All About Trust | By Patrick Sweeney
In a world where the post-crisis business environment is constantly shifting beneath our feet, it’s no wonder customers and investors have become more skeptical than ever about the financial system and its stability. It’s a transition that’s also impacted – and in some cases, strained – the relationship dynamics between financial professionals and their clients.
As a result of this uncertainty, merely selling financial solutions is not enough. Financial professionals must not only solve their customers’ problems with a solution, but build a relationship that garners trust and elevates the customer’s buying experience.
Many financial advisors and professionals rely purely on transactional techniques when dealing with their clients – they have the skills to succeed in sales. But as more and more clients demand consultation, a new skillset is required.
In recognition of this new paradigm, BNY Mellon Wealth Management was compelled to cultivate a client-centered culture. To do so, the company didn’t just replace “old world” financial advisors. Rather it redirected its current advisors, helping them leverage the strengths they already have to interact with clients differently, and then recruited talent in this new consultative model. By adapting a conscientious culture, BNY Mellon Wealth Management increased average new business revenue by nearly 20 percent and dropped sales force turnover by 50 percent.
To make a similar transition in your own company – and align the needs of the customer with current members on their teams – financial managers should abide by the following steps:
Define Successful Behaviors
What is it that makes your clients choose you over the competition? Your products are easily duplicated elsewhere, for a lower cost, but clients come to you because they believe you. They feel safe working with you; you are there for them. It all comes down to trust.
What is it about your financial employees that make these interactions successful? Is it the interpersonal aspect – do your top financial advisors have a keen ability to engage in conversation with their clients? Are they empathic and assertive? What are the traits of your top-performing financial professionals and what do their behaviors look like?
In search of these answers, BNY Mellon used a robust assessment tool to measure 23 different personality traits and motivational factors to determine which individuals had attributes related to competence, credibility and empathy – key qualities of consultative advisors.
Measuring and analyzing your bench strength is the starting place. Then it’s a matter of implementing a structured process that keeps those competencies your top performers possess in mind as you recruit internal and external personnel into open roles and develop your current team.
Bottom line: Until you understand what makes you successful, leaders in the financial sector will be unable to replicate that success.
Build Your Culture
It isn’t just about knowing what your top performers possess that will help your organization garner loyal clients that trust you; it’s also about the culture in which your top performers function that will help distinguish them.
By successfully building your culture around creating customer trust, your team will be positioned to effectively interact with its client base. But leaders can’t just say what they’re culture is to enforce it; they have to live it and breathe it as well. Doing so will ensure your team is more able to live the company’s values as well.
Creating and changing a culture takes time. However, with the use of surveys and culture analyses, leaders can better gauge where their culture stands and find ways to fill in the gaps so they can get it to exactly where they want it to be.
Develop for Success
Top performers who reflect the culture you’re trying to replicate will create a platform for development programs. Ultimately, this will help foster successful behaviors in others as well as encourage those behaviors in new hires.
To drive your team toward a more consultative relationship with their clients, where they are building relationships and trust, it’s more than just implementing a process. Your team has to get on board with your goals and be willing to embrace the vision and culture you’re looking to create.
Create development programs for all your employees; give them opportunities to take on stretch assignments based on their strengths; and allow them to mentor new employees coming into the company. Not only will you encourage the behaviors you’re looking to achieve through these initiatives; you will also foster employee engagement. Engaged employees are happy, productive employees – and that positivity is then transferred to your clients.
Your financial professionals are your brand. Helping them develop new skills will have a major impact on your client base as well as future growth. This isn’t a task that has to be taken on internally: External coaching and third-party consulting and assessment can help financial organizations develop their own employees, help managers develop coaching skills and provide support that aligns with sales managers’ skills.
As a result, talent in the organization – in addition to the overall culture – will be more consistent, aligned and poised for success. And, perhaps most importantly, it will prove your company’s trustworthiness to the clients and prospects that matter most.■