Productivity and Technology for Financial Advisors:
In this episode, productivity and technology guru Tammy Hawkins will discuss how advisors can lead more efficient, less stressed, and happier lives by embracing systems and processes through technology for financial advisors. We’ll review:
- The top technologies for financial advisors
- How advisors can approach new technologies and systems to be successful
- The three secrets to being productive and efficient
- The one productivity rule that will change your life
- How to stress less and get more done
- How to improve client service by embracing technology
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On the Financial Advisor Podcast, special guests and top advisors will join us to give you real-life examples of what’s really working for them. New episodes will be published weekly with various guests, including top advisors, tech consultants, and marketing machines who are excited to tell you how to use proven marketing strategies to grow a thriving practice.
If you’d like any resources from today’s episode or from other episodes, go to IndigoMarketingAgency.com/remember. It’s hard to forget that address, IndigoMarketingAgency.com/remember.
Today I’m really excited to welcome Tammy Hawkins to the show. Tammy is a little bit different than some of our other guest experts in that she is a productivity consultant and a productivity expert. She helps me with everything with my business when it comes to technology, processes, productivity. One of the things that we do really well and we’re really proud of at Indigo is we’re super efficient, so we work virtually with all of our clients and we keep our prices really low because all of our systems are completely streamlined. All of our clients get the same level of client service, they get the same attention, and we have a process that makes sure we always deliver A-plus output. That’s in large part due to Tammy’s help. Tammy has come onboard, she’s been with us a few years, and she’s helped us with all of our technology, our systems, our client service.
Welcome to the show, Tammy. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your passion for productivity and technology and why you do what you do.
Thanks, Claire. I’m excited to join you, and, yes, I’ve been passionate about productivity for over a decade professionally. I am a marketing technology consultant and have been leveraging online tools and platforms to bring about change in my community and workplace. I really enjoy helping people, businesses and several nonprofit organizations that I volunteer with get more done simply by embracing technology and the ways that it can improve your productivity and your life.
Thank you so much for taking the time to be with us. Tammy has worked with all of our clients. We have almost 200 independent financial advisors and Tammy helps them get up and running with all of their systems. When they come onboard with us, we do everything from setting up their website to doing their search engine optimization, to help them optimize their social media profiles, and setting up their online appointment scheduler. She’s really the person on our team that interfaces with advisors.
The reason that we decided to do this episode of the podcast is that we noticed a trend. We noticed that the most successful advisors that we work with aren’t the ones with the biggest teams or the deepest experience or background. It’s the ones that are productive. They embrace technology, they understand how to stay organized, and they get things done. When they tell us they’re going to do something they do it. They return our emails, they return our phone calls, and they move forward and get things done. That’s the big litmus test that we’ve seen whether an advisor is going to be successful or not in their business: Can they embrace technology to make their business more efficient, and are they organized in a way that keeps them on top of things, keeps things from falling through the cracks?
With that, let’s talk about some of the biggest mistakes that advisors make with technology. Tammy, as you’re working with our clients to onboard them, what are some of the mistakes that you see?
First, I think the biggest thing is people are afraid to embrace technology tools because either they simply don’t understand how they work or they really aren’t aware of what’s out there and how it can improve their work and their lives. By embracing the systems that are already out there and available to you, you can really leverage your time, automate some of your tedious tasks, and spend more time doing what you should be – which is focusing on your strengths within your business and really outsourcing everything else. The biggest mistake with that, I would say, is not trusting that it works and being afraid simply by not understanding. That would be the biggest one, I think, that holds people back.
There’s one other mistake I thought of in relation to some of the things that we have seen, is holding back a little bit from technology, not being brave enough to sign up for some extra features that might be available on some systems that you use. We had one firm that was growing, and had a really good-sized email list, but in order to have a larger list and have a larger send rate they didn’t want to upgrade their account. They didn’t want to spend an extra $30 a month to increase their accounts capacity. Essentially, they were removing potentially valuable leads from their list in order to save a little bit of pocket change. That mistake, I would say, would be holding back from investing a little bit of money.
Most of these apps and tools do not cost very much. That is one of the beautiful things about technology these days is it’s really efficient and affordable, so spending just a little bit of money every month, we’re talking, some of these apps cost $10, $30, to have that system that is just so smooth and makes your life so much better.
The last one I want to mention, and I’m sure Claire will have some more, is becoming overwhelmed by not taking a little bit of time to learn what you need to embrace the tool and have it work for you. I would say, even when I’m faced with new technologies that I don’t personally have experience with, I’ll put it on my calendar for 20 minutes, 30 minutes to sit down with that tool, go through the homepage and how it works and the frequently asked questions, and figure out what it does. Approaching it with a calm, I-can-understand-this attitude, and really taking just a little bit of time to learn how these tools work and how to embrace it to make it work for you.
Right. I think that’s such good advice. I really encourage you, if you’re feeling frustrated with a technology, to spend 10 minutes trying to use it, and then if you get stuck just call a support line, and they’ll help you out.
When you talk about technologies for financial advisors, there’s a few technologies that we really recommend. In fact, we strongly encourage our clients to embrace them, and here are the top three tools that will help you take control of your digital life. The first is a secure password storage system. We use LastPass. It saves all of your online passwords on your computer, in your browsers, in a secure format.
A lot of people don’t have their passwords saved in a central location. You might be at home and you think, oh, I have that, but that’s on my computer at work, and so you might waste a couple of days even getting to that login and getting to that system. My husband is a financial analyst, and he does a lot of my accounting and spreadsheets for me, and sometimes I’ll say, okay, let’s get this info. He’ll say, oh, I can’t, that’s on my computer at work. You go, oh my gosh, you’re really going to waste a whole day getting this information that can be solved by having a secure, encrypted LastPass system.
Absolutely. There’s LastPass for teams, so you could have your administrative assistant be able to log into some of your accounts, only the accounts that you give them access to. You can make sure that you never have to type in passwords. It’s only a couple seconds to try to remember your password and type it in, but those seconds done over and over multiple times a day really add up and end up wasting an incredible amount of time. Not only time but also brain power, that causes you to be less likely to get things done if you have to look up your password to log into a system. It’s all auto-populated on your computer, it’s completely secure, you can share it with your team, and it makes your life so much easier. I really encourage you to embrace LastPass.
The second really core technology I want to mention is Calendly.
I want to mention one specific problem that Calendly solves is, if you’re not using that or another online scheduler, when you are currently trying to coordinate times with a client or someone else that you’re working with you do that back and forth via email or texting or some other method where you waste a lot of time. Are you available then? Oh, I’m not available then, how about this time and this time? It wastes a lot of time going back and forth, and it’s frustrating for everybody trying to go through that. That can take hours to get those responses back and forth to choose a time just to talk, so Calendly really solves that problem by giving them a surface-level access to see a general of when you’re available, and they can choose it and be done. There’s no back and forth and it really solves that, and it looks awesome. You look really put together and efficient, and that’s impressive.
The third thing that I want to mention is a CRM, or a customer relationship management system. So many advisors are not doing this and they’re really losing out. If you don’t have a CRM, you have leads that are falling through the cracks, I promise you. Adopting a CRM is something that will keep all of your clients’ information saved in a really easy, searchable system, it can remind you to follow-up with prospects, and it keeps everything organized. If your client changes their email address, you update it in your CRM, and your CRM can sync with maybe your account management system, your email marketing system, and all of your teams members will be able to see that updated email address.
It’s critically important if you’re serious about growing your business to have a good CRM. One of the best CRMs that I really love for advisors is Wealthbox. I think that’s probably my favorite. I find it to be the easiest and the most intuitive to use. Redtail is probably the one with the most technology integrations. Both of those are built specifically for financial advisors, and they’re totally robust systems that can help you to grow your AUM by being organized and thoughtful about the way you approach clients and prospects.
Let’s move on to the next section of the podcast. Tammy, I know you wanted to talk a little bit about how advisors can not get overwhelmed by all of these technologies.
I think this is really the core of what holds people back, is being overwhelmed by technology. As I said before, trusting that it works and going in with a good attitude is what’s most important, and being open to learning. A lot of people say to me, well, you’re young, you were born knowing how to do these things. It’s not necessarily so. We learn these things as they come along. New technologies are emerging every year, every month, that we have to learn and embrace something new.
Many people don’t like change, so you have to go at it with a smile and a fresh outlook and almost repeat this kind of mantra to yourself: I’m good at learning things; I’m open-minded to trying something new. I know that a lot of people before me have used this and worked on this successfully, so I’ll trust the systems and go with it, this tool will help me get better at my job, and I’m excited about that. Saying things to myself like that, it sounds silly, but it’s embracing pumping yourself up.
We have a lot of advisors who come to us and they just can’t get past that hangup of, I don’t know how it works, or, I’m scared or confused or overwhelmed.Really going at it, changing your mindset about yourself, that you’re open to learning new things, and I can do this successfully, and ultimately it’s going to make me feel better and have less stress so I’m excited about it, is something that I think will change people’s perspective about embracing technology that can help.
Right. I think that’s great advice. It’s all about realizing the capability of technology and really having a good attitude about learning how to use it, and using technology to make your life easier.
One thing that I want to share with you today is the one email rule that will change your life. If you do anything as a result of listening to this episode, I want you to try this rule: Never open an email unless you have the time to respond to it and close out the issue. It’s very powerful and it’s very simple.
There’s a few ways that you can close out an issue when an email comes to you. First of all, you can get it done. If something takes two minutes or less, I just go ahead and do it right then. If it takes longer than that, I schedule it onto my calendar or I put it in my follow-up email folder, and so I have a folder that usually has about 10 things that I have to do the next day. Or you can, of course, take the next action. Maybe it’s that you need to schedule an appointment or make a phone call or purchase something, and so you open the email, you process it, and you complete that task. So it’s either on your calendar for a later date, it’s in your follow-up folder, or it’s done and you never have to think about it again.
The next thing that we want to talk about is some email tips for organization and efficiency. One of the first email tips for organization is keeping one email per topic. So if you need to ask your CPA a question about the max that you can contribute this year to your 401(k) plan, ask him one question per email, and then if you want to schedule a meeting, send a second email. Because the problem is if you put too many topics per email people don’t answer all of the questions, and then it’s very confusing, it’s hard to figure out which email you’re talking about when you’re going back to change your contributions to your 401(k). How are you going to find the email if you just wrote an email titled, Catching Up? But if you title your topic of your email, 401(k) Contributions for 2019, it’s really easy to find that information when you need it, and so less things fall through the cracks, it’s easy for people to answer your question. Keep one topic per email and send multiple emails if they have different topics.
I think going back to keeping one email per topic really helps that searchability feature when you want to go back and search something. We have a lot of advisors who do that with a bunch of different topics and one email, and you can’t find it necessarily when you search because you’re only seeing the top couple sentences in the search results. Keeping them separate and being able to find and go back to what you needed is such a time-saver. It’s surprisingly not done by very many people. Trying that, even for a couple of weeks, you’ll see a big difference.
One tip that I’ll give you is before you meet with a client, search by their email address and read all of the emails between you and the client that you have corresponded with them since the last time you met, and it will be incredible. You’ll be completely on top of the context of everything that’s been going on in their life, all the questions that they have asked, any updates they’ve made to their financial plan, and they’ll feel like you’ve really done your homework before you meet with them. That’s just one email trick that I like to share with people.
The one other tool that I want to mention that I use all the time is a tool called Boomerang, and Google also has a similar tool, I believe they call it Snooze. What this does is it sends an email back to you, it boomerangs it back to you, at a certain date. Whenever I send an email to a client, I boomerang it to come back to me if they don’t reply, so that nothing goes unanswered and I am able to follow-up with all of my clients on everything important. You can set the Boomerang tool to send an email back to you at a certain date, you could say, in two days, or, tomorrow afternoon, or, in one week, or, in two weeks.
I love using Boomerang. You can also use it to have recurring return messages, so you can set something to come back every Monday at 2:00 PM, per se, and that way you can say, check in with such and such client. An awesome tool to have your email reminding you of these things that you need to be doing.
One of the final things I want to leave you with today is the idea of the four Ds. There’s only really four things that you can do with any topic that’s pressing on your plate: You can do it, you can delegate it, you can defer it, or you can drop it. Either accomplish the task, delegate it to somebody, put it off a week if you have to, or drop it. I have a lot of ideas that come to me that I really want to accomplish, but I just don’t have the time, and so I defer them for a week, maybe two weeks, and then when they come to me if I still don’t have the time, I drop them. You can even put them into an archive file of good ideas that you want to do someday, but it’s very powerful to clear your to-do list so at the end of the day you don’t have any lingering things that you wish you could get to but you can’t because that creates just mental fatigue.
Use the four Ds: do, delegate, defer, drop – to clear out your to-do list each day, and I think you’ll feel a lot better and be able to sleep better at night.
I highly, highly recommend the reading of David Allen’s book. I love listening to it on audiobook, I actually listen to it almost every six months or a year, depending on how my procedures are going, if I feel like I need a reset. That’s kind of a productivity Bible that I come back to all the time, and he’s really good about figuring out what the actions are. He says, first of all, what is this that I’m doing? Is it actionable? And if it’s actionable, what do I do? I can do it, delegate it, defer it, or drop it. But there are several other popular authors who speak to the same. It could be The 4-Hour Workweek, is another wonderful book.
Tammy, you’re mentioning a few books… let’s talk about the recommended reading if you’re interested in learning more about productivity. One book that we both love is David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.” We highly recommend that. Another that Tammy mentioned is “The 4-Hour Workweek,” that is my Bible for running my business and having two little kids and running my household and doing everything that we all need to do in a way that is very powerful and puts me in a state of low stress, even though I have a lot on my plate.
Then a third book that I want to recommend that’s specifically for financial advisors is one of my favorite clients, Scott Ford, he worked with Ron Carson to write the book, “The Sustainable Edge.” It is a powerful productivity and business growth book for independent financial advisors, and it talks about how to sustain growth of your company year after year by really focusing on the most important priorities that drive your business. You can get it on Amazon, it’s an incredible book and it’s a New York Times Bestseller. It’s just a great read for financial advisors. I highly recommend that.
I just want to close out by allowing you, Tammy, to give some advice to the advisors out there on if they were going to do anything from a productivity standpoint, what is one actionable improvement that they could make today?
I’m glad you asked because I have one idea that I think would really help people if they would implement this in their schedule. One thing that I really like from a productivity standpoint is having a scheduled weekly review with yourself. Having that weekly review allows you, say, one hour on your calendar where you’re uninterrupted and you really are looking at your systems and your procedures and calendar as a whole big picture. You’re looking at your work from the overhead, 20,000-feet view, so coming at this session of a weekly review with a calm attitude, where you can set this time aside. What I would recommend would be to write down on a blank sheet of paper the five tasks that you do that take up the most of your time with work, so brainstorm. Then, branching each of those out, how you could make these things easier for yourself by finding technology or an outsourcing possibility to make it better and ultimately take up less of your time.
Have a brainstorming session on how to embrace technology and/or outsourcing. That’s one thing we should really stress on too is a lot of our advisors have a team, and a lot of our advisors also are kind of a one-man band, one-woman band, and they’re doing this on their own. Finding an outsource mechanism can take you to the next level. Sitting down and brainstorming those five tasks that take up too much of your time and you’re saying I wish I didn’t have to do this, and finding an easy, affordable system that really will change your life. Brainstorming that and doing it weekly or monthly, whatever best suits your needs, will really change how things work for you.
Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. It’s all about making sure you’re doing the things that are most important to grow your business. Identifying what you should be doing, and if you don’t feel like doing it, if it’s been on your to-do list for a few weeks and you haven’t done it, outsource it. You know you should be doing marketing and you know you should be doing search engine optimization and blogging and posting to social media, but you don’t want to actually do it? Outsource it to us, that’s what we do for our advisors clients.
One of the things I did in my own business is I knew every week I should really review the metrics of my business. I wanted to go over thingssuch as how many people came to my website, how many people came there from social media, how much revenue did I make, how many phone calls did I do with advisors that week? But that’s obviously not something that I had the time to look up, so I got a virtual assistant to put together all of those metrics for me, and she emails them to me every Friday morning. I love to see the numbers. I just sit with my cup of coffee and I review how many phone calls I did that week, how much money I made, how many people came to my website, and then I get ideas. In reviewing those things I get great ideas to do better the next week.
That was an easy idea that I knew I should be doing, but I wasn’t doing it myself, so I hired someone to do it for me. The one thing that I would recommend advisors do is hire a virtual assistant. It’s great to find a virtual assistant who is affordable, I recommend paying between $25 and $50 per hour for somebody that’s highly competent, that you can trust, and have them do those actions that you know you should be doing but that you’re not doing. This could be calling prospects, inviting them to your next event, following up with clients to see if there’s any changes or if they need to have a meeting. It could be adding your new emails to your email list, whatever it is, reviewing your weekly metrics or doing your marketing for you. Whatever you know would be powerful to grow your business, invest in getting that done, and don’t rely on yourself to do everything.
Give yourself a break. You work incredibly hard, you’re wearing a lot of hats, you are a business owner, you’re helping your clients, you’re doing your taxes. You are already probably doing too much, so cut yourself a break. Take the day off, go play golf while somebody else does the work that you know will propel your business forward.
With that I would just like to thank Tammy so much for being a great reference and a great expert for our advisors listening. Thank you so much for being on our episode.
Thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited for some of our listeners to implement some productivity improvements.
If you’d like any resources from today’s episode or from other episodes, go to indigomarketingagency.com/remember. It’s hard to forget that address. indigomarketingagency.com/remember.
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Claire Akin runs Indigo Marketing Agency, a full-service marketing firm serving financial advisors. It’s her mission to help independent financial advisors help more people through their incredibly important work. Claire is a former Investment Advisor Representative who holds her MBA in Marketing from the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego as well as a BA in Economics from UC Davis.