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Be a Trusted Adviser: Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

“He told me he’d call me back, but I’m not going to hold my breath.” This is what I overheard someone say the other day. I’m not sure if she was talking about a business acquaintance or a potential boyfriend, but her tone was one of acceptance, not disappointment. In other words, she’d come to expect it from this guy.

One of the core components of a trusted adviser relationship is reliability: Can others count on you to do what you say you are going to do? Reliability is where actions meet intention. Planning to do something doesn’t mean that it actually gets done.

When your clients think of you, do they think of someone you communicates clear commitments and then consistently fulfills them? Or do they remember all the times you made a promise but then let it slip away?

Details matter. Your clients look to you as someone they can count on. They want you to say what you mean and mean what you say. If they can’t trust you to return a phone call or share a promised article, why should they trust you to fully implement a plan you’ve agreed on?

Here are three ways to improve your reliability in the eyes of your clients and prospective clients:

  • Set clear commitments and don’t make vague promises. Be very explicit in what you will do and by when. Don’t just say that you’ll send some paperwork over; tell them you will email the account transfer paperwork by 4 p.m. today.
  • Track your commitments. Whenever you commit to doing something, write it down immediately in a trusted place such as your planner or CRM. Otherwise, the “next thing” will come along, and you’ll forget (but your client likely won’t).
  • Reiterate your commitments. Gently remind your clients when you are fulfilling a promise. For example, “Here’s the account transfer paperwork I promised.”

When you follow these three principles, you communicate (to yourself and others) that you are a person who says what he means and means what he says. Isn’t that what people need and want from their trusted adviser?

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in the Pathfinder Strategic Solutions blog. See it here

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Adam Kornegay is a co-founder of Pathfinder Strategic Solutions. He has a background in marketing and business analytics. Coupled with his experience as a financial adviser, he helps a broad array of clients, from relatively new advisers to experienced planners, and consults with various financial services firms. He is a coach in the Messaging and Marketing Strategies FPA Coaches Corner


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3 Career Development Tips for Success

What should financial planners be doing in professional career development for success in 2019? Here are my top three tips.

1.) Use the Power of Weak (and Strong) Connections

The familiar adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” assumed well-known associates are the key to professional success. However, psychologists have been debating the success of networking with people you don’t know (weak connections) versus people you do know (strong connections) for the last four decades. So what works?

Let me summarize the research. Weak connections multiply your chances because of their extended reach. At the same time, your immediate colleagues are individually more powerful because of your close relationship. As a result, weak connections provide more opportunities and close connections provides more advocacy.

The smart strategy is to use the combined power of both. If psychological journals thrill you, read “The Paradox of Weak Ties in 55 Countries,” which was published in Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

2.) Ask and Listen

Psychologists and certified coaches are trained to ask strategic questions and listen perceptively. This sounds simple, but most of us are trained to be experts in talking, not experts in asking and listening.

Asking powerful questions and listening is an ideal strategy with both weak and strong connections. Here’s how:

  • Ask open-ended questions: Open-ended questions prompt the most information. Questions that start with what, how, when and who are ideal. Here are some examples:
    • What do you recommend?
    • How would I go about that?
    • Who do you recommend I contact?
    • When shall I follow up?
  • Listen reflectively: Ask, listen, then follow-up with a summary statement. The speaker will confirm (or correct) your perception. Then continue delving deeper with more open-ended questions. An example might be: “If I understand, you recommend contacting your colleague as a good resource. I would appreciate your guidance. What’s the most helpful thing I might learn from making that connection?” In addition to uncovering information, there are psychological and strategic benefits of asking and listening:
    • You make a good impression. We automatically like those who are interested and listen attentively.
    • You boost their self-esteem. People like feeling knowledgeable and important.
    • You increase motivation to help you. Human beings get an endorphin boost from altruism and we value helpfulness. They will want to be helpful.
    • You protect your image. We are less likely to make a mistake if we listen first. For more communication tips, download the PDF Speak Success: 7 Communication Tips to Achieve the Goal.

3.) Kill Brain ANTs

Even the most successful professionals struggle with confidence. Brain ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) are very common, especially during times of professional growth and transition. Check out the successful cognitive psychology technique for how to kill brain ANTs.

Editor’s note: This blog post is an excerpt from the FPA Coaches Corner whitepaper, “Make 2019 Your Year: Business and Career Tips to Get the Most out of 2019.” See the full whitepaper here.

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Barbara Kay, LPC, RCC, president of Barbara Kay Coaching, is a business psychology and productivity expert who coaches and speaks nationwide. She specializes in growth, productivity, teams, clients, change, women and leadership. Joining the FPA Coaches Corner in 2019, she now offers free coaching to FPA members.


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Conferences for Women Advisers on the Rise: Attend One

Over the past decade, the number of conferences geared toward the female adviser has grown. I’m proud to say that my own company, Commonwealth Financial Network®, will be holding its first Summit for Women Advisers in June. Further, broker/dealers, industry publications and industry organizations are focusing in on the female adviser to a much greater extent than ever before. So, what does this trend tell you?

For me, it means that many likely share my opinion that women will play a much greater role the industry at some point in the future. But I also believe that conferences for women advisers are on the rise in more ways than one.

Better Than Ever

It’s not just the quantity of conferences that has increased. It’s also the quality. The speakers are engaging, articulate, and, in some cases, well-known. Other presenters are delightful surprises, showcasing the inspiring new talent within the industry. And then there are the audiences! Audience members are well-spoken, asking insightful questions that everyone in the room can learn from.

The feeling of these events is also changing. Women seem to have gotten better at networking, evidenced by the constant exchange of business cards. And they’re branching out. You no longer see women sticking with the three or four people they came to the conference with. Instead, everyone is eager to put out a hand to meet new people.

Finally, those organizations creating these conferences are to be commended for taking a stand to help develop an adviser segment vital to the future of the industry. Organizers of successful events carefully include female advisers in designing events and diligently seek input from all attendees—so a round of enhancements can be made for the next conference.

Still Room for Improvement

Of course, some may say that we don’t need conferences for women advisers since there aren’t conferences just for men (that I know of). So, what’s with the focus on women? Well, the reality is that almost all conferences are dominated by men. Women advisers are still, by far, the minority at 17 percent, with the number of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM practitioners a bit higher at 23 percent. The female contingent has been far from top of mind over the years at industry conferences. If you need proof of that, just look at the standard gifts that advisers receive: the XXL T-shirt or golf tees. Those do work for some—but not for the majority—of women.

Sometimes, women are surprised to see men at a women’s conference. At one conference I attended, a couple of women commented on the number of men there. I had not paid attention and assumed they were from sponsoring organizations. But then I gave it some thought. Why didn’t the sponsor organizations send their female executives? Did those sponsor organizations even have female executives to send? As an industry, we are increasingly interested in ESG (environment, social and governance) investing. How might “governance” be playing out right in front of our eyes? Now, I’m sure some of those male attendees were sincerely interested in meeting the needs of female advisers on their staff. But for me, this experience highlighted the importance of increasing not just the number of female advisers, but also the number of woman-owned advisory firms. I believe conferences focused on women will help get us there.

Worth Your Time

The key takeaway here? If you attended a women’s conference once or twice years ago and weren’t overly impressed, I encourage you to give it another try. The quality of conferences for women has been greatly enhanced. I think you will find attending one an experience that is worth your time and energy. It might even boost your career.

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Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.