“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” - George Orwell
Financial Advisors get a bad rap, and much of it isn’t fair. While we aren’t in the era of 2008, we’re still recovering from it, and for many it’s been a difficult hill to climb. The great news is that for those of us who get it, it’s actually a blessing in disguise.
Take this quote above as an example. The connection is extreme, yes; I would in no way claim that our industry is ridden with universal deceit. I wouldn’t be in this business if I did. But for those investors who feel this way, imagine how impactful an honest financial advisor (if he gets the opportunity to prove it) is to their impression of the industry. Truth is simple. But no matter how simple, the fact of the matter is that there are many “givens” that don’t actually take place. For some advisors there is simply too much going on, too little repercussion, or too little incentive to do what is expected of them. Here are some simple ways you can avoid this and set yourself apart:
Put people first: The vast majority of advisors who have found real success in their careers have always put their desire to do well for their clients ahead of their desire to make money. I know this is true because I have worked with many of them. And their pursuit of improvement we’ve witnessed through coaching—as opposed to advising or consulting—is a direct reflection of their desire to put people first. Coaching allows advisors to obtain skills that they can later use in partnership with their clients to help those clients build better communication and problem solving skills. This not only allows the clients to make better financial decisions, it teaches them how to do so on their own. This clearly helps with client engagement, but the communication skills also naturally increase advisors' ability to acquire clients as a result of powerful questioning and active listening.
Know your vision: Hopefully your business is about more than helping people with their money. As someone in financial services and customer relations you probably have a unique and well-informed take on the world. What are you going to do to improve upon our industry, our world, or your business? Of course this is about knowing where you stand based on your metrics, but it’s also about knowing where you stand based on your values. Work with a coach or another advisor outside your business. Do some soul-searching to gain a deeper knowledge of why you do what you do and what you want the outcome of that to be.
Follow up: Financial advisors have a tough job because people come to them asking for help with something that’s incredibly difficult to pass off to someone else. Advisors are also very busy people, tasked with the challenge of working both in AND on their businesses. Even those advisors at the wirehouse level struggle to receive the support they need. These factors make it crucial that you personally follow up with people when you say you will. The goal is to find people to help you in this promise, but at first the onus maybe be solely on you. Come up with a system that allows you to keep track and follow up with clients; they shouldn’t be the ones who have to reach out to you.
Follow through: Don’t say you will do something if you can’t realistically accomplish it. Albeit a very well-intentioned bunch, financial advisors are inclined to over-commit to meet the needs of all their clients. A simple qualifying statement like: “It’s really important to me that I get to this, but realistically it might not be until next week” can make all the difference. This not only sets realistic expectations for your clients, but it absolves you from the guilt of knowing you are keeping someone waiting. A few advisors I know set a specific day to take care of tasks that have mounted up throughout that week or the previous week. “Follow up Fridays” or “Follow through Fridays,” allow you to set aside a day to stay accountable to the promises you make to clients.
Communicate and double check: You’ve heard this quote from me before, but here goes: “The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it’s taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw. This is especially true in situations in which the people communicating have different levels of knowledge, as is the case between financial advisor and client. Even the simple request of asking a client to phrase their understanding of what you’ve said in their own words can bring misunderstanding to light. This will allow you both to move forward on the same page, with clear knowledge of what you are agreeing to.
Be there for your clients… no matter what: I know you aren’t superhuman. The idea of being there for everyone all the time is not only mind-numbing, it’s impossible. But if you’re not there, someone should be. So how do you create a process to address this? Assembling a team to collectively work toward your vision will not only enable you to achieve your vision, it will also provide back up for your role in the event that something happens to you. Succession planning is key to your success, but it is even more important for the success of your clients.
Create good habits: There are many temptations in this industry: Rich steak dinners with too much wine, pushing things off on client service associates that could be better done ourselves, reinventing the wheel every time because the task itself takes less time than creating a process around it. You know the drill. Productivity Expert Chris Kirby said it best in Financial Planning Magazine: “Financial Advisors often find ways not to adopt the habits that will ensure their success.” Adopt good habits in everything from your business to your personal life and all in between. You’ll benefit from it, so will your team members, and certainly your clients.
Powerful coaching questions from this article:
- How would someone close to you in your personal life describe your values?
- How would someone close to you in your business life describe your values?
- Where do these two align? Do they? Should they?