Finessing Financial Presentations

Superstar rocker Rod Stewart said it best when he belted out Every Picture Tells a Story. That song could have been titled: Every Number Tells a Story because financial presentations aren’t much different. If you want audiences to hear what you have to say, showing a bunch of graphs and balance sheets simply won’t cut … Continue reading “Finessing Financial Presentations”

Superstar rocker Rod Stewart said it best when he belted out Every Picture Tells a Story. That song could have been titled: Every Number Tells a Story because financial presentations aren’t much different. If you want audiences to hear what you have to say, showing a bunch of graphs and balance sheets simply won’t cut it. Numbers, like pictures need to create a compelling story that draws listeners in and helps them understand what those numbers mean to them.

By learning to whittle your words into a few key ideas that suggest you understand their dilemma and are capable of solving their problems, you have a much greater chance of making them care. If they care, they’ll listen.

Think back on some of the presentations you’ve sat or should I risk saying— slept through, do you remember numbers the speaker spouted? For example, do you know that 40 million Americans are currently on food stamps? Maybe not. But you might recall that enrollment has set a record every month since 2008.

When put in perspective, numbers can drive points home. Consider a doctor trying to educate an audience about recognizing the symptoms of heart disease. If she said more than a million people suffer heart attacks every year and nearly half will die, you clearly understand the importance. However if she said: “We could be talking about your mother, father, and spouse or loved one which is why it is so important for you to recognize the warning signs of heart disease so the people you love can be with you for a long time”, those same numbers would be even more meaningful.

As a communicator, your job is to help people make sense of information so they understand what it means to them. By following these quick tips, you will help the numbers tell the story.

1. LESS IS MORE The more points you try to cover, the more you will dilute your message. Highlight three or four important issues and offer examples, stories and anecdotes to drive the points home.

2. ONE MINUTE WINDOW If you can’t articulate what’s in it for them and why they should care in the first minute, you risk tuning them out. For example, if you are talking about technology, do they really care the mechanisms that make the product work? Or would they rather know how the features can save time and money?

3. SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS Financial audiences love profit and loss statements but balance sheets alone won’t tell your story. Only you can do that. Help your listener understand how you will address their problems, market ideas, meet current challenges and make money.

4. SHOW AND TELL Serious doesn’t have to mean boring. Instead of scanning data onto a slide, use charts, models, graphs and pictures to bring your story to life. Share the important details but save the fine points for the handouts. Remember, no one came to see a slide show.

5. MOCK Q AND A Conduct your own mock question and answer session in advance. By thinking through potential questions and answers, you will be better prepared and minimize surprises. You can also practice marrying messages into your answers.

6. SAY IT OUT LOUD By rehearsing out-loud, you will internalize information, making it easier to recite and recall. You’ll also develop pace and rhythm helping you sound more polished, confident and assured.

7. DON’T WING IT No matter how good you think you are, people who “wing it” are setting themselves up to fail. The better you prepare, the easier it will be to stay focused, give meaning to your words and handle interruptions or unwanted questions.

Like all effective business communications, financial presentations should be interactive. That means encouraging thinking by posing thought provoking questions, providing examples and pausing to give people a moment to digest key facts. Finally, even if what you have to say makes them feel frustrated or disappointed, that’s okay. As long as they feel something, they’re listening.

Financial Adviser Marketing – How LL Bean Eliminated Marketing Barriers

What are the marketing barriers that keep you from reaching your vision for your financial advisory practice?

Maybe you’ve been in practice for 10 years, or more, and you’ve reached a plateau. No matter what you try you stay stuck at the same level.

Perhaps, you are in your first years in practice and you seem to be floundering. You don’t see a clear path to building your practice. Or, possibly, you are committed to marketing, but you find yourself spinning your wheels.

If anyone had barriers to business success, it was L.L. Bean. Yet he became wealthy and made his heirs rich.

L.L. Bean’s Unlikely Beginning

In “L.L. Bean: The Making of an American Icon” (from Harvard Business School) Leon Gorman, L.L. Bean’s grandson, tells us about this unlikely beginning.

As a child L.L. Bean had few advantages because he was orphaned at 12 and left school after the eighth grade. And in L.L. Bean’s telling, nothing happened before he was 40, in 1912, when he invented a better hunting boot. He loved it! In his excitement he wanted everyone to own one.

So he borrowed $400 from his brother to print a 3-page catalog. That sold 100 pairs of boots. But when 90 of the first 100 sold were returned because they fell apart, he refunded the frustrated hunters’ money.

That could have been the end, but wasn’t. He was encouraged by the 100 pairs of boots he did sell — and his brother must have been, too, because he lent L.L. $400 more to build a better boot.

That $800 founded a company that reached $1,000,000 in sales in 1937 during the depression, and it prospers today.

4 Paths Around Barriers

The L.L. Bean story shows financial advisors 4 marketing paths around obstacles and barriers. Warning: They may sound plain and simple, but they helped to catapult L.L. Bean from a daunting beginning in 1912 to the in-a-class-by-itself business it is today. And they work best if you follow all 4 paths.

Path #1 – Build On A Base Of Quality

L.L. Bean learned his lesson from the shoddy boots. After that fiasco he vowed “to sell fully-tested, high-quality products of best functional value.”

Quality is vital for Financial Advisors, too. Be certain the products and services you provide (and those your associates provide) are first rate even if it demands extra effort on your part.

Path #2 – Call On Your Passion And Vision

L.L. Bean’s passion was Maine’s outdoors. His vision was for everyone to experience the joy he knew. Simply, he shared his happiness with prospects and customers.

There are many ways to develop your financial advisory practice. L.L. Bean’s lesson is to create yours around work you truly care about. That means to have a vision. Then, keep in front of you the picture of how your work enriches your clients’ lives.

Path #3 – Be Your Unique Self

According to firsthand accounts L.L. was buoyant, energetic, and excited about the outdoors and products that could enhance his customers’ joy in the outdoors. It was said, “All he really had to do was be himself and his customers became fans.”

Often, financial advisors hide behind a barrier of so-called “professionalism.”

Instead, come to grips with your uniqueness as an individual. No one can bring to your prospects and clients your particular fusion of talents and strengths, your special outlook, and the just plain living that’s yours alone.

Lesson #4: Live By Your Story

The quirky retail store in Freeport, Maine, the products sold, and the words in the catalog all told a single story.

When you bought from L.L. Bean, you felt that you were buying his personal judgment. An article in the “The Saturday Evening Post” had this explanation: “L.L. sells only what he likes and likes everything he sells, and wants everyone to know it.”

Publicity: The Right Way for Marketing-Minded Financial Planners to Follow Up with a Reporter

Let’s say you’ve called a reporter with some ideas for stories about financial planning, and they seemed interested. Congratulations! First, pat yourself on the back. It takes intelligence and gumption to come up with ideas that reporters like.

Next, consider how you are going to follow up. Reporters are usually working on several stories at once, and unless they are coming to meet you today, there’s still a considerable chance that it will fall through the cracks. You need to try, without being annoying, to keep that story at the front of their mind.

If your call went great and the reporter’s interested – tell her you’ll send something by fax or email to summarize what you discussed. Whether you send a fax or email, keep it brief and on point. Don’t use it to raise new topics – close one deal first!

After you’ve had a good call, or sent something to a reporter, follow up about a week later. If you get no response, assume the idea’s either dead or filed for later consideration. No amount of follow-up calls is likely to change this cold truth – and it will actually lower your stock. Don’t be viewed as pestering – if the initial idea doesn’t fly, wait a while, then float a new one.

3 Sad Truths of Why Minorities Struggle Financially

When I finally had my first full-time job at 17 years old, I wondered why I later found myself a few years later in my early twenties, broke and struggling to make ends meet. After all, making more money while getting promoted up the “food chain” would solve my problems right?

Why did I shortly find myself living paycheck to paycheck. Chances are… it had to do with my upbringing and ethnic culture.

Does it really matter if you are a minority in the US as it relates to your level of financial literacy and ability to make money smart decisions? Does being raised on the “other side of the tracks”, factually matter?

According to several reports it absolutely does.

1) Lack of Financial Education and Awareness

Back in the late 90s, I was in the middle of my second enlistment serving on active duty in the United States Marine Corps. Coming back from a counter-drug deployment in the Bahamas, I walked into my home located in military housing on Marine Corps Air Station El Toro to a stack of credit card bills. Oh joy.

My wife at the time had charged up over $15,000 between 3 credit cards. As a Corporal, this was close to one year’s worth of annual salary. Needless to say, this was a major area of arguments between us which eventually led to our divorce and two years of child custody battles. (Inside military joke, but not really, is that you can’t leave active duty without getting married, have a kid… then get a divorce. Ask around, it’s sadly true.)

What was my attempt to get financial help? I would ask fellow Marines, senior leaders who happened to be Black and Hispanic, just to discover they too faced the same financial difficulties just on different levels. Bottom line, they had no answer. It was the blind leading the blind.

I learned my first rule in personal finance… stop asking for financial help from your broke friends (and even family).

Had it not been for retired Master Sergeant Carleton Enloe, who I happened to meet in a bathroom of a Best Buy in Laguna Hills (don’t laugh), I would have never started a journey on learning how to win the money game. He worked at a financial firm that opened my eyes and took me under his wing.

My solution beforehand to get out of a financial pit was just to find ways to make more money out in town, off-duty, as a Jiffy Lube hood technician and bartender at the Officer’s Club on base.

When I share this story at financial conferences and even our weekly financial workshops, I find that this scenario hits most everyone in the room… even non-minority caucasians who also where raised on the same side of the tracks I was.

2) Underserved, Abandoned and Biased by Financial Services Industry

The fact is, if you are Black and Hispanic, you are deeply underserved by the financial services industry. Most financial firms will not even extend a conversation to help a potential client unless you have at least $250,000 of liquid investable assets or lacking the one-time planning fee of $500 (some as high as $5,000) to pay a Certified Financial Planner/ Investment Advisor just to tell you that you… “you’re broke!”

I spoke at a Women Diversity Conference and I be-friended a financial planner who was the ONLY Black financial professional in the ENTIRE state of Illinois for their national firm. And yet, her office was in the suburbs… no where close to the city.

Think you can find a minority financial professional that you can relate with and understand your cultural struggle and desire to get out of the financial rat race? They are not very common. The American Council of Insurers expose a significant gap in pass rates just for minorities passing a simple life insurance exam as an entry point to the financial services industry

3) Upbringing and Cultural Financial Ignorance

Does it have to do with cultural trends and parental upbringing to handling your personal finances? Comedian Kevin Hart threw out credit score jokes towards dark-skinned women, which he later apologized for, relating to a commonality of poor credit.

Sure, it’s comedy, but could it possibly be true? When was the last memory of your parents teaching you the value of credit and how to build your credit score over the kitchen table?

You know the answer.

Just like me, you’ve had past experiences holding your breath while eating out with friends hoping the server doesn’t come back asking for another form of payment.

Over the past two years, I’ve taken pride in helping build a financial movement where we’ve recruited and trained a new breed of financial professionals entering the money business.

The level of connection with our audience, relating to their financial struggles and finding solutions to transform their financial lives have been nothing less than transformational.

We’re helping close the considerable gap of minorities making $100,000 per year, where today, less than 5.9% of six-figure income earners are Asian, 5.6% are Hispanic and 5.5% are Black. (Source: Wikipedia.com)

Of the 43 financial professionals I have mentored as a marketing consultant and trainer, 35 are either Black, Hispanic or Asian. 8 are bi-racial couples raising bi-racial children. Already, we have a six-figure earner who is a Hispanic woman and a retired-Filipino nurse who cash flowed over $13k last month.

My advice? Continue to love on your friends and family but unfortunately, facts point that they are not the ones to help you lead a path towards financial freedom.

From what you learn about money, bring that back to your community and be that change-agent within your family… regardless of their negative opinions towards you. Stand strong, stand firm, stay focused, stay disciplined.

Reach out, seek and earn the mentorship and association of people who want to have more, be more and willing to DO more. Look past the color of their skin. After all, money has one color and desires to hang out with those who know how to take care of it.

How Will the Big Three American Car Manufacturers’ Financial Trouble Affect Used Car Prices?

One of the biggest stories in financial news today is the trouble being experienced by our American car companies. GM, Ford, and Chrysler are all at all time lows as far as stock prices go and the fear had by many is can the big three survive this crisis?

Answers to this question are up for discussion and only time will tell how the situation is going to pan out. One topic related to the hard times of the big three is the present and future of used car prices of vehicles from these manufacturers.

When it comes to buying a used vehicle of any vintage having the support of the manufacturer can be a major bonus so what is one to do if any of these companies bite the big one? Also will it affect the availability of parts and other services?

The answers can not always be clear, but in my opinion those who are worried about whether they made the right choice of buying a used vehicle from the big three can rest easy. Parts availability from car companies current and non-existing can depend on the popularity of the model in question. I wouldn’t worry about all of a sudden not being to find an LS1 engine as re-manufacturers and third party companies are always there to keep the makes and models alive. Currently you can still buy parts easily for a wide variety of vehicles no longer in production and even from makes that have not even existed for years so i would be quick to think that any vehicle currently on the market would be in any type of jeopardy.

The Big Three could be in store for some major re-adjustments and we will all just have to wait and see how this situation pans out but as far as prices of used cars and parts from the big three I personally do not see any reason why the vehicles would see any spike or fall in pricing that is directly related to the finances of the manufacturer.