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Guest Post: Why Handwritten Notes Work

Posted by Ilise Benun on

After visiting an interesting post on how people start their work days, I blogged about it here and an even more interesting thing happened (because that’s how the interwebs work!). A commenter followed up on my surprise over the effectiveness of handwritten notes with some pretty astonishing claims. So I followed up with him, and Mike Kaselnak of HOARD Clients System, Inc., sent back a detailed account of his experiences with handwritten communication, along with good support and rationale…

I am a commodity. Financial advisors are a commodity. We like to think that we aren’t, but we are. We all look the same to the public. We all sell the same things. Our products all cost the same (we can’t put things on sale like retailers to pump up our business). 

We are all basically proficient at being financial advisors much the same as dentists are all proficient at dentistry. We don’t all flock to a dentist because he is the “best.” We go to a dentist simply because we needed one. He or she had an office close to our home and they were as good, in our eyes, as any other dentist. Sorry, but for most people, that is about the same amount of time and effort they put into choosing a financial advisor.

No wonder I had never made more than $50,000 a year in my 12 years as a financial planner. I tried everything and it all kind of worked…just not enough for me to make more than $50,000 a year.

I tried:

  • Seminars – Expensive and risky.  One failed workshop and I
    was $5,000 in the hole.  Three failed workshops and I could be out of
  • Newsletters – Sent out thousands and they always seem to generate enough business to pay for themselves…just.
  • Newspaper Ads – Got a lot of people wanting free information…just not a lot of people buying products
  • Referrals – I asked for them a lot at the beginning but
    after making clients feel on the spot and still not getting many good
    referrals I quit asking.  I figured why make client feel uncomfortable
    when the likelihood of a good referral was slim to none anyways.
  • Systems and kits – Tried kit after kit and system after
    system.  Some worked.  Some didn’t.  All were expensive.  Many just
    required to much time and effort to even get started with them.
  • Etc., etc.

So finally, through desperation, I sat down and tried to figure out an
inexpensive way (I couldn’t afford anything but cheap) for me to look
different than all my competition.  And I had a lot of competition.  I
live in Rochester, MN, the home of the world famous Mayo Clinic. Since
7% of the entire population are doctors, every broker and their brother
has set up shop in our city.

Here’s what I stumbled on:

  1. Trying to look smart doesn’t work.  They either take your information
    back to their current broker and he made the commission on it or they
    just took the information home to “think about.”
  2. You can’t give better customer service.  Your competitors answer their
    phones courteously.  They promptly return phone calls.  They fulfilled
    their client’s requests quickly and with a smile on their face.  Your
    competitors all have good customer service
  3. You can’t promise them higher returns than my competitors for two
    reasons.  It’s illegal and it’s a lie.  Heck, if I could actually get
    them the highest returns I’d be living large on a Caribbean Island
    right now!
  4. I had been ignoring the Golden Rule of sales for 12 years:

The prospect doesn’t care how much you know
Until they know how much you care

I had been spending the vast majority of my time trying to demonstrate
how much I know to prospects and just expected them to know that I care.


They already know that you’re competent, they think all financial
advisors are competent just as they do with dentists.  What they don’t
know was that you care.

How can you show them that you care more than other financial advisors?

I sat down and tried to think how I could show them that I cared more
about them than my competition.  I couldn’t tell them because prospects
by nature are very skeptical. Their attitude is:

Words are cheap
Just SHOW me

So how can you show them that you care about them.  If you just keep
coming up with financial ideas to share with them, it’s just making
them think that the only thing you care about is getting at their money.

You need to show them that you care about them as people as you would a friend or family member.

People do business with friends.

What do friends do?

  • They share stories about what is happened to them or their families
  • They help each other out
  • They keep in contact
  • They time for each other

The only way you can do these things is by phone or by mail. 

Phoning is labor intensive and you run into the do not call list and making intrusive calls that cause people to dislike you.

Mail. Not intrusive and can be done very time efficiently.
Unfortunately, the time efficient way of mail merging form letters is a
waste of money.  99% are going to get thrown away.

The one piece of mail no one throws away without reading it is the handwritten note.

So I began to write handwritten notes.  A few at first and then dozens
and then as my business began to explode instead of stopping…I wrote
hundreds of handwritten notes and within two years, without changing
anything else I was doing, I went from making $50,000 a year to over $1
million a year

The Power of the Handwritten note

It is…cheap!

  • Pen or pencil —  free (Your local service station will give you one for free.)
  • Paper —  one penny
  • Envelope – one nickel
  • Stamp – 39 cents (ed. note: going up soon! write some notes today!)
  • Total cost – 45 cents

It is…effective!

  • The one piece of mail that is guaranteed to read 100% of the time
  • If done right — your message will be kept for at least a week
  • Your message will be shared with other people you normally couldn’t reach

Your message will create referrals…UNASKED FOR REFERRALS.  The most effective of referrals.

It…sets you apart from your competition!

You will be demonstrating the Golden Rule of selling:

They don’t care how much you know
Until they know how much you care

All your competition are playing game that can’t be won, trying to prove they are smarter than each other or that they have better customer service. You will be alone in demonstrating that you care!

  • More in: Connecting, Guest Mixers, How to Get the Most from ______, Inspiring stories, Self-Promotion

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