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CRM: The Starting Block for Going Independent

by David Ferguson

Every four years, our attention is glued to the fascinating Summer Olympics for a couple of weeks. We witness the world’s best prepared athletes competing in a wide array of events, many of which are decided by hundredths of a second. What becomes apparent is that being quick off the starting blocks is crucial for swimmers and sprinters alike.  A swift, clean start is the foundation for a good race.  What is the correlation for Financial Advisors making a move toward independence?   A good start to your new business greatly improves the likelihood of success.

Olympic sprinters practice daily on their foundation … getting an explosive start.  Unfortunately, many Advisors fail to recognize the key to an effective start of their new business: the CRM.  In much the same way that Olympians work on their starts, Advisors can reap benefits by spending some upfront time on selecting the right CRM, customizing that CRM for their business, and properly training on the system so that it works for them and allows the Advisor to spend their time doing what they do best.

Let’s look at why the right CRM is the foundation of your business.

Protect your Most Valuable Assets

If you are like most Advisors, your two most valuable assets are knowledge and relationships.  Your entire career has been spent learning more and meeting more.   The CRM should help you manage both.

Tracking business and personal information for all members of every household is crucial.  Keep in mind that the high school kids of your clients are just a few short years away from the workforce.  Your system should also make it easy to track the professional relationships of your clients … attorneys, CPA’s, insurance agents, etc.  Each of these presents relationship opportunities for you and often tie right back in to other clients. Managing this network is automatic with the right CRM.

It is standard CRM baseline to track customer information, tasks, meetings and communications. The best systems allow flexibility to track something outside the box. Whatever your point of difference is, your CRM should compliment.

Manage your business

Your CRM should help you maintain your current business while assisting with growth.  This should occur through better efficiencies and more information at your finger tips, freeing you up to spend time providing real service to your clients, while also meeting with prospects.

These days, you should be able to modify your CRM to fit the way you do business, rather than changing the way you do business because of limitations to your CRM.  What if your business model changes … you add insurance or accounting services?  Or maybe you decide to service customers differently based on service level settings … can the processes and workflow be adapted to accommodate your changes?  None of these should require a new CRM, but simply customizations to your current system.

Work your Daily Activities

The level of efficiency in your required daily activities is in direct correlation to the effectiveness of your CRM.  Efficiencies mean less wasted time and fewer things falling through the cracks.  The normalcy of daily activities will determine your progress towards your long-term vision.

Does your CRM make sense as your client base increases? The right system means you never have to say you “have outgrown” your system … something we hear quite often.  The best new systems will provide benefits to you whether you have 20 clients … or 2000.  Automated steps work wonders for repeatable processes and tracking progress, while minimizing the chances for manual errors quite common in the old-time systems.

“Integrations” is the industry buzz word. Some CRM firms use that as their sole advertising message. The number of integrations is not what matters.  Instead, pay attention to what data you need to bring into your CRM and what data you need to push from your CRM to another system.  Don’t mistake your CRM for a Portfolio Management System or Re-Balancing tool.  It should complement, not replace those systems.

Keep an Eye on the Future

Going independent hopefully means an Advisor has a vision for their business.  This could mean 3, 5 or even 10 years down the road.  It could mean total self-sufficiency, or it could mean multiple offices and dozens of Advisors within the organization.  No matter the vision, your CRM is the foundation for your business today and in the future.

As your business grows, adding and training new users should be relatively painless if you have the right CRM.  Even adding new offices and locations and revenue streams should be pretty straight-forward.  Of course, you certainly may determine that hiring a Consultant to provide guidance and advice for your business model and growth plan makes sense, and this can be complimentary to your CRM system.


Fortunately, unlike Olympic athletes, you need not be one of the top 3 to achieve success. However, it is important for independent Advisors to mimic those Olympians in paying special attention to their “start”.  As you research CRM systems, make sure that the vendor you select is committed to the Financial Services industry, can consult with you on customizations that will benefit your business, is focused on training so that you understand your system, and includes regular enhancements and releases to ensure your system is always updated.  Select a partner that you feel comfortable with and ask for references. Soon you will understand why so many Advisors view their CRM as their business lifeline, and why so many Olympians commit the practice time on those starting blocks!

David Ferguson is a Vice President at Concenter Services, the company that offers XLR8, a customized version of Salesforce.com for Financial Advisors.  For more information visit www.Concenterservices.com.


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One Response to “CRM: The Starting Block for Going Independent”

  1. Kelly says:

    Awesome info…. thanks!

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