Most advisors can reap significant benefits from just improving a few little things in their practice.

To crystalize his point, Kerry Johnson, a former tennis pro and author of several books, shared a golf analogy with attendees at the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts' annual conference.  In 1999, he said, Tiger Woods shot an average of 70.14 per round. Fred Couples had the third-lowest per-round average of 70.42. While many would think a 0.3 stroke difference is a virtual tie, Woods made $6.6 million-almost $6 million more than Couples. Johnson said this illustrates that just a little bit of a difference can lead to significantly more success.

Here are four "little" things that, Johnson suggested, advisors can do to substantially improve their business:

Give a gentle touch.
  "Want your clients to retain 300% more information in less than half of the time?" asked Johnson. "Touch the side of the arm, below the elbow."  Research has shown that a three-second connection below the elbow can help advisors more successfully get through to clients and prospects, he said.

Deliver what is important.  "How many of you think your people skills are the most important thing?" Johnson asked the attendees. Most raised their hand in agreement, and they were right. Johnson said 89% of clients care more about the relationship than market performance.

Promote referrals.  Johnson said he loves the following Woody Allen quote: "Success is 1% genius and 99% showing up." He then stated that 85% of advisors never ask for referrals. To be more successful, he said, advisors need to catch up with clients at least every three months to build stronger relationships.  

"Your clients don't care about your business, they care about their friends," Johnson said. He urged advisors to hold bring-a-friend events.

Listen (especially if you're a man).  After a bad defeat to tennis great Jimmy Connors, Johnson asked him the secret to his serve returns-a part of his game he did better than anyone else in the sport. Connors replied that he listened to his opponent's serve. Just by the sounds, he could tell if it was a hard serve or a spin serve.  

Johnson suggested advisors need to do a better job of listening and focusing more on learning about their clients. Since prospects want to buy a relationship, this can help advisors stand out from the competition.

He congratulated women advisors, saying, "They listen more effectively."

"Men spend their whole life being competitive, learning how to win (making them better at closing)," he said. "Women have learned how to listen and be caring (making them better at relationships)."

He advised the entire crowd to know when to stop talking so they can listen better.

"The relationships you build are more important than the cash," Johnson said. The kicker is that with better relationships, advisors will bring in more cash.

Mike Byrnes founded Byrnes Consulting to provide consulting services to help advisors become even more successful. His expertise is in business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness, along with several other areas. Read more at

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