Ask a Coach

Want to capitalize on new business opportunities but not sure how? Get yourself an advisor.

By Ray Sclafani

November 1, 2006 – In 2006, the oldest baby boomers began to reach the age of 60. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 8,000 Americans will turn 60 every day this year. Research shows that as the baby boomers approach retirement, they want to simplify their lives. Quite often, when they reach 60 they will begin to look for a new advisor, one who can act as a facilitator for all of their needs and help streamline their personal and financial lives.

Now is the time to ask yourself if you are truly prepared for the new demands the baby boomers are creating in the marketplace. Will your business be lifted by the rising tide of baby boomers nearing retirement, or will it be pulled under? Do you have the skills to meet the needs and expectations of a more sophisticated client base? Even the best advisors in the business today have room to grow, learn and develop. And that’s where coaching comes in: It helps you to take full advantage of the opportunity that’s on your doorstep.

Investing in Yourself

Finding the right coach can make the difference between getting by and reaching the top. If you think that coaching is for beginners, think again. In fact, the typical advisor who seeks coaching is already a top producer, often managing more than $100 million in assets.

“Many of the industry’s most successful advisors view coaching as an investment in their future,” says my colleague, Liz Manibay, director of coaching solutions for ClientWise. “They may excel at managing money, but they often lack other important skills that are vital to growing their advisory businesses over the long term.”

To meet the needs of the baby boomers, you need to do more than just manage money well. You need excellent communication skills, you need to delegate work efficiently and you need to build a strong support and referral network. You also need to get to know your clients intimately, understanding not only their financial objectives but also their personal goals. Coaching can help you improve these skills while creating a path for beneficial change.

A good coach can also provide an impartial point of view and spur you to let go of old ways of thinking that may be keeping you from reaching your full potential. This is especially important if you’re already a top producer—you may not have many colleagues with whom you can discuss the challenges you face.

Embracing Success

When advisors and their teams are committed to change, coaching can yield impressive results. A successful wealth management team in Houston recently hired a coach to help them define and parcel out roles and responsibilities among their team members. While the advisors in the office were great at managing client relationships, they realized that they needed a higher level of support and performance from their staff.

Their coach was able to help create a growth and development plan for each member of the team, empowering the staff members to be more effective in their day-to-day tasks. Today, the advisors are able to spend less time managing their staff and more time growing and developing their most valued client relationships.

Here’s another success story about an advisor I know in Boston who was looking to enhance her client acquisition skills. Although she already had a well-established client base, she wanted to focus on developing new relationships with clients who had larger account balances while also broadening her referral network. After meeting with several potential coaches, she found one with whom she felt a genuine connection.

Her coach helped her develop and implement new client acquisition strategies designed around her specific interests and goals. They also developed a program for networking with professional advocates who could help the advisor find the types of new clients she was looking for. As a result, she has raised $16 million in new assets this year and is excited about the growth potential of her practice.

In order to get the most from your coaching relationship, however, you need to be open to change. You also need to be willing to spend the time you need to find the right coach.

I recently spoke with an advisor in California who had jumped into coaching too soon. This particular advisor wanted to grow and develop in his career, but he wasn’t quite ready to commit the time and energy needed to making changes in his practice.

What’s more, he didn’t take the time to get to know his coach before beginning a relationship. So he ended up with a coach who wasn’t a good fit for his personality or his goals. Whenever I talk to advisors who are considering coaching, I encourage them to spend some time getting to know a coach before beginning a relationship, in order to find one with the right personality, skills and experience to help them.

Preparing for Change

If you aren’t growing your business, you may be at risk of losing assets to new industry players. The baby boomers—your current and potential clients—are increasingly savvy about investments and working with advisors. They want the best of everything—from cars and houses to financial advice—and expect more from their advisors than previous generations ever did. To keep them happy, you may need to spend less time managing money and more time listening to and talking with your clients.

The right coach can help you lay a solid foundation for continued success. If you are interested in hiring a coach, look for someone who can work with you to set expectations for the relationship, as well as help you articulate the value of the services you are providing to your clients. Seek out someone with hands-on experience and an intimate understanding of the challenges you face as a financial advisor; it’s best to choose a coach with first-hand knowledge of the industry. And finally, you should feel trust and have a genuine rapport with a coach before committing to an engagement.

If you have any concerns about coaching, it’s always a good idea to discuss them with a potential coach before entering into a relationship. Perhaps you’ve worked with a coach in the past, but didn’t get the results you wanted. Or maybe you think that working with a coach is a little goofy. Let potential coaches know what’s on your mind.

By sharing your concerns and noting coaches’ reactions, you’ll be able to sift out the nonstarters and develop a relationship with one that will be mutually rewarding. Whatever your goals may be, a seasoned coach can help you take advantage of the opportunities that are present in a changing competitive business landscape.

Ray Sclafani is President of ClientWise LLC, an organization founded to support the financial advisory practice of the future. Delivering unique practice management strategies focused on client acquisition and retention, ClientWise provides coaching and training for leading financial advisors. For more information, e-mail or call 1-800-732-0876.


Originally published in Financial Planning, November 2006.


Copyright Ray Sclafani 2006.