Advisor 2.0: What Makes the BEST Advisor

The Intangibles

A few weeks ago the leader of a successful RIA we work with called me about our last blog, What Makes a GREAT Advisor.  He said he completely agreed with the claim we made that if the skills, disciplines and practices addressed in that blog are mastered, you’re sure to have a highly productive advisor whom you could deem “great” in today’s world of wealth management.

But is there more?

He went on, however, to explain that he needs assurance of something more than just a “great” advisor.  He said he needs an advisor – like so many in the business today who are dealing with anticipated advisor attrition or book transition – who has the chops to sustain and expand a book of unquestionably loyal clients.  His contention was that there’s something beyond the skills and practices we presented – certain “intangibles” – that are necessary to make the difference between a highly productive advisor and one who can sustain or even enhance this unquestionable loyalty for the business going forward.  In other words, he needs one of the BEST.

While we firmly believe that the skills and practices addressed in the last blog are necessary to achieve top-level performance, we agree that there ARE some key “intangibles” that clearly set advisors apart from the vast field advisors, inspiring a unique level of trust and confidence with their clients … so much so that the clients they work with would never consider using another advisor as long as they remain in the business.

So, with this conversation in mind, our firm huddled up to think through our response to his question.

The “Intangibles” that Set You Apart

Below is our short list of the “intangibles” which, if added to the requisite skills, disciplines and practices we shared in the last blog, we believe separate the best from the rest.

  1. Client Centric
    Everyone today claims they’re client-centric (declaring it as a differentiator). But there’s a higher level to this than what most advisors and firms consider client-centric. This can best be characterized by two quotes I came across recently:
    The single greatest people skill an advisor can have is a highly developed and authentic interest in the other person.”

    Bob Burg, Author of The Go-Giver

    To set yourself apart as an advisor, you have to be completely client-obsessed. Only about 10% of the advisors we vet meet this standard.”

    Joe Duran, Founder of United Capital

  2. Authentic Curiosity
    One of the most powerful intangibles we’ve recognized in the best advisors is authentic curiosity. This isn’t just about asking questions for the sake of being perceived as authentically curious (which we’ve seen many advisors try to pull off). It’s a truly authentic level of curiosity driven by #1 above – a pure intent to be “completely client-centric” and “interested in the other person.”

    From what we see, this manifests itself in two ways.

    1. In the Discovery Process, where truly authentic curiosity leads to a deep understand of the client, their priorities and what most matters to them … and by the nature of their questions leads the prospect or client to discover things they’ve never thought about before (nor were led to discover by any other advisor they worked with).
    2. Also, in the way they ask questions to better understand not just WHAT the prospect or client is doing to address the issues that lead to the accomplishment of their priorities, but HOW they’re doing so. These types of questions help both the advisor AND the prospect/client more clearly understand the gaps and issues they must address and the importance of doing so.

    As a measure of effectiveness here, the advisors we’ve worked with who’ve mastered this skill consistently hear from their clients, “no one has ever asked me questions like this before” and/or “you helped me think differently about the management of my wealth.”

  3. Confidence Coupled with Humility
    Confidence is a critical intangible, which typically comes from (1) knowing exactly what you do in your practice and how you go about doing it (intentionality and discipline), and (2) having the confidence to WALK AWAY from a potential sale if you recognize you’re not a good fit for the client or the client not for you (while most advisors are simply focused on making a sale to achieve their production goals).

    Humility is equally or even more critical. Leveraging Joe Duran again for providing clarity on this, he stated when asked how they help advisors ramp up their game, “don’t sing a song to those [advisors] who don’t want to hear it,” claiming that only a small fraction of the advisors they engage with are willing to open themselves up to new ideas and “give up control.” One thing we know for sure given our years working with thousands of advisors, our industry is rife with advisors who THINK they’re already great and resist being open to new approaches and ideas that can enhance their practice. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard an advisor respond to our suggestions or coaching with, “I already do that,” though, when you ask them to demonstrate it, they respond with, “well, you know, it’s hard to show you because every client is different.” A clear indication that they lack both confidence and humility.

  1. Simplicity
    I can best describe this by referring to one of the best advisors I’ve known in my 35 years in the business. This individual started as a Trust Officer, transitioned to a Portfolio Manager, and then started his own firm building a significant client base of “unquestionably loyal clients” that recently resulted in the sale of his business and clients who so trust him, they didn’t question for a moment the benefits to them from this business transition. From my perspective, his greatest gift is that of simplicity. He has the ability to take the complex and make it clear, understandable and simple for his clients and align it to his understanding of their priorities and what matters most to them.

If you as an advisor have these “intangibles” coupled with the skills and practices from our previous blog, you WILL separate yourself from the pack, impact clients in a way that few in the business can and prosper in your practice like never before.

BUT, This Begs One More Question

In my conversation with this leader, once we discussed some of these intangibles, he asked the million-dollar question: “Can these be taught? Or do I just need to find the rare advisors who have them?”

Our experience is, yes, you CAN teach these.  We, at Greene Consulting, have spent hours and hours throughout our firm’s 40+ years working on developing ways to do this.  But for the sake of keeping this blog short enough to retain your interest, I’ll close here with a promise to address this question in our next blog.

At Greene Consulting our mission is to empower our clients to “set themselves apart” by positively impacting the lives of their clients and as a result, achieve sustainable revenue growth.  If you would like to learn more about how we deliver on our mission or simply discuss a specific topic or challenge you are facing, you can email me at rickswygman@greeneconsults.com, or call me at (404) 324-4600.