The financial adviser is supposed to be an influencer…our role is to influence others to make better decisions than they would otherwise have made.
In order to become a more effective adviser the ongoing development of the skills that are required to deliver influential advice should be deliberately developed. But what are the essential skills that lead to influence for an adviser in today’s world of fast-moving, mobile-search-driven, value-conscious consumers?
I believe there are 5 essentials, and they are:
1. THE number 1 ongoing skill requirement is reputation management.
This about building, developing and promoting a great personal brand. Every advisers’ professional reputation is their brand, and it follows that each adviser today must be great at being their own reputation manager. It cannot be contracted out to a PR firm or marketing manager, and it cannot be ignored. Everything you do in the real world or online today adds to or detracts from your brand…your personal reputation. It must be managed well if you want to be able to influence others.
The media carries examples every week of a business person, or celebrity, or sports-person, or politician, who has engaged in an incredibly thoughtless and stupid pronouncement in real time on Twitter or LinkedIn. It is no different for any financial adviser, although our spheres of influence are often much much smaller than the high profile examples. Mis-management of a reputation or personal brand can occur today in just 140 characters….vigilance and continual development of skill in this area is critical.
2. The second of the key skills is managing transparency.
Transparency is not just about the compliance aspects of revealing costs, fees or conflicts of interest. Building trust through transparency is not triggered by customer request or a law…creating trust through transparency it is an attitude. It is about understanding and pre-empting the unasked questions that todays consumers have, and then proactively answering them without the consumer having to ask the awkward questions openly.
Transparency is also about being personable and open as a human being….being able to connect to other humans at an emotional level is essential for building any relationship, including a robust and valued advice relationship. Transparency is open-ness: being open professionally, and being open as a person, so potential clients can genuinely get to know and trust the adviser.
3. An essential skills which scares many advisers is the concept of “Persuasiveness”.
Persuasiveness is not just about “selling ability” – it is the ability to shape thinking and coach change of behaviour in others.
Being persuasive does involve being a salesperson as well as a coach as well as a great facilitator. Being able to influence clients to react positively to new information and strategies, and to change behaviour and attitudes requires all of the skills of all 3 of those roles – selling, coaching, & facilitating. Only then can a professional be completely equipped to create the necessary positive changes that clients need. The ability to persuade others to change course is a critical skill too.
4. It is positively Darwinian: advisers must be adaptable.
Adjust and adapt quickly in order to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing world…learn how to do it, or die commercially. That is the reality today.
Embracing new thinking, new technology, new professional standards, new research, new trends in behaviour or society….”new” things are the new normality. Change will not stop. Change will only accelerate.
Adaptability is the key to thriving in the new normal.
5. The final essential skill is being perceptive.
Perceptive means understanding intuitively…without necessarily needing an explanation. Understanding what is not being said is just as important today as understanding what is being said. Determining motives and attitudes and personality traits and drivers of behaviour…without needing a 40 page fact-finding document to remind you of the questions that lead to a limited form of perception is a highly developed skill.
Questionnaires and compliance tools will only ever go so far in helping an adviser to understand a client. They are helpful…..but the adviser is the part that captures that which is not said or stated overtly by consumers, and it is often the unspoken thoughts which are most influential. The advisers ability to perceive those things is one of the keys to being an effective influencer with consumers.
The advisers who will thrive in the rapidly changing professional world will of course have strong technical competencies and knowledge, as will those who merely survive. The difference between the survivors and thrivers is the development of the soft skills which help influence change in others.
The more effective you are as an influencer, the more effective you are as an adviser.