One of the most challenging aspects of coaching for those who are new to the profession or—as is frequently the case in financial services—those who are accustomed to consulting rather than true coaching, is adjusting the concept of partnership. The participants of our Certified Financial Services Coach Training Program hear about this concept over and over again throughout the course, because it is central to everything that happens in financial services coaching. It is also a huge part of what differentiates coaching from advising, consulting and mentoring, and, further, what differentiates a successful financial advisor from a salesperson.
Partnership is a difficult concept to master because, while it is incredibly valued, it is extremely under-implemented. An article I recently read in Forbes, “Here’s Why Salespeople Need to Be Like Coaches—Not Athletes,” presents a great context for this conversation, as it relates to partnership and coaching in sales.
The article correctly points out that sales not about forcing something on your clients, but rather about working with them to understand how what you are providing can be a path for them to get to where they want to be. Of course, in order to accomplish this, you must know where they are going, and discovering this path is all about forging a partnership.
There are many important lessons in creating partnership that ClientWise emphasizes in agreement with the article, and others we’ve illustrated below by taking you through the core coaching competencies central to our coach training:
Establishing the coaching agreement: This is key to partnership, and often overlooked in situations in which the “expert” financial professional presumes to know what his client needs, rather than forming a relationship to discover, together, what his client needs. The coaching agreement is the first step of the partnership, which establishes the goal that is being worked toward, the role of each person in working toward the goal, and whether the method of coaching will be effective.
Communicating effectively: This is the best way to understand your client’s desired path. Through active listening and powerful questioning, you learn something new and different about each client that will either reiterate or challenge what you learned about the previous client. Your expertise will not get you by in this facet—it’s all about listening to the unique needs of the client, communicating what you hear back to make sure it’s been interpreted correctly, and listening for clarification from the client to ensure your understanding. This is also where you can check in on whether you’re attending to the client’s agenda, tune into the clients concerns, values, and beliefs, and distinguish between words, tone of voice and body language.
Facilitating learning & results: In this step you’re finally able to deliver on the promises you’ve made to the client, but specifically through the knowledge of the partnership you’ve created for them, rather than the expertise you’ve established elsewhere throughout your career. Here, you have the ability to create awareness and clarity for the client by going beyond what the client has said to identify new thoughts, feelings and actions that communicate broader perspectives to clients and ultimately shift their viewpoints. The clients are then able to see the different factors that affect their behaviors, and define new actions that will help them toward their goals. This not only facilitates results, but it establishes new patterns that create a learning opportunity for clients to change their financial behavior or relationship with money. This phase is also a time for planning and goal setting, and establishing guidelines for progress and accountability, in ways that are uniquely tailored to the needs of the client rather than some pre-determined formula.
These steps in the coaching process are often left out of consulting and mentoring conversations. However, they are crucial to establishing a partnership in which the specific financial goals of your client are individually established, attained with recognition of their perspective, and in consideration of their ability and understanding of success. Try implementing these things in your next client meeting and observe the impact it has on your client acquisition or client engagement process.
Powerful coaching questions from this article:
- Is your profess with each client differentiated by specific attention to their goals, wants and needs in the form of a partnership?
- Is there a time in which you felt as though you were working in partnership? If so, what was different about it?
- How can you take these skills used in coaching, and apply them to your process with clients to move away from selling and toward partnering?