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Perfecting Advisor Proposals - How You Should Be Thinking About Your Proposal Experience

Daniel Crosby on the Pod, How the Best Entrepeneurs are Great Sloganeers and a Musky Algorithm

September is already a memory. Somehow, the best month (the weather, the football, the school routines) always feels the shortest.

I guess it’s time to grab that pumpkin-spiced, whatever you call it, and dig into the 10-minute (Jud’s Version) of this week’s Connected Advisor.

  1. Perfecting Advisor Proposals - How You Should Be Thinking About Your Proposal Experience

  2. How Behavioral Finance Transforms Wealth Management - Dr. Daniel Crosby 🎧

  3. Last Chance to Register: Forging the Future - Miami, FL 📍

  4. Breaking Down the Musk Algorithm

  5. The Most Successful Leaders are the Best Sloganeers

Here we go.

Perfecting Advisor Proposals - How You Should Be Thinking About Your Proposal Experience

Since entering the industry in 2004, nearly every advisory firm I’ve met has been working on creating or fixing their proposals.

Each firm does it a little differently. For starters, there are competing narratives that you can choose to lead your proposal conversation. You could make a case for approaching the topic from risk measurements, gap analyses, behavioral tools, or any other host of ideas, and you wouldn’t be right or wrong for any of your choices.

Maybe We Should Define Our Terms

What do I mean by a proposal?

For the purpose of this article, I want to simply talk about the plan presented to a client to demonstrate that you understand them and have a plan to help them achieve their goals.

Of course, there’s a lot at stake here. You’re being asked to demonstrate empathy and to paint yourself and your firm’s capabilities in the most favorable light. It’s your chance to weed out potentially problematic clients that won’t be an excellent cultural fit for your firm. You’re creating an artifact that will serve as an ever-evolving guide for your ongoing client relationship. It’s kind of a big deal.

Since it is this important, what does it need to include?

The Essentials of a Winning Proposal

Before we discuss the structure of the proposal, it’s best to think through the spirit of the proposal. A successful proposal needs to be:

  • Straightforward and clear: Complexity rarely wins in this space. The design should be easy on the eyes, but the contents should be direct and straightforward, highlighting key aspects such as economics and analysis. This is typically one of the most complex parts for advisors to get right. The work you do every day takes considerable skill, so it is easy to think that you should demonstrate your level of expertise by dropping complex thoughts or industry insider talk to clients and prospects.

    Don’t fall into this mental trap. Your clients will not be wowed by how much you know if you get into the nuance of tax analysis.They will, however, breathe a sign of relief the first time they finally understand where all of their money is now and where it’s going in the future. Resist the urge to get fancy and press into the difficulty of simplification.

  • Reflective of the firm's identity: Inject personality into your proposal. It's not merely a transactional document but an embodiment of your firm’s values.

    Talk about your core values, philosophies, and why you serve the clients you serve.

    In this moment, it is helpful to think about the conversation that your client may be having with their family as well as other experiences they may have had with other advisors (particularly those with larger bank-based advisors).

    It's in this area that RIAs can stand out.

    There is a reason you are independent and focused on serving the clients you do. There is a reason you deliver the services you do and recruit the team you have.

    This is your opportunity to be very clear about this as well as how this transfers into your broader client experience.

  • Scalable: Although the output will be uniquely applied to each client, the overarching sections of the proposal should be able to be repeatable and plug and play based on the general client personas you serve.

    For instance, if your niche involves providing advice for a specific employer’s retirement plan, you’ll likely want to address this specifically, but be able to customize that out for those from whom this isn’t relevant. Remember that simplicity reigns supreme here, so keep scale in mind as you prepare your proposal.

    It truly should allow you and your firm to be able to increase the volume of prospects and clients you serve through your streamlined onboarding process.

Structuring the Proposal: The Blueprint

You many be used to working inside of the confines of tools or solutions, but for this task, I think it’s best to let all of that go and simply imagine what could be. Let’s create a systematic structure that helps align the simple, value centric, scalable proposal with client needs:

  • Start with the Challenge: During your introductory or qualifying call, you’ll want to make sure you minimally understand basic pain points or goals they are trying to reach. Personalize their challenge. Use their words when you write it down. This will allow you to get to know the prospect and begin to extrapolate out their financial objectives, general risk posture, and time horizon.

  • Lay Down the Plan: Creating a proposal for the future - whether it is investment or planning focused should be squarely focused on the client. Offer a practical, step-by-step overview. Whenever possible strip out anything that is not essential, but give them a complete picture of their own financial life.

  • Position Your Services: Highlight how your services and solutions will move them from today to the future they want to live in. Present your strategy with clarity and be mindful to use common language.

  • Discuss Your Fees: This section should depict the cost, billing process, and any additional services that may come at a premium. Some firms also offer referral discounts to help drive friends and family to be part of that same firm and experience and even have that new prospect's AUM count toward that of the client. You can also do this, but be sure to ask your billing software provider and consult your chief compliance officer.

    This portion of your proposal is a great place to get clear on all of your fees, discounts and internal fund expenses. Make your compliance team happy and provide clarity.

  • Seal the Deal: You may or may not want to include a signature page, but if you do make sure it is simple and efficient, followed by a clear list of next steps to ensure a seamless onboarding.

    For some advisors, a signature is not really necessary as you will likely be sending a formal client agreement if everyone agrees to proceed.

I’ve got a few more thoughts about proposals - mostly related to their design and delivery, so I’ll come back to this topic next week. In the meantime, I’d love to hear or, even better, see your proposal and hear what you love or hate about it.

On the Pod

How Behavioral Finance Transforms Wealth Management with Dr. Daniel Crosby

Episode 013: This past Tuesday, we released an episode of Milemarker’s Connected Podcast with Dr. Daniel Crosby, Chief Behavioral Officer at Orion.

Kyle and Dr. Crosby talk about the increasing importance of behavioral finance in the wealth management industry and how it can add value to advisors’ practices.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  1. Research shows that advisors who incorporate behavioral finance practices have higher wallet share capture from clients.

  2. Behavioral coaching is an essential value-add for advisors, even though clients may not explicitly recognize its importance.

  3. Technology excels at speed and precision, but behavioral finance requires human connection and empathy.

"Behavior is the last stand of the advisor. If you look at what tech does well, it does speed and precision stuff well. What it doesn't do well is selling and connecting and empathizing."

- Dr. Daniel Crosby, Chief Behavioral Officer at Orion

The episode is available now on your favorite podcast platform. While there, please don’t forget to Download, Like, and Subscribe.

You’re Invited: Forging the Future of Wealth Management, Miami, FL

It’s your last chance to register for our in-person event in Miami, FL in partnership with Allianz. The event is designed specifically for RIAs, where we will walk through unlocking tangible success for your clients, business and professional journey.

This is another great opportunity to connect with like-minded advisors and industry leaders. Tim Maurer and I will discuss how advisors can keep up with the increasing rate of change in our industry.

Event Details

When: October, 4, 2023 at 4:30pm EST

Where: Reunion Ktchn Bar, 18167 Biscayne Blvd, Aventura, FL 33160

Milemarker on the Road

Catch our team on the road at the following events or cities:

  1. Fearless Investing Conference - October 3-5, Miami, FL

  2. Schwab Impact - October 24-26, Philadelphia, PA

  3. Tiburon CEO Summit - November 6-8, San Francisco, CA

Breaking Down the Musk Algorithm

David Heinemeier Hansson recently gave us all a book report on Walter Isaacsons’s latest biography on Elon Musk.

In his standard fashion, DHH’s comments are concise and relevant far beyond the topic at hand.

Here’s what he laid out as The Musk Algorithm:

  1. Question every requirement.

  2. Delete any part or process you can.

  3. Simplify and optimize.

  4. Accelerate cycle time.

  5. Automate.

The Most Successful Leaders are the Best Sloganeers

David Perell recently said that the most successful leaders constantly repeat the same slogans to help drive the right outcome.

One idea, 10k times.

In my experience, this is absolutely true.

The fact is, the slogans don’t even have to be very catchy. They just need to drive home a single point, repeatably and consistently.


Hope to see some of you in Miami next week. Enjoy your weekend!

Written by Jud Mackrill

Edited by Amy Simpson and Kim Mackrill