I’ve been asked this question many times. It is a simple question without a simple answer. If there were a “one size fits all” approach to being successful in this industry, everyone would be successful. When I sit in a room of top-producing advisors, the group is as diverse as the products they sell and the solutions they provide. On the surface, they have little in common, and they all have attained high levels of success in different ways. Upon closer examination, though, I’ve discovered that these diverse advisors have certain things in common.
They Are Focused on Solutions … Not Products
Most top advisors understand that the various products in the marketplace are simply vehicles designed to take the owner to a certain destination. Top producers don’t focus on a product; instead, they take a problem-solving approach to serving their clients. And top advisors follow the same steps in problem solving, even if they don’t realize it.
Step 1: Identify the Problem. The best advisors understand that the first step to serving a client properly is to identify the issue that the client faces currently or is likely to face in the future. Whether they simply need to ensure that their family’s livelihood is not compromised should the unforeseen happen or they realize that their heirs will face significant estate tax issues because of the wealth they have accumulated, clients have challenges. Top advisors must spend time with clients to identify the issues important to them.
Step 2: Consider Multiple Solutions. After a problem or a challenge has been clearly identified, advanced producers go into their toolkits and carefully examine different solutions. This is where a top advisor understands that products can be strategic in nature when used appropriately, and many products are available to solve any given challenge. After an advisor has identified some potential solutions, it is time to assess the pros and cons of each option.
Step 3: Select the Best Possible Solution. After considering the pros and cons of each potential strategy, the best advisors identify what they believe will best suit the clients’ needs and solve the challenge. After the best solution has been identified, advisors meet with the clients to discuss and execute a plan.
Step 4: Implement the Solution. When clients believe their challenges have been understood, they welcome the advisor’s recommendations. The best advisors are skilled at restating the challenge that the clients face in order to gain mutual agreement and then clearly presenting how the chosen products will solve the problem. Once the clients agree, the advisor implements the plan.
Step 5: Perform Ongoing Evaluations. Top advisors know that any plan is a living and breathing document. Even though a solution may be appropriate today, life changes can quickly alter its appropriateness. It is therefore necessary for advisors to continually review their solutions and change when necessary to ensure that the solutions remain viable. Annual client reviews are critical for ongoing success.
They Surround Themselves With the Best
No top advisor can be all things to all people. When you focus on solutions, you must surround yourself with other professionals who can play a key role in the most appropriate solution for the client. Most top-producing advisors have formed strategic alliances with attorneys, certified public accountants and other financial professionals. Too many advisors see these strategic relationships only as opportunities to get referrals. Top-producing advisors understand that although referrals are great, the expertise that these professionals bring to their clients is the real value.
By developing and maintaining these strong relationships with other professionals, advisors are able to keep abreast of the ever-changing legal and tax laws that can impact their clients. This ongoing education allows top advisors to continue to be strategic with the use of the products developed by our industry.
They Belong to the Best Organizations
Another common theme with top advisors is membership in industry organizations. These organizations allow advisors to be well-rounded and stay ahead of the curve – not to mention the fact that these organizations continuously advocate for the best interests of the advisor’s clients.
What is it that makes advanced advisors so advanced? They simply understand that they are only as strong as the people, organizations, professionals and solutions with which they surround themselves. They understand that they alone can never be the solution to every client’s needs. They know that there is no perfect product that will be ideal for everyone. They see the value that other professionals bring to their clients. And they are constantly involved in industry organizations and giving back as much as they take in.
After more than 30 years in this industry, I’ve found that the one constant has been change. Changes in products, companies and laws as well as the ever-changing needs of consumers make it necessary for advisors to dig in and be heavily involved in many areas of the industry. Top advisors embrace change and remain flexible as they continue to address the challenges created by change.