by Tony Vidler
Professional and selling are apparently 2 words which according to many just don’t go together these days…except they really do. I’ll go further in fact and say that professionals MUST be selling, but, selling must be professional.
While there is an absolute requirement to place the clients interests above all else if one is to be a professional, it does not follow logically that a professional should not be selling.
Selling can certainly be the process of moving a product off the shelf and into someone else’s life whether they need it or not. Everyone has a house full of stuff that has been sold to them and which they now look at and say “why did I buy that?”. But selling professional services – advice – is not about moving product off a shelf and into someone’s house; it is about influencing behaviour…persuading people to change direction or take actions they would otherwise not have taken…..and this is entirely consistent with working in the clients interests.
If you are a professional adviser looking to change clients lives for the better, then you need to get to grips with the fact that you need to learn how to sell if you are going to do your work well and positively influence as many lives as possible.
My reason for focussing upon the ‘selling” word is that many professionals have become so captivated by compliance obligations and the fear of being labelled unprofessional if they “sell”, that they are neglecting a core obligation of the professional adviser, which is:
Making their own clients aware of everything that they can, and should, do for those clients.
The delivery of technical information, and personal policy or portfolio data, and best practice advice reviews are now largely well established processes and systems in professional practices. Reporting and communicating around the original brief, or scope of service, is generally done pretty well.
The problem is that often the ongoing reporting and communication is restricted to that original scope of service. Widening that brief to educate the client on the other aspects of financial planning that you handle is essential, and that requires both marketing and selling. Educating clients requires ongoing marketing, and engaging them individually to change thinking or direction requires individual sales skills and processes.
Creating marketing campaigns to existing clients is a necessary over the long term for educating clients. While they are certainly mostly interested in being aware of how their own money or policies are performing, nearly all are interested in how that original advice or products fit into the bigger picture for themselves.
Campaigning to existing clients should not be aggressive or irrelevant, and nor should it be simply about pushing products or services for the sake of it. However, a couple of campaigns each year that draw clients attention to appropriate new products, services or information that might make a positive difference to their lives and which have not been previously incorporated into your planning with them is totally appropriate . I would argue that advisers have an obligation to do so.
It is in both the advisers and clients best interests to be able to point to a trail of professional delivery of new information and services to clients in these days of increasing liability, and it is also a well established principle that maintaining the required “top of mind” awareness with clients requires contact every 60-90 days at the most. Marketing campaigns also often achieve what the annual client review process doesn’t: it provides a reason, or a catalyst, for clients to re-engage with the adviser.
For todays professional adviser building a profitable practice from serving clients well there is a need to be marketing to them in order to create that ongoing awareness of the very “comprehensive-ness” of the financial services spectrum. Awareness of the options and issues is the first requisite of changing current circumstances. Only then can we create the opportunity at an individual level to help clients make better choices for their future, which is the essential function of the adviser.
Then, to get clients considering alternative behaviours or tactics to get to wherever it is they wish to be we need to be able to convince them of the need to change as well as the need to consider specific options which will get them there. Selling is required at this point. Done professionally, and suitably, it is in the clients interests – and is “of interest” to them – as well as being good for business.
Professional selling is a real thing, and a necessity if a professional is to do their job well.