The owner-advisor of one of my client firms is a great salesman. He loves public speaking, which he does every chance he gets, and he’s a master networker, always hosting charity galas for the many causes he’s involved with, and inviting groups of people to watch football games from his skybox at his city’s stadium.
The advisor at his firm whom he’s designated to succeed him is not so outgoing. He’s bright and personable and good with people one-on-one (especially prospective clients), but not so much in large groups. Through the owner’s connections, he was asked to give a talk about his firm at a local Better Business Bureau event, and he wanted his heir apparent to do it, as a way of getting more comfortable with public speaking. He significantly resisted, but my client owner/advisor insisted, so he did. I just so happened to be in the area so I dropped by for the event to see how it went. Let’s just say the associate embarrassed himself and the firm, and badly damaged his confidence. Now my client is not sure that he’s the right person to take over his firm.
Rainmaking is essential to the growth of every advisory firm, and finding successor advisors who can fill the owner-advisor’s role of bringing in new clients is a primary challenge of many firms these days. To be successful, however, it’s important that owner-advisors keep in mind that not everyone has their particular skills, abilities, and preferences. Finding a new rainmaker is essential to the future of most firms: Finding a rainmaker just like the current owner, is going to make that task much more difficult, if not impossible.
One of the things I teach my owner-advisor clients is that they will be happier and their firms will be more successful if they can learn to let their employees do their jobs their way. We all have different skillsets and experience; to succeed at our jobs, we each need to figure out how to use our talents to get the job done. I can’t tell you how many employees I’ve seen ruined by bosses who try to get them to do their jobs the way the boss would have done it. They were essentially set up to fail.
This is especially true in sales, and even more so with something as personal as attracting clients to an advisory firm.
Think about the many ways that we’ve all heard that advisors have built successful firms: Some give seminars, others do radio shows, or give free financial plans to centers of influence such as local lawyers and CPAs. Some advisors pick very narrow specialties such as executives from just one large company where the advisor used to work, or recently divorced women. I even read about a dentist turned advisor whose only marketing was to take other dentists on fly-fishing trips. There are hundreds of ways to market yourself and your firm and who’s to say what’s right or wrong?
The point is that there are as many ways to attract new clients as there are financial advisors. The most successful rainmakers that I’ve seen are advisors who have found the right approach for them—one that they are comfortable with, and therefore, good at—and then go with it. With some advisors, their right approach is obvious to them; while others have to try a few different things before finding what works best.
But either way, good rainmakers (everyone can be one) have to find their own approach, and good bosses give them the time, and the support, to do it.
Dear Steve (my very first boss):
I know you told me I would never survive owning my own business because I don’t have any sales skills. You were right about one thing; I don’t have traditional sales skills. I have a horrible whiffing epidemic when playing golf. My high-pitched voice sounds like a two-year-old on radio and TV. And I want to hide in the bathroom at networking events.
But as I wrote this blog I finally realized something quite profound. You couldn’t write.