Being a financial adviser today is a complex business. It takes a pretty broad range of skills to be able to carry it out successfully.
So we’re going to start with a basic assumption based on your experience, qualifications and commitment to CPD; that you are capable of delivering excellent advice and financial solutions to your clients. This is what you do day in and day out and without doubt is the reason that independent financial advisers have clearly established themselves as the channel of choice for people seeking personal finance advice.
But what about the other skills that you also need to run your business successfully? Here are some of the skills that you need and the question is, “Are you as good in each of these areas as you possibly can be, and if not, what are you doing about it”?
Assuming you have people working for you, either in a sales capacity or as support staff, this is your primary function. It’s up to you to devise the strategy for your business, to scan the horizon for future trends and set the direction accordingly. And then to manage your team and to provide day-to-day guidance to ensure everyone performs to his or her maximum potential, and that your business is being run in a compliant and efficient way.
A financial manager
You also need to manage your business from a financial perspective, ensuring that you are generating the required amount of income via fees and commission to sustain your business and that the profile of this income is in line with your business model. Most advisers today are looking to build their recurring income and the proportion this represents of overall income.
On top of this, you’ve then got to manage your costs that of course come in all (and sometimes unexpected and unplanned) shapes and sizes!
You can’t rely on your business to promote itself, except of course by all of those kind words and positive stories that your existing clients say about you having experienced your services! You’ve got to get out and promote it, whether that’s building your brand, growing your own profile, attracting new clients or retaining your existing clients. All of this takes time, energy… and specific skills.
The life-blood of all financial advice businesses is its clients. And while there is definitely a shift towards a much greater focus on strengthening relationships with existing clients, many advice firms still require a steady flow of new clients to achieve their growth and financial goals.
So you need well-developed prospecting skills, whether these are seeking out referrals from existing clients, networking among your target clients or developing active relationships with introducers.
It’s funny; this one sticks in the craw of some advisers today, who don’t like to think of themselves as salespeople. I’ve bad news, selling is a key part of your overall role and there is nothing wrong with being a salesperson! At the end of the day, you’ve got to be able to convince people that it is going to be worth their while to sit down with you and find out more about the value that you can potentially deliver. How good is your elevator pitch?
A pipeline manager
Managing more complex and longer pipelines effectively is a significant challenge of many advisers today. Research tells us that clients take longer today before they commit and that it usually takes in excess of 5 contacts with them before they are willing to actually come on board as clients. So keeping people moving through the sales funnel is an important skill, and advisers need to ensure that they are carrying out the right pre-sales activities and persevering towards ultimate success.
And then you get the opportunity to sit down with a prospective client and convince them that you are the only adviser in town to meet their needs. To do this, you’ve got to be able to persuasively tell your story, demonstrate your value and convince them that your services are what they require and are definitely worth paying for. If your presentation is not engaging enough, will they see the value of dealing with you and will they be willing to pay for your services? And then you need to keep communicating with them again and again into the future, to gently remind them of why they are so fortunate to have found you!
A service champion
There is so much choice available to us in the world today in every product and service that we seek. This applies to financial advisers too. As a result, clients expect you to deliver a good service. They won’t even particularly thank you for it, as they will see this as a hygiene factor, a minimum standard that you must achieve.
So you need to set the standard in your business, to ensure that your staff are wowing your clients rather than disappointing them with the service they receive.
So back to the question posed earlier… If your skills are lacking in any of these areas, what are you doing about it?
Photo courtesy of Marcin Winchary