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Practice Management

Talent in sales is all about moving others. There are resources available to help cultivate those skills in others.

This Practice Management article is intended for financial advisors only (registered representatives of broker dealers or associated persons of Registered Investment Advisors).
 

I received an interesting call from an advisor the other day. "Where can I get a rainmaker?" she asked. "I'm turning 60 today. I was thinking about retirement, then realized that I don't have anyone to take over my firm."

"I've got some great advisors here," the advisor continued, "but they've never had to bring in business. I've been trying to work with them. But, frankly, when I mention bringing in new business, they look at me like a deer in the headlights. Any ideas for me?"

Many advisors share this experience. Indeed, when our practices begin to grow, we bring in some very good planners who are more than capable of handling client relationships, but are not required to develop new business.

Now we're thinking of transferring the business to new-gen practitioners or at least making them partners in the firm, and we wonder whether they can keep the practice growing by developing their own relationships. For some, this is a foreign language.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are plenty of younger advisors with the skill to bring in new business—but we veterans don't always know how to identify them. Further, if we have raw talent in our practice, how do we help promising individuals hone their skills?

There are plenty of workshops, webinars, books, and coaches around to help sharpen your game. But often their action plan is simply to replicate the coach or presenter—who clearly has a natural gift and has spent years honing the craft.

Revised ABCs
Once in a while, however, someone will write something that just hits you. You can easily relate and you can easily adapt some principles to become your own.

Daniel Pink's new book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others, offers these kinds of tools. Talent in sales is all about moving others, Pink explains, and we all do it every day. Some of us are natural salespeople, but the rest of us are in "non-sales" selling. "We're persuading, convincing, and influencing others to give us something they've got in exchange for what we've got," Pink explains.

Pink maintains that the old ABC adage for salespeople—"Always Be Closing"—has actually morphed into a new ABC: attunement, buoyancy, and clarity.

Attunement is bringing yourself together in harmony with other people. Buoyancy is the quality of staying afloat in a sea of rejection. The third principle is clarity: Find problems, and solve them by comparing and contrasting—in other words, by demonstrating clarity.

Cleaning Up a Dirty Word
I find it fascinating that so many advisors believe that the word "sales" has a negative connotation and have a conflicted view of their role in this process. Pink's book is great in underscoring how to enhance our natural sales skills and suggests the changes we need to make to get better at motivating people to take the steps necessary to improve their financial life.

My friend Linda Stimac, a consultant to advisors, agrees. "Financial advisors were historically the master educators," Stimac says. "That's because clients didn't have the information overload of the Internet and other media as we do today.

"Now we must be expert facilitators of decision-making," she continues. "Clients need us to help them pick through an avalanche of data and information and help them make sound financial decisions. They have more than enough information; they need to act on it and they don't know where to start."

This change in role actually leads to a more successful closing process, putting the decision and commitment in a client's hands. "You know, people seldom say no to their own ideas," Stimac says.

Pinpointing Characters
Stimac, who has been working with advisors for more than 30 years, has spent almost all of that time studying the characteristics and qualities of some 3,500 rainmakers and has developed a web-based program she calls RainmakerDNA. Through this program, she has consulted with and helped educate thousands of advisors.

The process seems simple. An advisor takes the comprehensive assessment exercise, and the results list natural and learned capabilities in characteristics such as economic motivation, decision-making dysfunction and, my personal favorite, "enlarged approval gland." (This last attribute, by the way, is seen as a good one: An advisor with a healthy ego is actually better at guiding a client to invest wisely.)

You are then compared with a "perfect" rainmaker specimen, and provided with information that helps you determine what you must do to improve your skills. The RainmakerDNA analysis outlines a process favored by clients, and then describes the qualities, skills, and supportive beliefs necessary to facilitate the successful financial decision-making process.

There are a few critical qualities and skills essential to a successful facilitator, Stimac says:

1. Decision-making prowess. Rainmakers are decisive and naturally able to lead potential clients to appropriate, timely, and sound decisions.
2. Strong self-approval. Rainmakers do not seek client's approval, only their respect.
3. Attention proficiency. Rainmakers have the ability to focus on the moment and respond naturally to whatever happens in a client encounter.
4. Financial acumen. Rainmakers know when and how to talk about money and are not intimidated by large amounts.

Peak Performance
At Texas Tech University, where I teach, we arranged to have Stimac conduct a special two-day course. She identified the rainmaker characteristics in the students and evaluated several attributes, then ranked them by their current potential and identified the distance to their own rainmaker peak performance.

She also diagnosed symptoms that impeded them from reaching their peak performance, spotting weaknesses in their sales processes, and offered solutions and remedies.

One common problem, she says, is "missing signs that indicate when your client is ready to move forward. [These signals] tell you when and how to move forward. That allows you to stay in control of the forward movement."

"What do you do," I ask, "with people who have limited DNA?"

"I won't say that it's impossible" to train them, Stimac answers, "but it might be an opportune time to talk about a different role in the profession, or perhaps a different profession all together."

With so much uncertainty in our industry, now is a good time to review how you are reaching out to others and motivating them toward good decision-making.

Whether you've been doing this for decades or are just getting started, great resources are available to help you complete your strategic succession plan or assure your rise to a partnership in the future.

And if you're an advisor who needs rainmakers, there just might be a treasure trove of potential rainmakers sitting right outside your office. Give them the resources, training and skills they need to make them a success. And as Pink teaches us, if they're human, they can and will sell.


Deena Katz, CFP, LHD, is a Financial Planning contributing writer.

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