It is amazing how many associates begin their career by self-declaring that they do not want to “sell.” That in turn leads their employers to declare that they will never be “real advisors.” The result is an impasse where many wealth management firms are struggling to find the next wave of lead advisors and a large number of younger advisors are “stuck” in limited roles. In Part 1, we discussed the problem of so many individuals coming into wealth management who don’t want to develop business for their firms by bringing in new clients—but this is a critical aspect of firm growth. Here in Part 2 we discuss the evolution—and inevitability—of the business development process.
The issue of “sales” is often not an issue of “if” but rather “when?” My former partners Mark Tibergien and Rebecca Pomering break the career track of a professional into four phases which I have always found very useful.
Stage 1—The first stage is the acquisition of technical skills—you have to know the technical aspect of the profession before you can provide advice to anyone. This is the stage of acquiring your CFP, Series 7 licenses (where applicable) and other designations. This will take anywhere from two to four years.
Stage 2—The next step is the relationship management stage—learning how to establish a relationship with a client and proactively address their needs; give that step three to five years. Only when you have learned the technical skills and relationship management skills, you can embark on selling—in other words, five to nine years into your career.
Stage 3—The business development stage will take you two to five years to master, starting with opportunities within the existing client base. If you need to develop leads entirely on your own, it may take even longer. In other words, be realistic, it will take you 12 years or more into your career before you can be a good business developer BUT you can and you will be one.
Stage 4—The fourth stage of your career is becoming a principal and learning how to manage people and the business, in case you are curious.
So to net it out, here is my plea to professionals entering the financial advisory industry: Please be open-minded and realistic about the need to develop business someday. When the time is right, and with the right training, you can and you should do it. It will help your career tremendously and you will find it very rewarding and satisfying. If you declare from the beginning that you will never do it, you are missing on an important part of the profession and actually promoting the “sales culture” you may resist or disdain.
So many younger professionals resisting business development activities puts a premium on those who do “sell”—a premium that is oversized but necessary. That, in turn, creates the foundation of the sales culture many hate—the overemphasis on sales. If more professionals were active and systematic in their business-development efforts, sales would not be such an overvalued skill.
Just my proposal.
Bringing in new clients is a critical function if a firm is to thrive. Why are advisors afraid to do this?