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The 4 Basic Success Tenets of Elite Advisors

With everything else going on—remote work, endless Zoom meetings and video conferences, dealing with the never-ending pandemic—don't neglect these qualities of elite advisors.

During the Q&A session following a webinar I’d just finished presenting, I received a question from an advisor who inadvertently opened a window on a topic that had been rattling around in my mind: 

“From all of your research and with our world turned upside down, what are the three most critical factors we should focus on to have a successful 2021?” 

With so much emphasis on the logistical aspects of working through this seemingly never-ending pandemic—remote offices, Zoom meetings, video conferencing, etc.—and the learning curve required for both adapting and becoming proficient in all of these tools, I had this gnawing feeling that some of the fundamental ingredients of achievement, the basic success tenets, were being neglected.   

Before answering, I paused and focused directly on the financial advisor asking the question (we were on a video feed), and then responded with one word—ambition.

The expression on this advisor’s face was a dead giveaway; it was obvious that this was an area that needed attention.

I then took the liberty to outline what our Elite Advisor Research shared the four, not three, qualities (tenets) elite advisors all had in common: 

  • Ambition
  • Discipline
  • Self-Awareness
  • Deliberate Practice 

I then proceeded to explain how they’ve always been at the core of every elite advisor regardless of whatever external impact factors were forced upon them. In that spirit, let’s take a glance at how these success tenets worked for elite advisors during these challenging times.

Ambition: When it became obvious that COVID-19 was changing business as usual, new goals were quickly established. This ran the gamut of readjusting existing goals to establishing new, ambitious goals. Although there were numerous variations, these goals focused on affluent client retention and affluent client/new asset acquisition.  

Granted, every financial advisor wants to retain their top clients, but these advisors were extremely ambitious in their new acquisition targets, which required injecting a turbo-charge into their typical word-of-mouth-influence campaign. This involved making it a top priority to exceed top client expectations over and beyond and accelerate getting introduced into their affluent client’s sphere-of-influence.   

Because elite advisors are ambitious, they think big and are quick to recognize opportunities. And a crisis always portends opportunities.

Discipline: Ambition is simply a pipe dream without discipline. I clearly remember talking with the partners of an elite wealth management team last April when things just began to shut down. They were already piloting video conferencing software (Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams) to determine which would be the most reliable on their end, and the easiest for clients to use. They were creating a Cliff-Note instruction guide for each program they were piloting.  

They had developed a game plan—number of client calls per partner each day, coronavirus care packages to be sent, introduction asks (virtually) per week, former prospects to call per day, and COIs to contact each week.  All linked to ambitious, COVID-19 adjusted, client acquisition goals.  

There was a lot more involved in the logistics required for working remotely, but it was their discipline linked to their ambition that provided the high-octane fuel for execution. 

Self-Awareness: This is often the fork in the road between elite and average performers in any profession. Why? Because everyone has weaknesses; the average financial advisor, like the average person, has developed the success defying habit of making excuses in the form of rationalizing, which in turn renders them blind to their performance specific weaknesses. Whereas elite advisors, in part because of their ambition, are always looking to improve. This has made them extremely self-aware to the extent they are always looking to identify any performance specific weakness that needs correcting.   

This tenet is critical in times of crisis. The elite wealth management team mentioned above quickly recognized that they needed help in their delivery, they were too rigid, in a video conference.  They also discovered that their Cliff-Note instruction guide was not as helpful to clients as they’d hoped.  

All of which led to…

Deliberate Practice: There’s a myth that’s been perpetuated in the financial advisor community that says, “focus on your strengths, maximize your strengths and avoid your weaknesses.” A glance at any top athlete exposes the flaw in this thinking. Whether it’s Michael Jordan becoming a top defensive player or Tom Brady becoming a fitness fanatic—deliberate practice requires hard work to master something that is either new, difficult or both.  

Because these advisors were self-aware, it didn’t take long for this elite wealth management team to realize that they weren’t comfortable in their one-on-one video calls. What did they do? They set aside time to role-play with their coach and then proceeded to compile a review of each video call to debrief with their coach. No surprise, they improved quickly. Now they do a modified role play (run-through) before every video call. Lest I forget, this elite wealth management team just had a career year in acquiring new clients and assets. 

Regarding the Cliff-Note instructions, they had their assistants call clients 24 hours before their scheduled call and walk them through the technology. The feedback from these calls was “off the charts”—and served to accelerate personal introductions.   

Fully embracing these 4 Basic Success Tenets is not easy. Yet, our research over the past 30 years, amidst three decades of external impact factors, highlights these four tenets as a constant within elite advisors.  

I’m going to leave you with my closing remarks to the advisors participating in the webinar that brought my inner thoughts to light; “Model these four basic success tenetsand you’ll be modeling the core qualities of elite advisors. You will come closer to maximizing your potential than those who neglect them—and yes, 2021 will be a banner year.”  

Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent  


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