Advice to Professional Service Providers Early in Their Careers

Advice to Professional Service Providers Early in Their Careers

Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on July 16, 2018

I recently shared advice with a financial advisor relatively new in his profession on how to be successful as he builds his business. For the purposes of this article, I will call this individual David. The advice I shared was based on my own personal experiences dealing with financial advisors and asset managers, and my leadership experience in building trust with customers and clients. I believe this advice is applicable to anyone in the professional services business.

I told David that his success would be based on his ability to differentiate himself from others in the profession. He needs to ask himself, “Why would clients want to engage me and not someone else as their financial advisor?”

It’s all about the client

How many of us have had interactions with professional service providers where we felt that their approach was not about the client, but about them?

Where their focus was on selling you a financial product of their own firm, when the product of another firm was a better fit. Where their services were only transactional in nature, and not advisory. Where once you were signed up, their contact with you was infrequent. Where the investment product generated high fees for the provider compared with other investment alternatives. Where the product was so complex, you needed a consultant to help you understand it.

Clients lose trust in financial advisors when they attempt to sell you investment products on which they make a commission, rather than suggest the best investments that fit your needs, on which no commission is earned.

I told David that he needs to always do what is best for the client, regardless of whether or not the investments he suggests earn a commission. The best situation would be never to suggest an investment in which he had a financial interest, and if he did, it needs to be fully disclosed to the client. Over the long term, this would earn the client’s trust and lead to a much longer-lasting relationship.

Network, network, network

Networking is an important part of building any successful career. It is even more important as a professional service provider. Meeting new people who may become potential clients, asking friends and colleagues for referrals and providing recommendations is important in building one’s business.

Rejection and continued persistence is part of the job. David told me of an instance in which he had pursued a potential client for some time until that client invested a portion of his assets with him. David asked the client why he decided to do business with me, and he responded, “I admire your tenacity.” Obviously, David was not annoying to the client as he pursued him. It takes a lot of emotional intelligence to know how to do this and is a major key to success in any business.

Always provide your clients with a great experience

It is human nature for some financial advisors close to retirement age to be less aggressive than in their earlier years. They may no longer be paranoid about their business, which exposes them to competitive risk. I told David this provides an opportunity to win the business of new clients who may feel that their current financial advisor is not providing a great client experience.

There is also an opportunity for a newer associate to team up with an experienced financial advisor who may no longer be as focused as they once were in providing a great client experience. David could provide that great client experience, which will help protect the more experienced financial advisor’s client base.

Honesty, trust, and reputation are everything in all businesses, but more so when you are advising people on investment decisions. The minute a client feels that you are not putting their own interests first and foremost, trust is lost, and the loss of the client will shortly follow. David agreed, and stated that this is how he was building his financial advisor business.

We all should make honesty, trust and reputation the foundations of our careers, regardless of what business we are in. Once you lose your reputation, it is nearly impossible to earn it back.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and a MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School.

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