Editor’s note: In this edition of What’s Working Now, an AdvisorRADIO feature in which Horsesmouth members tell us about recent success they have had running and growing their businesses, we hear from advisor Whayne Porter, who firmly commits himself to talking to at least two new people every day. The following article features edited excerpts of Whayne’s comments, and you can listen to the full interview by clicking the audiofile below.
Years in business:37
Firm:Kentucky Planning Partners
What’s working now: Talking to two new people every day and telling his story
The power of paying attention
When I was growing up, my mom had a trust officer who would come to our house—this was in the 60s—and I remember sitting on the living room floor playing with my slot car. The trust officer sat down on the floor with me and ran a few laps. About a week later I got a gift from him, a brand new 1964 Cox cheetah slot car, one of the best. Later, he gave me a framed certificate of one share of Aurora Plastics, who made AFX slot cars.
That sensitivity and interest in me went a long way. Fast forward to 1981, and I’m graduating from the University of Louisville with a degree in economics. I was waiting to start law school in August, but some friends encouraged me to look at investments instead. So I called up seven firms, and all of them told me they wouldn’t hire me because they were taking existing producers, paying them upfront money and hitting the street.
But I went to them and said, “If you were walking down the street and you had a pocket full of diamonds and you saw a flawless one-karat diamond in the gutter, would you step over it and keep walking because you already had a pocket full of diamonds? Or would you stoop down and pick it up?” And that shtick got me an interview and then a job offer with every firm but one. It’s a story, a story that got me a job. And I consider it getting a job every day when I prospect.
Finding commonality through stories
I’ve always liked stories that help the prospect envision what it will be like working with me. A while ago, I read Believe Me: A Storytelling Manifesto for Change-Makers and Innovators by Michael Margolis, and it really connected with me. He says, “Only when people can locate themselves inside the story, will they truly belong and participate in your narrative.”
Eventually I left the big firms and moved to Kentucky Planning Partners, which is a hybrid RIA. The compensation models really annoyed me, plus I have fewer restrictions on social media and other marketing. My business is 95% advisory. I’m doing well, but I believe in the adage, “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” That’s why I continue to prospect and cold call.
I started out with the typical cold call training, but nobody had ever heard of my firm, Stifel Nicolaus. So I took the seminar route, one seminar a month. I still have clients from those days. A branch manager once gave me an article called, “Successful People Do the Things That Non-Successful People Don’t.” It’s true. 20% of advisors are producing 80% of the money and they’re doing it by doing the things that the other advisors aren’t. They’re communicating to clients and prospects. Change is opportunity.
Nothing to fear
One example of that is technology, which the big firms seem so scared of. We like to go after people with potential, and that means people who can grow their net worth not only through our involvement as financial planners and coaches but also through their professional progression. That’s why, when I call a prospect, I make a cold one warm. Facebook and LinkedIn are gold mines when it comes to prospecting. You have to embrace technology. It’s not the enemy. Advisors have to be adaptable. Yes, we have technological change, but that just means we have to remind people how human advisors are.
Recently, one of my team members dressed up as Uncle Sam for the Fourth of July. I took a picture and showed it to a new client last week. It endeared me to her. It showed that we aren’t robos, we’re people. I was at a seminar many years ago where the presenter told us to ask clients, “What does money mean to you?” They usually answer something about putting kids through school, paying off mortgages, and saving for retirement. Those answers are poignant, and when you help them achieve those goals it creates relationships and stories. Two weeks ago I gave a client a ride home from the hospital because his wife had just been admitted. It was important as a human—we’re in the business to help people.
Making it second-nature
I have next to my bed a three by five card that says, “Talk to two new people a day.” I also have it on a card in my pocket. I got the idea from a consultant I worked with a while back. The card in my pocket is folded up until it’s only about an inch, then there’s a paperclip on it. Every time I reach into my pocket I feel it and immediately think of what I wrote down to accomplish. Plus I see it every time I go to bed and when I wake. A habit is made or broken in 21 days. By incorporating this into my psyche, when I walk in the door in the morning, I’ve already prepared to call two people the next day.
When I call those two people, I will be prepared. I have my staff look through newspapers, business publications, Facebook, and LinkedIn so that I can learn things about my prospects. Once I saw someone pull into Costco in a Ferrari. I have a nice car too, and we got to talking cars. At the time I could do 1031 exchanges, which it turned out his Ferrari didn’t qualify for, but he had two other cars and eventually became a client. It was a cold call prospect in a way, but I used a warm hook to draw him into conversation.
It’s all about finding your hobbies or interests and following the people there who have money. I like radio controlled airplanes. I’m not going to get a 10 million dollar account from people flying model airplanes, but I imagine there’s a bunch of people with 10 million in assets who have their own planes, and we could find something to talk about. You hang out where the money is. When I first heard that I thought, “how fake.” But now I find people’s passions and go after it—history, coins, scuba diving, whatever.
Tried and true
We hold a client seminar every quarter and ask clients, “Who do you know that could benefit from listening to—for example—the new changes in the tax law?” Not, “Do you know anybody?” That gives an immediate way out for them to deny knowing anyone who might be interested. But if you ask “Who?” they think of someone.
Other times I find someone but they’ve never heard of me. I tell them, “I noticed you in Business First and I know you’re a person of note. I would love to sit down with you over lunch and I’d like to hear your story. And I’d like to share mine. And I’d like to learn of your successes, and most importantly the lessons that you learned in achieving your successes.” How many advisors actually call somebody up like that?
I once had a professor who came into our class and told the students, “You all think you’re special. But you’re not. Anything that you’ve done, or anything that you will think of has been done or thought of before.” I recently met with the president of the university, who asked me what I’d gotten out of my education. That professor immediately came to mind. Advisors talk about “what’s working now,” but don’t reinvent the wheel. Do what works.
A word of advice
The first thing is to identify who you are—you as a person and as an advisor. Because if you’re going to tell your story, you’ve got to have a story that’s close to the heart, one that’s true. Prospects can feel sincerity.
The next thing is to identify who you want to work with. We all hit plateaus, wherever that level might be. To overcome those, we have to go back to basics and identify our target markets. Who do we like working with the most?
Let’s say professors. My team scans publications looking for people we want to target. Let’s say we see an article about a Yale professor. I’ll take his name and go to Facebook, LinkedIn. We go to the Yale directory to see what he’s published, trying to find a common thread of interest. And my niece graduated Yale law school, maybe she had him as a professor.
I’m developing a story, a campaign. If you think you’re just going to cold call willy nilly, anybody is a qualified prospect, then yeah, you’re going to get burned out. But if you target your prospecting, you’re going to have fun because you’ve selected a group—be it business owners, doctors, engineers—that you feel comfortable with and can talk their language.
There’s got to be commonality between you. I have clients who have been with me 36 years, and they’re not just clients, they’re family.