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Put Me In, Coach: How to Improve Like An Athlete

Being a financial adviser is a lot like being an athlete. If you have ever played on a team you can probably relate to the feeling of anticipation while waiting to play and all you wanted to say was, “Put me in, coach!” Once you got in the game it was up to you to make the most of the moment and shine.

One example of using this analogy is Amy, a ten-year veteran adviser who wanted to succeed and she needed my help to do it. As her business coach, I helped her determine what her goals were and what actions it would take to work smarter rather than harder. Next, we practiced by role-playing so she could get back to actually prospecting. However, it didn’t take long for her to realize that she was not applying what she had learned because her fears where getting in her way and thus she would rather sit on the sidelines than risk losing the game.

Let’s look at the steps I utilized with Amy to create her amazing comeback:

Step 1: Be All-In
What Amy was experiencing is very common for veteran and rookie advisers alike. It’s easy to want to win but it’s not always easy to risk the possibility of defeat. Many advisers choose not to even try. In other words, it’s like asking the coach to put you into the game but you choosing not to be all-in and not playing the best you could once you were in because you didn’t want to make a mistake and contribute to a loss.

The first step with Amy was to get her to commit to taking action and being dedicated to being all-in when it came to her own success. So, I had her make a list of reasons why she wanted to get to the next level and what would happen in one, three, five and even ten years from now if she continued not prospecting. After realizing the pleasure she would have by being a top producer and the pain that she could have by being a low level one, she committed to getting back to prospecting!

Step 2: Think on Your Feet
All athletes know that sometimes plays don’t go as planned. You may practice the play over-and-over again but on game day anything can happen. So too is practicing for an appointment and realizing the conversation isn’t going in the direction that you want it to. That’s why you must be able to think on your feet.

Amy realized that setting appointments with new prospects was getting easier but from time to time she was getting caught off guard with specific objections. I assured her that this is natural and all we needed to do was to increase the tools, techniques, strategies and solutions to handle any objection that came her way. It’s not about memorizing what to say but understanding the formula of how to say it. Once we did this, she could easily adapt to any conversation path.

Step 3: Assess Your Actions and Results
All great coaches know that the best way to take their players to a higher level is to help them assess their actions and results. Most teams watch game films so they can duplicate their successes and learn from their errors.

Within weeks, Amy was excited to tell me that her pipeline was full. She had eight appointments set for the week and had already turned a few prospects into clients since our last session.

Wanting to Win
Amy knew that just getting into the game wasn’t enough. Instead, she had to focus on her desire to win. If you take a page out her playbook you too can create this level of success.

If this blog resonates with you and you would like to have a free consultation with Dan Finley, email Melissa Denham director of client servicing for Advisor Solutions at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com.

Dan FinleyDaniel C. Finley
President
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.


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In Praise of Good Financial Advisers (You Know Who You Are)

Ours is an industry that gets a hefty dose of negative publicity. True, there are scoundrels perpetrating Ponzi schemes and conducting other nefarious activities—and they cast a pall over the public’s perception of the well-meaning and competent financial professionals out there.

The good news is, these bad guys are few and far between. The bad news is, with our heavily regulated industry, sometimes the good guys may feel they are being micromanaged as a result. Still, there are so many financial advisers out there who are doing excellent work for their clients.

The Well-Adjusted Retiree
I recently had the opportunity to see this excellent work firsthand when I attended a client event hosted by an ensemble practice. At the event, a panel of recently retired individuals and couples answered questions from an audience of pre-retirees. The questions varied from cash flow, social security, Medicare and investment performance to how to align a couple’s “vision” of retirement, which included things like whether to downsize their home and how to stay connected and social with friends and family.

I was especially curious how the panel would respond when an audience member asked if the peaks and valleys of the market affected the panel’s daily decisions about drawing down on their nest egg. This question was especially timely, as the market had just dropped more than 870 points in the prior week due to the Brexit vote. The response? Daily markets weren’t a showstopper. In general, the panelists said:

  • They had their goals.
  • They had their nest egg.
  • They didn’t pay much attention to the markets unless their advisers said they should.

One couple talked about how they met with their financial adviser, estate attorney and CPA for an annual meeting. That meeting gave them the confidence that not only were their investments on solid ground despite market volatility, but that tax efficiency and an integrated estate plan were being managed by a team of professionals working together to help them achieve their retirement goals.

Helping Clients Not Sweat the Small Stuff
Financial advisers enjoy deep, meaningful relationships with their clients. Sometimes they garner appreciation and recognition for what they do. But just in case you haven’t gotten a dose of it lately, as one of the good guys in the industry, know that because of your competence and caring, your clients don’t need to sweat the small stuff like daily market volatility. Instead, they can focus on enjoying the retirement lifestyle you helped them achieve.

Thank you for all you do, financial advisers!

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

 

Joni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.


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Sympathy, Empathy and Compassion: The Pillars of Better Client Relationships

Put succinctly, emotions and finances go hand in hand.

Many emotions are associated with financial decisions—so many that clients and prospects may have a hard time talking about it with anyone in their circles, and often even with an expert like a financial adviser.

So what can advisers do to enable their clients to circumvent emotional barriers and make them feel more at ease in talking about their dreams, need and fears?

There is an abundance of literature offering instructions, tips and guidelines on this topic. Frequently it is stated that exercising sympathy, empathy and compassion toward clients can help advisers attain a more in-depth understanding of their clients’ needs and emotions and develop more solid relationships. However, the often-inappropriate use of these three terms seems to lead to confusion. Below, I provide more accurate definitions of the terms and how they relate to client relationships.

Sympathy
Sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow or pity for the hardships that another person encounters. We feel sympathy toward a client experiencing an unusual chain of negative family events. However, sympathy is characterized by a degree of emotional distance because we are not experiencing the pain ourselves. Ultimately, sympathy is the ability to express culturally acceptable condolences to someone else’s plight. Sympathy, however, fosters disconnection. This is because it sparks in us the desire to identify a silver lining in the situation—lamentably and in some cases a banal cliché—which does not really help relieve an individual’s suffering.

Empathy
Empathy goes beyond sympathy. While the latter focuses on finding a response that does not necessarily help make things better, empathy aims at establishing an emotional connection with someone. Empathy makes us vulnerable, because to create a real emotional connection with the one who is suffering we must first connect with that part of ourselves that knows that feeling.

Subsequently, empathy forces us to experience some of the pains that the other person is experiencing. Research conducted by neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolati, proves that about 20 percent of our neurons possess mirroring functions. Accordingly, when we witness another human being’s emotion through their body language, voice intonation or spoken word, those neurons dispatch signals that enable us to feel and know what that emotion is. For this reason, we do not have to work hard at developing empathy, as we have an inherent disposition to it. Real empathy requires being mindfully present with our clients and prospects, listening wholeheartedly to what they say, recognizing their emotions and reflecting them back.

Compassion
Compassion is empathy in action. The word compassion is composed of com (together with) and passion (to suffer). Despite the word’s etymology, exercising compassion does not mean that we have to suffer to help someone. A financial adviser just like a doctor can relieve suffering without having to experience a client/patient’s exact pain.

Compassionate listening may be hard to master, particularly when it requires listening to the suffering of others. The fact that we all experience pain and grief makes it very difficult for us to listen to others. To be able to truly listen to someone’s suffering, we need to first listen and transform the suffering that dwells within ourselves. The foundation of compassionate listening is self-awareness. This may sound paradoxical, but lacking clarity in our relationship with ourselves severely impairs our ability to improve relationships with others.

Compassion is the ability to listen in a receptive, generous, supportive and non-judgmental way. Ultimately, it is the practice of abandoning our self-oriented, reactive and opinionated thinking and expanding our awareness to make room for the suffering of another human being. A client or prospect brings more than words to a meeting. There is a plethora of unexpressed feelings, anxieties, fears and thoughts that only compassion enables you to recognize, understand and speak about.

I exhort you to master the art of compassion. In addition to being pleasant and caring, compassion makes you trustworthy. Eventually, it will contribute to elevate your professional image, build enduring relationships and make a difference in your life and those of your clients.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.