Knowledge Is Power In Todays Competitive Environment

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Adapting to change is something every financial advisor must excel at to be successful. This has been demonstrated over the past couple of years like never before.

The historic bull market of the 1990s focused consumers on the amazing returns that asset-based investments were delivering. Caught up in this euphoria, investment performance became peoples sole buying criteria for most of the decade. It also became the primary competitive factor for financial services companies and financial advisors.

All that has changed, of course. Advisors can no longer be a “one-trick pony.” Your job now requires much broader and more sophisticated strategies than simply finding the highest return. You must understand the business, the clients, the marketplace and the multitude of increasingly complex issues that affect all three.

Going forward, your critical competitive advantage will lie in the knowledge and tools you possess to successfully address all of these issues and help your clients achieve their financial goals. In fact, the need for knowledge has never been greater. The best way for financial advisors to position themselves in this new environment is through continued education.

Take a minute to think about how prevalent change has become. You can start with consumers. The Internet has made consumers more knowledgeable and, as a result, youre dealing with a different customer than you were just a few years ago.

In addition to being better informed, people today are more self-assured and independent; they want to play a bigger role in managing their financial affairs. As a result, you must take a more sophisticated approach in how you speak with clients and prospects.

The products most advisors now sell have become more complex, and there is a much broader range to choose from. Technology is playing a growing role in prospecting, selling and managing your business. But while it can be a godsend, this technology requires an in-depth understanding to maximize its potential.

Add to all of this the growing number of legal, tax and compliance considerations that affect both your products and the sales process, and its easy to see that the road to success has gotten a lot more complicated.

The good news is that, as our business has become much more sophisticated, so too have the educational opportunities available to financial advisors–especially how they are delivered.

In the past, education almost always meant a course was taught in a classroom setting. Certainly the classroom approach is the best way to facilitate a number of things, such as role-playing, networking and face-to-face interaction between students and the instructor. So the classroom will always have a place in the overall curriculum. However, classroom training requires time, travel and extra expense.

Thats why Web-based training is now becoming so popular as a complement to the classroom. You can take your pick from online self-study lessons or instructor-led “virtual” classes. The self-study option allows you to learn when and where its convenient for you. And, you can learn at your own pace.

Virtual classes, on the other hand, combine the instructor/student dynamics and immediacy of a classroom situation with the flexibility of participating wherever you like. A combination of all three forms of education”blended solutions”–is the most effective and efficient way to learn.

Many primary providers offer a mix of educational opportunities on many aspects of the business. If yours doesnt, ask them to expand their educational programs.

With the current emphasis throughout the industry on controlling expenses, some companies have pulled back on their field education. However, those that are truly focused on the marketplace are committed to educating their advisors so they are in the best position to serve their customers.

Getting involved in professional education takes commitment, but the payoff is well worth the effort. Every time you sit down with clients youll be in a better position to serve them. The knowledge and capabilities youll gain will enable you to more successfully–and confidently–analyze clients needs and bring together the right products and services to help them achieve their financial goals.

Needless to say, this will build clients confidence in you as knowledgeable professionals with their best interests in mind. Developing this trust is an important ingredient in nurturing long-term relationships and that translates into sales.

, JD, CLU, ChFC, is vice president, ING Educational Services in Minneapolis, Minn. He can be reached at jim.johnson@us.ing.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, November 11, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.