WHEN Leanne Barbara Bull, Dip FP, CFP, was starting in financial services, she didn’t have the time or money to waste on prospects who scheduled an appointment and then canceled it after deciding to proceed with the first advisor they visited.
So the now-four-year MDRT member from Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia, decided she would charge for her first appointment. This would weed out the “tire kickers,” she said, and make sure her time was well spent. After all, she was also paying for care for her infant son while her husband ran his own business, and Bull needed to make sure the people she set aside time for actually showed up.
What she found was that leading with her value resulted in stronger prospects and more referrals. Now, more than 20 years after she transferred to charging fees, she has a long waitlist of referrals and manages a financial planning team of 18 people (including an insurance specialist, mortgage consultant and much more).
That’s a long way from the early days, when Bull would generate prospects by reviewing the booklet of people registered to vote to find new people she could contact.
Initially, she would quote a fee for the first appointment but waived it if people proceed to the planning stage and paid the corresponding fee. It wasn’t until 14 years ago, when a new staff member joined the team and advocated for collecting the first appointment fee as well, that things took an even more drastic change.
“The more serious we got about charging for our time,” Bull said, “the more respectful our clients got.”
She doesn’t meet with a client until they have provided the information for a completed fact-finder, using the first meeting to better understand their priorities, educate and make decisions rather than gain preliminary information.
Now, Bull not only gets more referrals than the practice can handle but has received applications to become a client, reinforcing the benefits of her willingness to make bold decisions.
“If you’re passionate about what you do, you help other people become passionate about what you’re providing and what they’re getting,” Bull said.
The ups and downs
of opening a second office
WHEN a senior staff member said she needed to move from Bundaberg to Brisbane, Bull simply said, “No problem, we’ll open an office in Brisbane.” It vastly expanded Bull’s pool of potential hires and exposed her to a different clientele as well. (A $300,000 home in Bundaberg would cost $800,000 in Brisbane, Bull said.)
Of course, the transition was tough at first, and her employee felt lonely working at a distance from former colleagues. Communication between the two offices was difficult, and Bull needed to find more reliable technology after Skype calls proved technically challenging in her community.
Meanwhile, without the person who had managed the team in the Bundaberg office, Bull discovered she needed to appoint a new supervisor.
So she promoted an existing member of the team to manage staff and smooth out operations the way her predecessor had. That included ensuring that no one felt bombarded by work or under-stimulated, that holiday schedules were divided appropriately among staff, and that the office was positive and organized on a daily basis.
In addition, the Brisbane office now has five employees, and both locations are connected on the same phone system (among other technological improvements) to better link the two offices.
“There’s more flexibility so we don’t have to be in the same office, room, state or country to work together in a collaborative way,” Bull said. “That wasn’t the case initially.”