Whether we like it or not, every one of us has built-in internal biases. One of the most basic is linked to answering the following question: “Are you an average financial advisor?”
Huh? Of course not! Nobody, especially a financial advisor, thinks of herself as average. This is why the key to assessing your strengths and weaknesses is to involve other people—and it doesn’t have to be a therapist or coach. The fact is that it’s easy to identify and criticize the weaknesses of other people that we know.
Now for the purposes of this exercise, all you need is another financial advisor who, like yourself, has a sense of humor (the follow-up discussions can be hilarious), is interested in growth and a bottle of wine (or adult beverage of choice).
The drill is simple; I’ve outlined nine basic qualities our research has associated with advisor success (this is an incomplete list). You should (without any guidance) rate each other in terms of a strength or weakness for every quality, and you’ve got to be brutally honest.
The adult beverage and humor enter the game when you’ve completed your ratings and have an open discussion on each quality that will produce an action step to either fully capitalize on a strength or correct a weakness.
- Motivation. Although most financial advisors consider themselves highly motivated, we adhere to the philosophy of “Your actions speak so loudly, we can’t hear what you say.” Therefore, we gauge this factor in terms of growth: new clients and new assets. Is there a disciplined process in place that is executed consistently? Are new clients being acquired consistently as a result?
- Empathy. Are you able to see and appreciate the value of others, to understand the viewpoint of others and appreciate the needs of others in order to relate and communicate with them? Empathy is a critical component of persuasion.
- Listening. The first cousin of empathy. Proactive listening is a skill that not only helps you connect with a prospect but also enables you to uncover the window of opportunity necessary for selling your services. Listening requires being able to ask follow-up questions.
- Handling rejection. Crocodile skin is a requirement for all successful financial advisors. In their mind, rejection is not a personal afront, rather it’s simply a business decision that could easily change in the future. Successful acquirers get rejected more than the average financial advisor. Why? Because, like Babe Ruth, they’re taking more swings.
- Self-starting ability. Are you able to take action toward achieving your goals without being reminded? Are you proactive about getting personally introduced to and meeting each prospect you source?
- Practical thinking ability. What is your ability to make practical, common-sense decisions? This factor involves priority management, understanding the difference between important and urgent—as not everything that’s urgent is important. This also involves your sense of timing, use of resources and ability to evaluate situations.
- Organizational ability. Do you plan your day and work your plan? Do you do this every day? Does your daily plan include those high-impact ($1,000/hour) marketing activities?
- Attitude toward selling. This quality requires you to have the ability to see the true value in your sales skills. Many financial advisors fail at this step. They don’t like the sales aspect of their role and find themselves struggling or, at best, plateaued.
- Handling stress. To maximize your potential as a financial advisor, you must be able to manage your anxieties and frustrations. Whether it’s the market, your firm, a client or a team member—the secret is being proactive with what you can control and letting go of what you can’t. Poor stress management is a productivity killer and leaves you vulnerable to health problems and even depression.
Your best results will occur when you both evaluate each other quietly by yourselves. Your role is to eliminate those blind spots, those internal biases, by being brutally honest with your colleague. Once you’ve both completed your ratings assessments, meet, open that bottle of wine and have a discussion on each quality.
Nobody’s perfect. The idea is to make certain you’re capitalizing on your strengths and taking steps to correct your weaknesses.
Matt Oechsli is author of How to Build a 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing, and Retaining Affluent Clients. www.oechsli.com