Nothing beats a little face time. Not Skype. Not webinars. Not even FaceTime®! Despite the seemingly endless stream of information sources, no business communication device compares to people sitting next to each other discussing a topic. In the old days, we called that a meeting.

    Fortunately, Financial Advisors still prefer face-to-face for many client meetings, and the really wise ones take full advantage of the booming industry Conference schedule. Of course, most of the leading custodians offer a full blown conference, some training1with thousands of attendees and dozens of exhibitors. There are also regional associations to complement a wide range of  national association conferences led by NAPFA and FPA. There are also the smaller specialty conferences like T3, and the one we have been most impressed with … Insider’s Forum by Bob Veres (

    You really owe it to yourself, your clients, and your staff to invest some time in attending conferences. Your reward comes in the form of personal interaction with those most committed to improving the industry. This group includes speakers, vendors, custodians, technology firms, and yes … other Financial Advisors.

    Another idea we have seen prove beneficial, is to reward your operations team and client service representatives with a trip to a conference. Many of these events have alternative tracks for sessions based on job responsibility. Firms also benefit from the “divide and conquer” approach. If three people from one firm attend a conference, they will each come back with new connections, new ideas and new information. This is how some firms stay on top of industry trends and continue to improve every year … plus the conferences offer the opportunity for improved knowledge and personal growth.

    Being a technology provider, much of our time at conferences is spent listening to the frustrations voiced by Advisors and staff, as they search for help in correcting poor and uninformed decisions made in the past. The endless stream of internet information often leads to bad information. For instance, we have heard rumors such as “Salesforce projects always cost more than $100,000”. This is something we find laughable, since all of our XLR8 projects include Salesforce, with only a very few full projects ever hitting $10k, much less $100k!. It takes nothing more than a Twitter account or a writer with an agenda to spread a false rumor. At a conference, you can meet face-to-face with those who can provide full, accurate information … the kind that allows you to run a better business.


    By David Ferguson, Concenter Services



    Which best describes you:
    a. SHOPPER
    b. BUYER

    Shoppers will spend whatever time is necessary to feel confident they have made the right choice on the particular item, and that they are paying a fair price. Buyers jump on the first thing that is acceptable at whatever price is listed.

    blunders2 graphic If you are in the market for a new pair of socks, either approach will work just fine (though buyers might pay a couple of extra dollars). The biggest blunder we see made by Advisors in the market for a CRM, is being a buyer rather than a shopper. Keep in mind that a new CRM is a major step for your firm. It’s a business decision that will directly impact the level of service you provide your clients, the efficiency of your staff, and the effectiveness of your daily activities.

    Since we offer XLR8, a version of Salesforce CRM customized for Financial Advisors, we have seen all types of approaches from those who are in the market for a CRM. Some Advisors take a very strategic approach in learning all there is to know about the many options available (The Analyzer). Some take a recommendation from a trusted source and move forward (The Buddy System). Still others pass on the responsibility of CRM shopping to a staff member or an independent consultant (The Delegator). Whatever your shopping style might be, there are a few common blunders we would like to help you avoid.

    5 Common Blunders to Avoid:

    1. Selecting a CRM that doesn’t offer enhancement and customization potential. Thanks to “the Cloud”, software is now an ever-evolving piece of your business. No longer should you be stuck with “an old version”. Enhancements should be pushed automatically so that you are always on the most recent version. Just as important is the flexibility offered by a CRM that will allow customizations to fit your specific needs. This means you might never again be faced with the transition to a new CRM.

    2. Falling for the “Sales Pitch” without a Trial run. You wouldn’t buy a new car without taking it for a test drive. You wouldn’t marry without dating. Heck, most of us won’t buy a movie ticket without first seeing the preview. You certainly shouldn’t make an important decision on a CRM that will be part of your business for years without first giving it a Trial run. The Trial should be Free and allow you to input your own data just as you would with a new client.

    3. Sending Mixed Messages. “Buy in” should come from the top and be consistent throughout the firm. A commitment from management combined with involving the Staff in the process is the foundation for a successful transition to the right CRM. The operations team will have differing needs than the Advisors, so let them sit in on the system Demo, and allow them to work in the Trial to ensure they are onboard. Take advantage of this window, because the best ideas for customizations and process changes will come from these open discussions. (Note: once the system is selected, Training for all users should be mandatory!)

    4. Getting caught up in “Integrations”. Some CRM systems use a list of integrations as their main selling point, rather than functionality, ongoing enhancements and support. The only integrations that matter are the ones YOU need. With today’s software, most systems can be programmed to “integrate”. But just because they can, doesn’t mean they should. The CRM is not designed to take the place of your Portfolio Management System or Aggregator software. However, your CRM should offer integrations to Document Management systems, email systems, calendaring systems, etc., as well as bringing in selected data from outside applications/sources.

    5. Looking at Price only. “You get what you pay for” can be misleading. It’s more important to “Pay for what you need”. Most new CRM projects will require Data Migration, Customizations and Training. Your vendor should spend time with you discussing each of these areas. Once again, thanks to “the Cloud”, the same CRM can work for you as a one-man shop and grow into your vision of multi-offices and multiple lines of business. As your business evolves, so should your CRM. Saving a few dollars upfront can cost you substantially when you realize the system can’t grow with you.

    blunders graphic Shopping for your CRM should be approached as a step in your Business Plan. Your vision for the short-term and long-term should be communicated so that it’s clear whether a particular system is a good fit for you. If you are intimidated by the process, or just don’t have the time to dedicate, consider hiring a Consultant who specializes in the Financial Services industry. Either way, your strategic needs must be clear. A good CRM decision will prevent you from having to go through the process again. Instead, the right CRM becomes your partner for life … allowing you and your staff to efficiently provide the level of service to your clients and prospects that will allow you to fulfill your business vision. So embrace the joy of shopping and avoid these common blunders! The payoff can lead to a successful firm.

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