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What makes for a top financial adviser?

Performance coach Bernie De Souza works with financial advisers around the world, helping them to grow their business and improve their client engagement skills. Here, he explains to Adviser Business Review why advisers benefit from learning ‘soft skills’, the key to getting automatic referrals and what makes a top financial adviser.

Adviser Business Review: In your opinion, what makes a top financial adviser?

Bernie De Souza: The difference between those who are successful and those who aren’t are people skills. The ones who know how to engage with clients and have rapport are the ones who will do well. The very first skill I teach someone is how to build rapport, because without it nothing else happens. I often get approached by advisers asking how to win clients with a presentation, but I always say it doesn’t matter what you present on screen if you haven’t taken the time to click with your client. If people don’t take to you in the first few seconds, they won’t want to work with you and they certainly won’t wish to hand over their life savings to you. As a nation, we are very conscious of what we say and how we come across, so making sure advisers use the right words to make rock solid connections is of paramount importance.

ABR: What advice would you give to advisers who feel they lack effective sales skills?

BDS: The key is to get more clients without selling. The financial advice industry is moving away from the ‘hard sell’ and those still using the old-fashioned techniques might find their approach unwelcome in today’s world. I teach a soft set of skills, which encourage people to work with you and give you automatic referrals. There are two reasons why people don’t buy; they don’t want to be sold to or they’re scared. Therefore, going for in for the hard sell is unlikely to produce the desired result. Instead, I teach influence and client skills. With the right words, using the correct human psychology, advisers can communicate and influence their clients in seconds.

ABR: How can advisers improve their automatic referrals?

BDS: Simple. It involves looking at the mind and learning a process that encourages their clients to automatically proffer names without being asked outright. It’s a very simple skill to learn and takes just three hours to teach. I would say wishing to learn the skill of creating automatic referrals is the main reason for many of my adviser workshops, as people are often uncertain how to approach it and don’t want to appear desperate.

The truth is, asking for a referral upfront will rarely produce one – people don’t like to be put on the spot and they will often find a way of saying “I will think about it, or I will let you know.” Also, a financial adviser is sometimes a little sheepish about asking for a referral as it can come across as being desperate. I teach a systemised process, which taps into clients’ subconscious mind so that they will automatically give a referral without even being asked. This takes the awkwardness out of asking for a referral and the client feeling uncomfortable at the request, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

ABR: Bernie, how did you come to be a performance coach and what made you work with financial advisers?

BDS: The mind and how we come to make decisions is something that always interested me and I find the psychology behind personality very intriguing. I previously worked as a physical training instructor for the Royal Air Force, so personal performance has always been an important part of what I do, and it felt like a natural step for me to help businesses and individuals maximise their peak performance.

I work with a wide variety of professionals and I do believe financial advisers very much benefit from the skills I teach. There are two types of financial adviser; those with low incomes who struggle to find new clients and those with high incomes and high client-engagement skills. Unfortunately, the financial advice industry has been so consumed by RDR and back office issues, I believe a lot of advisers have lost sight of how to sell effectively with high professionalism, plus the ability to engage meaningfully with new clients.

Any financial adviser with an open mind can become more successful by mastering a few basic skills; automatic referrals, telephone engagement skills, closing skills, presentations to the decision-making part of the brain and time management skills.

ABR: What does your coaching entail and how long do advisers typically need before they see an improvement?

BDS: Often people see me give a keynote speech and subsequently approach me to either to hold a workshop for their team or provide one-to-one coaching. Workshops are usually attended by around 30 individuals and I use an interactive style of teaching. It’s not uncommon for attendees to be able to recite to me everything I’ve taught in a session without taking a single note.

With personal coaching, most advisers tend to start on a three-month period and assess their improvement at the end of that time. I address three big issues with my clients; how to secure telephone appointments, how to get automatic referrals and how to close. Problems such as sales reluctance, fear of calling and empty diaries disappear with these skills.

The first thing I do is get clients to fill out a questionnaire, which provides me with a breakdown of their business. Thereafter, I ask them to provide a personality profile test, which means I can tailor my coaching to their individual style and work to their personality pattern. My personal coaching entails unlimited emails over the 90 days, with weekly coaching calls and a monthly face-to-face strategic session. I ask that clients send me regular updates with key facts and figures so there’s accountability and we can track their progress over the period I work with them. I often find people just need the skills and once they’ve grasped those and feel confident in their ability, they no longer require personal coaching.

Visit Bernie De Souza’s website

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