by Ryan W. Smith
Being a good financial advisor takes much more than financial knowledge and sales talent. The best financial advisors have all mastered one additional skill that most will say is the true key to a successful career as a financial advisor: becoming an essential part of their client’s lives. An advisor who is essential to his or her clients goes the extra step every day to make sure they are providing a level of service no one else can match.
Many of the traits that financial advisors utilize to become essential to their clients translate well into other fields. Mastering these skills, while avoiding some of the pitfalls that might also arise, takes time, patience, practice and a willingness to try things differently if the initial method doesn’t work.
It is important to note that good service starts with communication. Having a team in place that works well together, has clear-cut roles and redundancies built into even routine processes allows for more seamless communication, both with clients and within the team.
Many successful advisors will have only a select number of employees who are allowed to speak to a given client. If the advisor is the only person able to speak with a given client, then communication and customer service will soon diminish since successful advisors typically have dozens, even hundreds, of clients.
Other successful advisors will allow many people on their team to speak with a client, but limit the topics that employee can assist clients with. This division of labor tends to work best when multiple advisors share a larger client base and have more support staff to assist.
No matter the position in an advisor’s office, all employees are important to the overall outcome. If all employees are focused on the firm’s profitability, which stems directly from customer service and investment outcomes, then the overall stress of the firm is lowered, meaning that the stress for individual employees is also reduced. Lower stress leads to longer employment duration and better client retention while also allowing individuals to find their most effective role, then become proficient in that role.
Nearly all jobs have an unwritten addendum to position responsibilities: do everything possible to help bosses and co-workers be more successful and less stressed. When an office is working at it maximum effectiveness, workers are happy, productivity is high and clients are satisfied.
One of the aspects of any client-based relationship, employment opportunity or person-to-person interaction that is undervalued is expectations. Setting realistic and high, but attainable, expectations that can be successfully and consistently met, then subsequently exceeded, is a key metric to success for financial advisors. These expectations, set with staff, with clients and even the advisor him or herself, form the basis of the strum and drang of day-to-day workloads.
If expectations are not realistic, cannot be consistently achieved and superseded, then all other variables will eventually tend to falter as well, oftentimes leading to disaster later on. And usually sooner rather than later.
If expectations are high, but attainable, consistently exceeded with teamwork and increased efficiency then customer service, investment research, backoffice capabilities and overall team chemistry will benefit. Clients will notice this, feel more comfortable with the team and their relationship with the advisor will flourish.
Asking a client, a team member or employer what they expect in order for the relationship, project or situation to be considered a success is the best starting point. This conversation can then provide a roadmap for future success on all fronts.
Too often attitude is only associated with the negative. When you read the word “attitude” just now, did you think of something positive or negative? However that word is originally understood, a positive, can-do attitude that can make all the difference in a client-based relationship or team-oriented office environment. A positive attitude, regardless of situation, will more often than not lead to a better outcome in the long run.
When clients see an office where people are positive, great things can happen. Referrals will tend to rise, errors and mistakes will be corrected more quickly, potential problems averted more frequently. And profits will respond accordingly.
Successful financial advisors often have more clients than they themselves could handle alone. For advisors, being an accomplished organizer is an indispensable skill. However, for all office staff, organization is essential. It is hard to communicate, have a positive attitude, work well as a team when one or more people is disorganized. Time is wasted while the unorganized finds the necessary information, efficiencies are eroded and usually, so are profits.
Everyone knows a colleague, employer, client, family member or friend who is a terrible organizer. An email inbox with hundreds or thousands of emails left in one place, project deadlines missed, last minute insanity due to poor time management are all key signs of the disorganized. Organization is a skill not taught in school, learned through trial and error and difficult to maintain at all times. But it is crucial to success at any level.
Creating a system works for most people. However, the number of efficient organization system is nearly infinite. There just is not a single methodology for organization that will work for everyone. For some, organization is a natural skill, while many others will struggle greatly. One proven method of successful organization is emulation. Paying attention to how others successfully organize, prepare and manage their time, looking for traits to incorporate into a system is how many people find the organizational system that works best for them.
In the financial advisory industry, where any mistake can cost thousands of dollars or permanently damage a reputation, perfection is necessary to success. However, perfection is impossible to attain in perpetuity. It is therefore critical for staff members and advisors to strive for consistent excellence in the absence of perfection. Double-checking documents for spelling errors, making sure all trades are executed in a timely fashion, cross-checking accounting figures. Measure twice, cut once, but do it quickly and eliminate the fear of failure by making the best effort is the only one people see.
Competition is fierce in the financial advisory industry. Research has shown that passive investing has grown in popularity, not just because it’s easier for clients to understand three ETF positions than it is 30 stock positions, but because the difference between a good advisor and a poor one goes much further than just investment prowess and research. It is hard to beat the market consistently, even for the most skilled professionals. Advisors must be able to provide have additional value outside of financial acumen to win new business and be successful.
AdvisoryWorld’s invest analytics software can assist advisors with their portfolio research, but for a successful advisor needs more than just investment prowess to truly be essential to clients. Advisors and support staff need to build and maintain long-term, profitable relationships for both client and firm, communicate well, maintain focus, set high, but realistic expectations, sustain a positive attitude, stay organized and strive for excellence at all times. All these traits work together to create positive, profitable and long-lasting client-based relationships that are essential to long-term success.