Advisor2.0: Can You Teach the “EQ” Intangibles?

In our last few blogs we’ve been highly focused on the topic of EQ.  The reason for that is because we are clearly recognizing that in today’s world of wealth management, EQ skills are proving to be the key differentiator that separates the best advisors from the rest.

In our February blog, What Makes the BEST Advisor?, we offered our perspective on a few of the EQ skills (referred to as the “intangibles”) that are of primary importance to achieve this differentiation.  We closed this piece promising to answer the question “can these intangibles be taught”?

In pondering this question we realized that’s not exactly the right question, as anything can be taught.  The real question is, can it be learned?

What is EQ?

First, it’s important to define EQ.  EQ, or Emotional Quotient, is defined as “a measure of a person’s adequacy in such areas as self-awareness, empathy, and dealing sensitively with other people.”  And while EQ is comprised of many different fungible emotions and skills related to human-to-human interactions (i.e. “people skills”), as it relates to engaging clients in the world of wealth management, there are a few we see as most important for advisors to set themselves apart from the pack.

  1. Client Centric – An acute focus on and commitment to the interests of the client.
  2. Authentic Curiosity – The innate skill of asking great questions based on a sincere interest in understanding and learning as much as possible about the client and their situation.
  3. Confidence coupled with Humility – Conveying absolute confidence in what you do and how you do it, with a level of humility that’s naturally attractive to and builds lasting credibility and loyalty with the client.
  4. Simplicity – The ability to clearly communicate your guidance and solutions in a way that resonates with the client based on their unique situation and inspires them to act.

Some people have innate EQ skills that they employ in all aspects of their life and apply them in their role as an advisor.  But for many advisors, it may not come naturally, or they have not yet recognized the importance of it and therefore need to work on enhancing their EQ skills.  As one of the best Wealth Management leaders we work with responded when asked his perspective on the potential to learn these intangibles said:

“Your question reminds me of baseball.  You have some gifted players with superior hand/eye coordination and athletic builds, and they are “natural born” hitters.  You also have other less talented players.  Those less talented players CAN learn to hit better, making dramatic improvement over time, even passing up some who have the gifts, but become lazy in applying them.  But give me a motivated Mike Trout, and none of the less talented players will be even close.”

So what if you’re not a Mike Trout?

To teach this and to set the stage for learning it, we must recognize that every advisor is different, some who are “Mike Trout’s” and others with limited or untapped EQ skills.  So, where you’re starting from defines how much effort and work it will take.

With that in mind, we've found in our quest to teach these skills that the first, most critical requisite is the ability to inspire advisors to be OPEN to learning this.  As another great coach we work with stated, “these intangibles can be taught, but ONLY to those with the humility to continuously find ways to get better.”  All too often we encounter advisors lacking the humility required to open the door to a whole new level of effectiveness and henceforth productivity.

So how do you open advisors up to this learning, especially with those who are certain they’re already getting it right?  There are several ways to do this, but here is one great example of how another leader inspired some of his advisors to open their minds to a better way.

“We had a 2-hour role play session with our team yesterday, based on a first meeting with a prospect.  Team 1 was a mix of good and great advisors.  Team 2 was a team of great and ‘best’ advisors.  As the feedback guy, I gave a page of critical feedback to Team 1 after their round.  Some accepted it, others challenged and even resisted it.  Then I had Team 2 engage in the same role play as Team 1 watched.  Light bulbs were going off everywhere in Team 1.  They got it, but we had to get them to see it and feel it vs. just tell them about it.” 

A proven framework for learning EQ skills

The key to getting advisors attuned to being better at engaging clients and using effective EQ skills is to think about the Client Experience you want to deliver; to re-imagine what prospects and clients experience as you work with them.  How can you ensure that they FEEL like you truly understand them?  How do you ensure you are exploring their situation and providing the expert insights they need as they navigate the complexities that come with having wealth?  The first key to building better EQ is re-thinking how you can connect with the human on the other side of the table, so they leave discussions with you recognizing that you understand them and their unique situation and that they develop a sense of complete trust in you.

The approach we’ve developed over time has proven successful in helping advisors develop the aforementioned “intangibles” that set the BEST advisors apart from the rest.  These steps (in this example focused on the sales experience you employ with new prospects) can be incorporated whether you’re an individual advisor to reflect on yourself, or as a Leader/Coach with which to engage your team.

  1. First, spend some time honestly assessing - and subsequently defining - your approach to the business with the following questions:
    • Why am I in this role and do what I do every day?
    • What is the experience I want to deliver and the “Promise” I make to my clients and prospects in terms of what they can expect from me?
    • Specifically, HOW do I go about delivering on that Promise with the utmost “purity of intent” with every prospect and client?
  2. With the answers from above in mind, break down the individual components of the experience you intend to deliver and define exactly HOW you will engage prospects and clients in each component:
    • How will I position myself and my firm with new prospects in a genuine, client-centric way that leaves them recognizing that everything I do is to fulfill on my Promise and deliver value to them, detached from my own self-interests?
    • Driven by truly authentic curiosity (you can’t fake it!), what specific questions will I ask to:
      • Ensure that I uncover all the key issues and priorities that matter most to the prospect and that other advisors tend to overlook?
      • Gain a clear understanding of the prospect’s current situation and how effectively they (or their current advisor) are moving toward their objectives and priorities?
      • Simultaneously help the prospect clearly recognize any gaps they are not addressing effectively.
    • If there are gaps, and aligning to what matters most to them, how will I communicate my recommendations and solutions and the anticipated impacts of those solutions in an understandable fashion and in a way that motivates the prospect to act?
  3. Practice, practice, practice until the specific skill in each step is executed naturally and with sincerity/authenticity. The key here is to move all of this from your head to your heart, confirming that it’s not simply an exercise to help you make more money, but to truly provide unique value via the delivery of your Promise (which, by the way, will lead to making more money).
  4. Begin to employ these with the freedom, confidence, and sense of security that once mastered will take you to a whole new level of success with your clients and in your practice.

While there are certainly more specific skills behind each of these steps that must be further defined and refined, we have found after working countless hours perfecting this framework and employing it with our clients, that any advisor at any level CAN learn and develop the skills that will ultimately lead to a “Mike Trout” level of performance.

To learn more about just one of the specific solutions we offer to help advisors develop these key EQ skills and differentiate themselves from other advisors, click HERE.

About Rick Swygman and David Greene