With the financial advice industry’s roots being primarily in product sales, revenues (and compensation) have traditionally been the result of a “numbers game” and derived exclusively from a broker’s ability to get in front of as many people as possible and convince some percentage of them that they should buy whatever it was that the broker was selling. In other words, selling was entirely an outward process of distributing products and was best-suited to those who had highly outgoing personalities.
However, as the industry’s value-proposition continues to transition away from products and towards a more consultative, service-driven approach, the truth is that success as a financial advisor isn’t as predicated on having a certain personality type. But, while advisors might not be selling products, per se, it doesn’t mean that they’re off the hook when it comes to developing those business development skills, since they still have to “sell” themselves and their services to prospects and (on an ongoing basis) clients. Unfortunately, though, most advisor sales training programs today still focus on the traditional extroverted salesperson ideal (or try to nurture an advisor’s inner-extrovert instead), rather than playing to the advisor’s natural strengths and augmenting their personal styles.
Accordingly, in this guest post, Amy Parvaneh (founder and CEO of Select Advisors Institute, a coaching firm that works with financial advisors) discusses why sales training programs should be designed around an advisors specific personality type, the three Consultative Sales Personalities her firm has identified, and specific strategies each of those personality types can employ to turn their unique challenges into business development advantages.
For instance, advisors with the Charmer personality type are the “traditional” extroverted ideal, have the uncanny ability to make a connection with just about anyone, and typically shine in the relationship management stage. However good they are at striking up conversations, though, Charmers usually need help moving prospective clients through the sales process and closing new business (rather than just engaging in endless chit-chat!), and can gain a lot by going through a more formalized sales training program. By contrast, Strategics are another subset of extroverts, but ones who typically set clear and measurable goals, which pairs well with their ability to get in front of prospects and bring in new business. Yet Strategics often focus so much on “what’s next” that they have difficulty developing deep ongoing relationships with clients after they come on board (which makes them pair especially well with Charmers who can take over from there). On the other hand, advisors with the Researcher personality type are very analytical and more introverted, and struggle the most with "traditional" extroverted sales strategies. Yet with their ability to dig into complex financial planning issues, be good listeners, and show genuine empathy towards clients, Researchers can often be quite effective at business development and sales as well, but must engage in strategies that leverage their expertise to bring prospects in to them (because they’re not wired effectively to go out and find the prospects themselves).
The bottom line is that, by tailoring your business development approach to your unique sales personality, not only will you be better equipped to find your ideal clients and convince them that it’s worth it for them to pay you for your financial planning services, but you’ll be able to more effectively communicate the value that you bring to the table on an ongoing basis.
The lifeblood of a financial advisory firm is getting new clients in order for the business to sustain itself, especially if the demographic of your client base is aging, taking withdrawals, or outright passing away at an accelerating rate.
For those who truly do want to grow – at least enough to offset aging client attrition – many prospecting and marketing methods have been tried, tested, and trained around, yet it’s been quite difficult putting a pulse on a systematic approach for growth in the 21st century. Unlike the old days when cold calling was the go-to method for most advisors to grow, or simply passively waiting for client referrals to come to you, there doesn’t seem to be a clear path to a reasonable “Cost of Acquisition” for finding and getting a new client to sign on with the firm.
So, as an ambitious financial advisor looking to grow your practice, you’ve bought books about selling, learned about marketing campaigns from experts, listened to a plethora of interviews, sought advice from fast-growing advisors, and attended master classes at workshops and conferences. You’ve been given scripts on how to “ask for referrals” to get more introductions from your clients.
But how can these methods possibly compete with the advisor you met at the latest financial planning conference who goes to networking events twice a week and mingles until 10 pm, coming back with a bunch of business cards and connections? Or the advisor who has cultivated an entire repeatable system of conducting seminars, and can tell you exactly how many leads, prospects, and clients are converted in every activity step along the way? Or the advisor who has developed a popular blog or podcast that already has a tremendous readership or listenership and is driving new clients with every article and recording?
Most advisors have tried some version of these approaches along the way, but usually with very limited results at best. Which makes them unappealing to try again. Yet the reason for your resistance to, and the “watered down” results of, any of the above methods is the lack of clarity on which advisor personality type each one is best suited for in the first place.
Despite the importance of sales skills, and learning how to bring in business, most sales training and advice given to advisors these days seeks to convert and mold them into a stereotypical extroverted “salesperson,” a traditional StrengthFinder “Woo” type who is a serial mingler with lots of connections, can strike up a conversation with just about anyone, chit chat with hundreds of people, and be the last one to leave a conference.
In turn, that’s who we assume we need to be (or as a firm owner, who we need to hire). Accordingly, most advice and sales training assumes a “one size fits all” approach can make an impact, as long as all the introverts convert into extroverted networkers, extroverts into systematized activity-trackers and bloggers, and everyone into social media prodigies.
The problem with such advice and sales training is that it looks to change financial planning professionals into someone they are not, which can waste their time and talent, and can be inauthentic to the base of prospective clients they’re trying to reach anyway.
For example, many sales training and coaching programs out there look to completely reconfigure the natural style of our introverted professionals, asking them to wine and dine prospective investors to want to do business with their wealth management firm. By requesting this from some of our most insightful problem solvers, we are basically asking them to fake themselves into a different persona if they want to have any hopes of growing a practice, stepping up into leadership roles, or doing anything besides client service.
As studied by my colleague and one of our coaches Heidi Brown, even if you look at personalities from a scientific perspective, you will see our industry’s sales training approach needs to be different. Introverts and extroverts actually use two different neurological pathways when they process information. Introverts use a long pathway when get asked a question, and it takes them a while because they go into the brain and edit ourselves and vet theories. Extroverts use a much shorter pathway to respond. Even that research alone can show us that teaching people to go to conferences and come back with business cards (or to ask clients for referrals) utterly fails to recognize the importance of different personality types across financial planning professionals.
There is a better and much more efficient solution around business development training, one which can be more of a downhill rather than an upward climbing battle! This solution, in our opinion, is to identify and then embrace your existing personality, even as an introverted or shy professional, and own it.
Then, and only then, find sales training and coaching that is specifically designed around your personality type, not despite it. Learn marketing and sales strategies that work best with your specific DNA, not ones that underestimate your innate skills and ask you to go against them.
At my firm, Select Advisors Institute, we have categorized personality traits into what we call Consultative Sales Personalities, and we see them as the building blocks for developing any sales or marketing strategy for an advisory practice and professional.
Those three sales personalities are outlined below:
As we go about explaining these traits, you will begin to see why you may be the best at starting a conversation with just about anyone (as a Charmer) but you can’t seem to close as many opportunities.
You will begin to see why the traditional approach of networking for referrals just feels so unnatural, and how you really can develop business by sharing your expertise as a Researcher.
And you will begin to see why that same blogging and newsletter writing approach may be a complete waste of your time if you are a Strategic.
You will start seeing traits in yourself, your colleagues, your clients, and even in your loved ones, as you find a pathway to not change yourself but discover methods that can help your unique self get to where you want.
Let’s first go into these three Sales Personalities. If you don’t know your sales personality, make sure you look at this site to take the test and have us pinpoint it for you.
The “Strategic” Sales Personality Type
As a Strategic, you’ve got an inner level of motivation that’s hard to beat. You’re fierce, and your inner drive to succeed, wherever it comes from, is unmatched. You’re a machine, as many would say, and nothing better stand in your way!
To a Strategic, going to a networking event and coming back with business cards but no real meetings or follow-ups feels like a complete failure. Strategics tend to go to networking functions and luncheons with an objective that’s clear as day: The goal is not merely “to have a nice time and meet people;” it’s more like, “To come back with leads…10 leads.” You’re too impatient to write blogs and newsletters, as your brain is constantly calculating ROI’s and the cost of an hour of your time writing them.
A good Strategic Example? Bob, financial advisor at a large RIA
Bob is one of our clients, and he is the star of his team for bringing in business. Although he joined his wealth management firm with the objective of client service, he rose up to the challenge of new business development and brought in $25M in six months alone by quantifying exactly how many meetings he needed to have to close how much he was required to bring in. That was the task he was given, and that is what he did!
How did Bob do it? He looked at the business developments expected of him, derived quantifiable data of exactly what activities needed to be done to get the job done, and then he put in the effort and just kept repeating. He emailed people directly, asked for specific names from his clients, attended the right workshops for him where the prospects attended, and refined his routine, repeating the activity over and over again until he achieved his goals. A big follower of the Law of Attraction, he looked at the goal daily and focused on it to achieve results.
Your Challenge As A Strategic Sales Personality
While Strategics often accomplish outsized sales goals, they are not perfect. Below are their top three challenges, and the best ways of overcoming them:
- Time management: Since they are so good at getting tasks done, Strategics can find themselves checking things off their list by default rather than by design. Coaching them on time management strategies, taking administrative tasks off their plate, and showing them strategies for seeing bigger opportunities, can be key.
- Organization: Strategics can truly benefit from someone who can help them organize all they fit on their plate. They tend to maintain most of their plans and goals in their head, thus sometimes not being as organized as needed to maintain an on-going system for growth. Having someone on their team support, or using technology more effectively themselves, to get their processes more systematized can help them achieve more things in their day.
- (Ongoing) Relationship Management: Although Bob could “talk the talk” when needed, when push came to shove and he needed to maintain ongoing relationships with a teammate or client, he couldn’t keep up. His teammates quit on him, his boss didn’t see him as a close friend, and his clients rarely made a referral. While Strategics have a wonderfully easy time bringing clients into the door through their directness, they are challenged to maintain long term relationships, and may not be beneficial for client retention and getting more referrals. By aligning themselves with more Charmers on their team (see the next section below), they can slowly transition relationships to someone who really enjoys the relationship management stage.
Best methods for Strategics to grow their practice?
If you find yourself like Bob, here’s what you need to do to become as effective as possible as a Strategic: Since your personality is quite task-oriented and agenda-based, writing a comprehensive business plan with numbers and quotas works perfectly for you. Also, helping you think bigger and towards larger ultra-high-net-worth opportunities can help take your talent to the next level. Finally, having some help writing well-defined and heartfelt email templates can help you get in front of more and more opportunities in a systematic way.
Since you’re quite direct in your approach, you can also use your powerful and high-impact presentation skills to do more video content, as well as seek to get yourself and your firm some press coverage. Starting a podcast, or speaking at seminars and in front of a live audience, is when you can be in your element and can walk away with live opportunities. This allows you to be more proactive rather than reactive, as can be the case in just attending events.
Strategics should be specifically coached by other Strategics. Having a Charmer teach you how to be more like them makes for a very long uphill battle. Similarly, look for partnerships with Centers of Influence who are just as matter of fact as you.
The “Charmer” Sales Personality Type
Charmers are rare and are extremely fortunate for their natural ability to make a connection with just about anyone, and more importantly, to make others feel comfortable talking to them for hours.
As a Charmer, you can be the center of attention and focus at a networking event, gala, or conference, where you are bringing people together, connecting forces, and starting a dialogue with people.
You can even have a one-hour conversation with your Uber driver, talking about anything, like the news, sports, or the weather!
A good Charmer example: Michelle, advisor at large wirehouse
I once worked with an advisor named Michelle, who hired me to help her grow her advisory practice at a large wirehouse.
At first glance, I wasn’t even sure why she had hired me. She was extremely talkative, was able to strike up conversations with just about anyone sitting next to us at restaurants, and made friends frequently. I attended a few networking events with her to help her get in front of more prospects, but looking at her work the room, I couldn’t keep pace with how many people she was already connecting with! She was the center of attention, matching venture capitalists with entrepreneurs and lawyers with startups.
Unfortunately, though, Michelle wasn’t strategic about who she was speaking with, and her conversations were too unfocused. In a perfect world, we’d give everyone a lot of our undivided attention and spend hours chit-chatting about anything. But the world doesn’t work that way… at least if you want business development results.
The problem was that Michelle would give so much of her attention to just about anyone, that when it came time to focus on the real prospects before the “curtains went down,” she was missing the boat. Even when she did have one or two minutes to speak with real prospects (or have her “elevator pitch” moment), she would speak about the weather or the dinner rather than focusing on getting a meeting or follow-up calls.
In addition, her colleagues would say that, in prospect meetings, although she led the team for building the deepest connection with the prospect, she would also be the one that used up the most amount of valuable time without any clear direction as to where the meeting was going.
Your Challenge As A Charmer Sales Personality
Companies think that hiring a Charming “Woo” type is the key to finding the right business development person and that once they’ve signed the dotted line to bring someone like Michelle onboard, the leads will start flowing in and assets will follow.
Unfortunately, though, just because such folks are able to strike up a conversation, make calls with ease, spend every night out networking, or reach out to their dear uncle about his wealth management needs, does not mean your practice is guaranteed new clients.
Below are the top three challenges for Charmers, and the best ways of overcoming them:
- Manage Conversation Time. Charmers can lose steam and waste valuable and limited time at networking events by not being strategic in whom they are spending time with, and being cognizant of how much time they are spending on each conversation. By giving the Charmer a limited time per conversation, they can ensure their talent is put to best use when looking for new business opportunities.
- From Conversations To Closing. Charmers can come across as extremely friendly and approachable, but not be able to make a good and focused case of why someone should work with them from a business perspective. Through coaching and training, Charmers can learn how to convert their conversations and develop more consultative sales skills, which means better questions to gauge what their prospects truly need and how to take the prospect to the next step of the sales process.
- From Friends To Business Prospects. Charmers are often afraid of pushing their friends and acquaintances for business. Since networking is in their DNA and they passionately love it, they may find themselves feeling “salesy” by moving the dialogue from a social one to a business one. By having coaches help the Charmer with that inner monologue, and show how to convert conversations more smoothly, Charmers can feel more comfortable with that pivot from friendship to business prospect.
Best methods for Charmers to grow their practice?
For Charmers to succeed in business development, a few of the following must happen:
- They should be aligned closely with a Strategic (either teammate or center of influence) in order to make sure the conversation with a prospect or at a networking event doesn’t go in too many non-related directions, given the limited amount of time.
- Their teammates and coaches should give them clear outlines of how the conversation should go at prospect meetings, with multiple mock rehearsals in order to make sure there is enough practice in advance to any actual prospect meeting.
- They should NOT be spending too much time writing blogs or learning social media strategies. As I mentioned, these folks have a unique ability to connect with just about anyone already. Since the in-person meeting is their skill, their time will be wasted doing too much online prospecting; focus on getting more “face time” in person with prospects instead.
The “Researcher” Sales Personality Type
Researchers are the most underestimated of the three sales personalities to bring in business.
Very analytical and typically introverted in nature, such individuals can build out Excel spreadsheets like nobody else and dig under any stone to find an answer. Thus, the first and only position a team typically considers them for is as the portfolio manager or paraplanner or similar analytical-person role… even though they may have higher aspirations of helping the advisory practice to grow.
And contrary to popular belief, and based on our experience working with them, Researchers can be the lifeblood of any team for business development… if trained effectively according to their own sales DNA and natural skillsets.
For Researchers, learning how to ask rapid boilerplate questions and chit-chat on your feet goes against your DNA, thus forcing you to be inauthentic and creating an aversion to anything related to business development. It’s also clear as day to the prospect that this type of rapport-building business development with strangers is not your forte.
But don’t underestimate your sales skills if you come back from a networking event and you didn’t talk to anyone, or if the conversation was awkward. Unfortunately, going to a networking event was probably not even a good use of your time as a Researcher, to begin with. There are better and more natural ways for Researchers to engage in business development!
A good Researcher example: Alex, portfolio manager at an asset management firm
My firm recently worked with an asset management firm based in Century City, Los Angeles. While our major focus was on the CEO and the head of business development, the head Portfolio Manager, Alex, caught my attention as someone who had other passions besides just managing money.
Alex was recently promoted to head up the portfolio management team within this firm, which managed an all-equity strategy. While he enjoyed following the markets and handling all trading responsibilities, he told me in confidence that he felt he wanted to do more to help the firm grow its assets to help more investors see the value of his firm... which meant more to his take-home pay as well.
While he was usually left back in the office as his CEO, the Charmer, did the networking and public speaking, he started working with me to tap into his existing network. We focused on him asking more analytical and thought-provoking questions from his neighbors and college alumni at reunions. His questions were so in-depth and astute that they set him apart, provoking meetings with him to learn more.
He led with his ideas and questions (as a doctor would with asking a few intense questions) that would inspire people to want to engage with him in return to learn more.
Your Challenge as a Researcher Sales Personality
Most companies try to train Researchers to be more successful at business development by teaching them to be more like Charmers and Strategics, which simply doesn’t work because it’s not a natural fit for their sales personality type. Instead, Researchers are more effective when they can share and demonstrate their expertise, as a way of drawing prospects in to them.
However, that doesn’t mean Researchers will automatically succeed just by flaunting their analytical skills to strangers and prospects. Below are the top three challenges that Researchers still typically have, even when operating in their natural style, and what needs to be done in order to overcome them and be successful:
- Facts Still Need To Be Engaging. As a Researcher, your challenge will be to capture people’s attention to listen to the smart analytical things you have to say. Given that your brain, from a neurological perspective, works differently and more analytically, you may not be able to maintain the attention of your audience for too long. Bring a Strategic into your meetings to keep the momentum on track, where you can speak alongside them when necessary. Also, a bit of voice training can help you get your ideas across with more of an exciting tone while remaining true to your own personality.
- Don’t Talk Past The Sale. As a Researcher, you may provide more information than necessary and potentially give the prospect too much information that overwhelms them, making it more difficult for them to actually make a decision. Look to convert all of your research and information into more visually appealing material, so when you are sitting in front of someone, you can get your point across more quickly and directly. Studies show that pictures are processed 600,000 times faster than text and words alone, so use visuals and images to get all that data across. By using better graphics, more acronyms, and good branding that resonates with your audience, you can reduce the amount of time you have to speak, and allow the pictures to do more of the talking.
- Rapport vs. Sales. You may not be the best at asking for the business or making the world’s most impactful pitch about your business. However, while many may underestimate bringing you into prospect meetings, one of the most powerful strengths about you as an introvert is your active listening skills and empathy. This can separate you from the Charmers and the Strategics, and it can help you be more empathetic towards clients and prospects. Let this area about you do most of the business development for you.
Best Method for Researchers to Grow Their Practices
If you are a Researcher who has struggled to command respect or create success when it comes to business development, it’s most commonly because you’ve been trying to learn the skillsets of the other (Charmer and Strategic) types rather then focusing on how to better develop your own natural sales personality.
So instead, start by leveraging those natural skillsets. As a Researcher, you can be the person on the team or on your own who can use your deep analytical skills to find and digest information about your local community, dissect family trees on your clients, build out workflows in your CRM systems, have your pulse on every feature there is with Linkedin and Twitter for prospecting, and calculate to the penny the assets up for grabs from your existing clients.
Similarly, as a Researcher, your lowest hanging fruit will be to use your analytical and digital research skills to find opportunities and ideas most other people don’t have the patience or the passion for. Find resources such as public filings of IPO’s from 10 years ago, find out who the biggest donors are to your community (and who their best friends are) through your avid research skills, look up recent M&A activity and who the executives are.
Most Researchers prefer writing over speaking, text messages over talking on the phone, etc. Therefore, getting a speaking engagement or public talk may feel like a success at first, but you may not be able to wow your audience the same way you can through great writing. Focus more on blog writing and starting a dialogue with your audience through captivating written ideas, and build to speaking later if/when you wish to. But remember that written work alone, like popular newsletters and blogs, have helped some of the most subdued to get in front of thousands or even millions of people. By having a direct campaign and media outlet, you can connect directly in an authentic fashion with your target market.
If you must attend networking events, give yourself permission to leave when your body and mind need it. Don’t force yourself to stay around, as you won’t come across as genuinely interested in talking to any more individuals anyway at that point!
It may also be helpful to co-brand with an attorney or CPA, or another center of influence that is either a Charmer or a Strategic. These folks can help you close opportunities. Or more generally, have a Charmer be your voice and advocate, as they genuinely enjoy going out networking. Then, they are bringing the opportunity straight to your door, where your analytical skills and Researcher sales approach can shine.
One of the best things I’ve discovered as a result of a better understanding of different sales personality traits is how to feel more comfortable in my own skin with who I am. Now, when I go to social events and see someone set up coffees and lunches left and right, I just smile. I know that it’s their DNA, and just because they are successful in that, does not mean they are taking any business away from me, since I approach business development differently.
The bottom line is simply this: thrive in your own skin, own it, and find strategies that can help you in bringing in millions through the path of least resistance.
In the meantime, for those who want to discover their own Sales Personality Type, you can take the assessment here. And of course, if you want to learn even more about how our coaching can further customize a business development training program that is suitable for your personality and your firm, please contact us here.