Just as professional athletes benefit from coaching, so can advisors. Knowledgeable outsiders can spot holes in one's performance and suggest ways to plug them.
[ibd-display-video id=3130252 width=50 float=left autostart=true] In helping advisors grow their business, consultants often focus on processes and work habits. For example, advisors may lack systems to generate referrals, manage their time or build a thriving team.
Even if advisors think they operate efficient businesses, they may still want to improve. By enlisting a coach, they can reset their priorities and identify better ways to attract and retain clients.
"The No. 1 thing I see with advisors is a lack of a business development process," said John Furey, principal at Advisor Growth Strategies in Phoenix. "How do you track referrals? How are you measuring success? North of 80% of advisors are not good at that."
Hard-charging advisors can mistake busyness with productive lead generation. They may spend hours a day cultivating prospects, while still struggling to build a sustainable practice.
The best firms set up repeatable processes that govern every step of attracting new clients, Furey says. Better yet, advisors define the actions necessary to complete each part of the sales process so that any employee can step in and seamlessly tackle a particular set of duties.
Furey cites the example of a firm that establishes what he calls "center of influence marketing." Once an advisor receives a referral of a prospective client from an accountant, attorney or other source, this triggers a series of distinct, orchestrated steps. Staffers follow this consistent approach so that no potentially valuable prospect falls through the cracks.
Dollars, Not Pennies
Because advisors largely sell their time, they need to maximize every minute of their day. Setting priorities - and sticking to their plan - produces better outcomes.
Coaches sometimes double as time trackers. They will log an advisor's activities to assess productivity and goal-driven progress.
"Lawyers and accountants track their time," Furey said. "Advisors usually don't."
He urges advisors to identify their "ideal client" and then marshal their efforts to attract and retain as many of those clients as possible. They should not spend time pursuing prospects that fall outside their niche.
Adopting this disciplined approach to building a stable, desirable client base takes patience. Advisors eager to hit the ground running may widen their arms of acceptance for any client, foiling their carefully crafted niche strategy.
"Advisors will sometimes step over dollars to pick up pennies," said James Pollard, founder of TheAdvisorCoach.com in Newark, Del. "They chase the easy money."
In their first year on their own, advisors should lay the groundwork for long-term success, Pollard says. He encourages them to develop a prospecting system and foster relationships that will ultimately produce a big payoff.
If you want to build a practice around dentists, for instance, devote your first six months or more to forging key contacts who can help you penetrate that niche. Pollard cautions that you may need to reject other clients during that time, but sticking to your strategy makes more sense in the long run.
Listen And Learn
As advisors start to grow their business, staffing becomes critical. To increase their capacity to serve clients, advisors shift their attention to hiring and training more employees.
Yet many advisors lack grounding in management skills. From interviewing job candidates to motivating and evaluating them once they come aboard, advisors may wing it.
"Most advisors are not the best people managers," Furey said. "You may be great at helping clients, but as you grow, you need people to help you."
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Coaches can provide leadership training as well as onboarding systems for new hires. They might also work with advisors to establish performance standards for employees along with pathways for professional development so that rising stars stay with the firm.
Advisors can also benefit by polishing their communication skills. Coaches may offer pointers on how to listen better, show empathy and explain complex concepts in plain English.
"You want to be physically engaged by sitting up, leaning forward and actively listening to the client," said Brian Portnoy, director of investment education at Virtus Investment Partners in Hartford, Conn. "You're creating an overall experience of authenticity where you want to learn more, and where you repeat what you've just heard" to confirm understanding.
When Portnoy provides behavioral coaching to advisors, he warns them to resist distractions (such as glancing at their phones or computer monitors) when conversing with clients. Maintaining eye contact - and showing interest and curiosity in what they say - helps build lasting bonds.
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