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Sales Assistant Profile 2010:  The Good Listener

Sales Assistant Profile 2010: The Good Listener

Kathleen K. Santos, Private Portfolios Inc., San Mateo, Calif.

Private Portfolios Inc.
San Mateo, Calif.

When a natural gas pipeline blew up in San Bruno, Calif. on Sept. 9, killing at least four people and causing fires that damaged or destroyed nearly 50 houses, Kathy Santos got into work early the next morning. A client services specialist at Private Portfolios Inc., a practice affiliated with Securities America, in nearby San Mateo, Santos reasoned that the disaster had probably affected some of the practice's investors. Cross-referencing client addresses with Google Maps, Santos found about a dozen customers close to the disaster zone. She got on the telephone to check in with them and see how they were doing, says her boss, Robert Binn, who runs the practice with his son, Dan Binn. Everyone was fine. “Those kind of things mean so much to a client,” Binn says.

Being a self-starter is a big part of Santos' professional life. She worked five years for the Binns before leaving to sell investments to financial advisors on behalf of a real estate investment trust and a venture capital firm. Four years ago, after taking time off to raise her children, she rejoined Private Portfolios, an RIA with $154.9 million in AUM. Santos, who holds Series 7 and 63 licenses, says her experience talking to investors over the telephone came in handy when the Binns purchased portions of two financial practices a few years ago and had to persuade the clients to stay with them. Santos was tasked with contacting more than 100 investors, chiefly lower-net-worth customers, while the Binns approached the wealthier clients. In the end, the practice was able to keep more than 90 percent of the clients acquired.

Listening is the key to making those conversations work, says Santos, 48. “It's one of the hardest things for people to do because you want to fill in the time by talking, because you want to convey who you are. Most people think they had a great conversation when they spent a great deal of the time talking. So in order to get them to talk, you have to be the listener, to know what questions to ask,” Santos says. “People reveal who they are by the words they say, the topics they talk about, or the things they don't talk about. They will give you enough information. You just have to listen well enough to know what to do with it.”

With Santos helping to manage the smaller accounts at the practice, the Binns are free to focus on the more valuable clients. “She's so good on the phone, making people feel warm and included and comfortable,” Binn says. “Outreach from Kathy is as meaningful for a client as it would if Dan or I called, because they know Kathy is an extension of us.”

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