Helping successful financial advisors build extraordinary teams
As advisors respond to our new landscape, there seems to be one group that is especially lucky. The advisors in this group aren’t lucky because they have better investment strategies or richer clients. They’re lucky because, long before the meltdown, they gave themselves a job description. And on that job description is one primary duty: “see clients”.
So see clients, they do. Perhaps they see ‘A’ clients twice a year, ‘B’ clients once a year and ‘C’ clients every 18 months. Whatever the interval, their review systems are entrenched. There is a process for scheduling, a process for prepping and a process for post-review task management.
As a result, these advisors have full calendars and unsolicited referrals. Best of all, they have little time to fret. Several of my clients have told me that this will be their best year ever.
I’d like to suggest that you take “review religion” one step further by making reviews not an optional service, but a requirement for doing business with you. You’d say to a prospective client:
“If we work together, there’s one thing you need to know. We require that our clients meet with us twice a year to review their plan and assure we’re fulfilling their objectives.”
And, they’d say:
“Dang this advisor is different!”
Here’s to getting lucky in 2009…with a job description!
The most dramatic and bewildering year we’ve experienced in our careers, mercifully, is about to end. At a time when much seems out of our control, here are six simple things you can do to launch 2009, empowered and engaged:
Happiest of holidays!
How do you debrief a client meeting? Do you have a process or is it “seat of your pants? Let’s assume you have twenty client meetings per week and out of each comes five “to-do’s”…that’s 100 new tasks coming into the practice each week. How quickly and effectively those tasks are delegated has everything to do with how smoothly your practice runs and how unburdened you feel. Here are my favorite debriefing strategies:
Whatever debriefing system you use, use it religiously. The alternative is to procrastinate until the memory fades and hope for the best…and you and your team are much to good for that!
We’ve all been there. The resume was strong. She interviewed great. She was professionally dressed, had all the right answers and even came with industry pedigree. You did a personality or instincts test and it looked like a great match. You even remembered to check references.
Week one you noticed the “deer in the headlights” look. You hoped it would go away. It didn’t. At six months, you knew you were dealing with one very expensive “mis-hire”.
Rewind, please. Next time, do everything you did this time, but add one more hoop – The Job Audition. The Job Audition is a brief simulation of the tasks associated with the position. In about 45 minutes, it will give you an authentic look into the performance the candidate is likely to deliver. My Job Audition for an assistant involves three tasks:
One final tip about the Job Audition…don’t be shy about asking candidates to do this. The job audition is as valuable to potential employees as it is to you!
Your practice may serve the wealthiest people in your community. Your assets under management may be an enviable number. Your brand may be associated with sophisticated planning and high-touch service. But if you’re not adding new clients every year, you have a vulnerable business.
The source of most new clients, of course, is referrals but few practices have consistent referral systems. Without referral systems advisors will still get referrals – but not necessarily the ones they want and rarely in sufficient quanity.
Lack of time is often cited as the obstacle. But I’ve found that the majority of advisors are simply referral scaredy cats. They’d rather kiss a snake than ask a client for an introduction. When these advisors are my clients, I have two ways to address the challenge. I can lay the advisor down on the practice management coach to uncover the deep-seeded cause of their call reluctance or I can simply relieve the advisor of the burden of asking for introductions…by delegating the responsibility to someone else. Yes, it can be done..with just the right person, positioned just the right way and using just the right approach.
The right person may be an associate advisor but, more often, we use the practice’s Concierge (aka Marketing Coordinator). We teach them how to identify clients “most likely to refer” and how to conduct introduction meetings.. The advisor attends the meetings, but has a passive role. It’s the Marketing Coordinator who engages the client in a warm and relaxed discussion about the client’s work, family, and community involvement and who walks them through names of people they are likely to know who are on the advisor’s target list.
There are a handful of individuals who are unquely successful in this role. Their flagship talent is a disarming charm and a genuine interest in people. When this talent is present and your relationship with the client is strong and the approach is systematized, the introductions flow. If you need help determining whether this role should be added to your “Dream Team” – give us a call – scaredy cats are welcome!
I often joke that, contrary to popular belief, our industry does have a national employee training program – it’s called “Baptism by Fire”. When it comes to training, we typically throw new people into the job and pray that they will be both smart and resilient.
How much could effective training improve your employee retention, client experience and your own peace of mind? Immeasurably, I suspect. So here’s my method for killing two birds with one stone – training employees and capturing that training in a procedures manual.
Whenever you’re doing a live training session with an employee, always train in this format:
Training is a “currency” that retains great employees because it reduces frustrations, develops new skills and creates the “predictable practice” we all seek. I’ve attached my training template and hope that you’ll start using it…on Monday!
Every advisor I know believes in the power of words. They spend days crafting their elevator talks. They memorize sales tracks. They soak up magic words shared by industry pundits. And yet these very same advisors often struggle to find the right words when they’re communicating with their staff.
Since no one can ever out-perform their own self-concept, your #1 job is to build the confidence of each person on your team. And in building confidence, words have the power to maim or to inspire. Here are five phrases that work:
- You look stressed. Is there anything I can do to help? Just saying the words – even without fixing the problem – reduces feelings of “overwhelm”.
- Can you give me a quick summary of what I just asked you to do so I know I didn’t miss any important details You’ll see if they “got it” before they go off and do it.
- You did an amazing job! The more specific the recognition, the better.
- Thank you for always being there to help me. You could say this every day and it wouldn’t be too much.
- I’m sorry. I must not have explained this task sufficiently. My former boss, Nick Horn, always said this to me when I messed up. And he said without a hint of sarcasm.
These five phrases – just fifty little words – used consistently, will create a “no fail” environment. And when people believe they cannot fail, they achieve extraordinary things.
If life inside your practice is feeling a little chaotic, it may be because the team has a thousand things to do and no system for making sure those things get done. And you’re probably waking up at night worried about what’s slipping through the cracks.
The problem is “unsupervised tasks” – tasks that run around with no system to control them. The solution has three steps and they’re all simple:
For those who don’t have a good system for task management, I’ve attached our super simple Excel spreadsheet. To retrieve tasks by any of the above criteria, simply pull down the arrows next to column headings to automatically filter the list. (If your team needs any help with this template, give us a call.)
Here’s to calm practices, happy teams, and well-served clients!
Many advisors struggle with how to respond to the simple question, “What do you do?” so it isn’t surprising that few get around to arming their staff with an elevator talk. But, boy, is this a powerful concept!
What would it be worth if your staff could deliver a polished statement about the value your firm provides? They could use it with referrals, with centers of influence and with people they meet in their own circles.
When I visit clients and meet with each staff person, one of the questions I always ask is, “If I met you at a party and asked what you do for a living, what would you say?” The best response I ever heard was this:
“I’m an Operations Manager for a wealth management firm. We work with individuals and business owners with a net worth of $5 million or more, who care about their families, businesses, and communities. We help them with everything they care about.”
Kudos to Bill Babb of Raleigh, North Carolina for inspiring this vision in his team.