Gerry Herbison (Photo: Herbison)

All advisors understand the importance of building relationships, according to Dr. Gerry Herbison, an assistant professor with The American College, where he is the George G. Joseph and Richard A. Liddy Chair in Field Leadership & Practice Management.

“But what the top advisors do — those in the top 10% to 20% — is focus on maintaining those relationships,” he said.

Herbison, who will be speaking on the topic of elite advisors on Friday at NAILBA 36, said the elite or “exemplar” level of advisors share some common traits. “They are present when speaking to clients,” he said. “They are all in.”

(Related: Generational Shift Creates Opportunity for Advisors)

Because of this heightened focus, according to Herbison, the top advisors forge stronger relationships with clients, have better retention of their client base, and have much better referral processes.

Herbison’s research into elite achievement began as part of his dissertation on field leaders, and has since expanded into exploring the elite traits of agents and advisors. So far he has conducted formal studies of nearly 200 financial professionals to zero in on what separates the “great” from the “really good.”

“In my studies, I have not looked at behaviors that are ingrained such as being an introvert or an extrovert,” Herbison said. “Instead, I focused on traits that people could learn to do differently.”

He found that the very top and the “pretty good” all excelled at coaching, communicating, training, development, and relationships. Where they differ is what the exemplar advisors do within those relationships.

Instead of jumping to the next client and getting sucked into an endless loop of “what can you do for me, what can you do for me,” the elite advisors take time to cultivate the current relationship. They achieve this by being consistent in their messaging and by focusing on what Herbison calls clarity of communication.

“We found something fascinating in the interviews we have conducted,” said Herbison. “Our interviews with the top 10% were significantly shorter than with other advisors because they had a clarity of communication. They had thought about their answers in advance. They had given thought ahead of time to their answers, which resulted in clear and concise communication.”

—Read Let’s Do More Teaching on ThinkAdvisor.

— Connect with ThinkAdvisor Life/Health on Facebook and Twitter.