we develop business and what goes on “behind the scenes,” he said, “to identify ways to improve processes, leverage technology, and generally make our practice run more efficiently.”
• Build and promote a well-defined brand. Many practitioners can start, grow, and even enjoy decent success off pure effort, great sales tactics, and by being a constant business/lead-development machine, Haney added. But along the way, those practices can, and eventually do suffer if the brand is not sufficiently well-defined, or the “buyer persona” of the ideal target client is not constantly driving the growth and marketing efforts.
“You can plateau, burn out, or just end up with too many B and C clients and too few A clients,” Haney said. While his company has been fortunate to sustain year-over-year growth for the better part of a decade, it has spent more time looking at the details behind that growth and asking itself: “Are we still doing the best job of telling our story?” and “Are we communicating that story to the right audience?”
Haney’s firm also subscribes to this truth: “We aren’t right for everybody, but we are really perfect for certain people!”
As a result, he added, the company wants its efforts to be narrowly focused on targeting those key prospects, making sure their centers of influence and referral partners know their ideal clients (and also those who are not good referrals), and communicating the company’s brand message to that audience across the mediums in which they operate.
Ayo Mseka has more than 30 years of experience reporting on the financial-services industry. She formerly served as Editor-In-Chief of NAIFA’s Advisor Today magazine. Contact her at [email protected].