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The Making of the Complacent Agent or Advisor

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What You Need to Know

  • You might be a complacent financial professional if…
  • You’re reading on this on a weekday, in bed, at 10 a.m., and you're healthy.
  • You’re reading this while staying off of an office Zoom meeting.
  • You sell what you’ve always sold, because, hey, why not.

Every office has at least one: The established agent or advisor who pretends to work. They have plateaued. They make a good enough living they don’t retire or look for other opportunities.

They are the coasting agents.

How did they get this way?

How Can You Spot the Complacent Advisor?

As a newer, driven advisor you have your off days too. The lax behavior you are considering isn’t new. Those habits have been around for years.

1. The complacent advisor doesn’t prospect. They did that when they started. That was enough. They are happy with the size of their client base. They might look for referrals but expect a ringing phone to bring them a prospect presold on doing business.

2. The complacent advisor doesn’t embrace technology. When desktop technology was gaining momentum, I recall an advisor in our office who needed their sales assistant to sign them on each morning and sign them off at night. They didn’t know how to do it, or have an interest in learning.

3. The complacent advisor doesn’t show clients new products. They know what the client wants. They don’t understand the new products anyway. The rationale for not showing these products is the client never voiced an interest. Meanwhile, the client who buys them elsewhere never voiced an interest because they have no idea the advisor’s firm carries them.

4. The complacent advisor doesn’t keep regular office hours. They take long weekends. They come in late and leave early. They don’t tell anyone where they are going. When they do it’s vague, like, “Off to see clients.”

5. The complacent advisor doesn’t interact with newer agents. In one of the offices where I was an advisor, there was an established producer who wouldn’t bother to learn the names of the new people until there were at the firm for a full year. They expected lots of turnover.

6. The complacent advisor doesn’t make many outgoing calls. They sit at their desk and wait for the phone to ring. Who knows what they do with their time?

7. The complacent advisor doesn’t attend office meetings. They have stopped learning. They might pop in for lunch and leave when they are finished eating. Sometimes they bring their food back to their desk. They work at the firm, but don’t consider themselves part of the office.

8. The complacent advisor doesn’t participate in office initiatives. This aligns with not attending meetings. The firm might think showing clients a new product or addressing a specific need aligns with the firm strategy and should be promoted. The complacent advisor continues to do business the way they always have done business.

9. The complacent advisor expects to get fed. They are on the lookout for reassigned accounts when another advisor retires or leaves. They play the seniority card. When they don’t get what they want, they complain that other advisors are getting fed.

How to Managers Interact with the Complacent Advisor?

Compensation for sales professionals is generally structured where the agent or advisor receives a portion of the revenue they generate. The complacent advisor isn’t a cost, but they aren’t performing to their full potential or delivering the best client experience.

1. The manager leaves them alone. It’s like “Don’t ask, don’t tell” or “Let sleeping dogs lie.” They bring in revenue. They don’t make demands. Let them live in their own little world.

2. The sales manager is asked to light a fire under them. Eventually managers discover you get more results by directing resources and attention to up and coming advisors. Still, some are always fascinated by turnaround situations. Change rarely happens.

3. The manager talks about the firm’s retirement plan. Advisors realize trailing commissions come in regardless of much or little attention you give clients. Managers feel there’s missed opportunity. They tell them about ways they can be paid to transition out of the business. The firm often has a program.

4. The manager attempts to form a team around them. They suggest adding one or more newer advisors in a structure where revenue will be shared. The idea is the newer folks will show those clients products they might be interested in buying but hadn’t heard about. The complacent advisor often thinks this is an elaborate plan for their clients to become the team’s clients. They often don’t see the benefit and are resistant.

The bottom line is simple. The complacent advisor is coasting on a downward spiral as clients move or pass away. Those remaining are underserved. Their client base become fertile ground for competitors at other firms to lure away. Are you a complacent advisor? Of course not!


Bryce SandersBryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” can be found on Amazon.

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