Advisers tap coaches to improve business development skills

Whether for prospecting or building the right staff, coaches should analyze what changes are required at both the personal and practice levels to bring success

Mar 15, 2016 @ 2:50 pm

By Liz Skinner

The top reason financial advisers seek a business coach is for growth, and accomplishing this can require personal or practice changes, experts said.

Among the skills coaches can help advisers develop are their abilities to network, work better with other professionals, use social media to reach new contacts, and brand or otherwise differentiate their services.

"Business development is the number one challenge for advisers," said Stephen Boswell, chief operating officer of Oechsli Instiute, a research and coaching firm. "Sometimes they know what they should be doing but they need encouragement and some instruction."

For instance, many advisers fear coming across as too "salesy," so they don't approach their own personal contacts and social network as potential prospects.

Coaches can help advisers learn how to subtly turn a "How's business?" comment at the local country club or other social events into client leads, Mr. Boswell said.

(More: Follow the data to ID the best prospects)

Advisers also seek out accountants, lawyers and other professionals who can refer clients in need of financial advice, yet many find it a challenge to develop fruitful relationships.

"We show them how to expand their relationships with professionals and learn to treat them more like they would a good client," he said.

That includes learning where these people like to eat lunch, finding out all about their families, and discovering what they like to do when they are not working.

"When you get to know someone at that level, it makes a big difference," Mr. Boswell said.

Matthew Halloran, founder of Top Advisor Coach, said he spends a day and a half evaluating everything about a firm from its systems, technology, communications and employee evaluations before concluding what needs work.

At times, it is the adviser who needs to change. And often, the problem is they are "control freaks," he said.

For the past 12 months, Mr. Halloran has been helping an adviser put people in place whom she can trust, and developing steps for her staff to prove they are capable of the work she delegates to them.

Coaches teach advisers to strive for accuracy, not perfection.

"Advisers often have unrealistic expectations for their team," he said.

Mr. Halloran likes to work with advisers on improving their lives, not just their businesses, because often they are entrepreneurs who never turn off work.

"They have to learn to balance their lives," he said.

(More: Hosting radio shows helps advisers attract clients)

Other coaching services range from strategizing how to focus on a niche, thinking about new markets for services and otherwise planning a strategy for growth.

Suzanne Muusers, business strategist with Prosperity Consulting, said younger firms typically need help with prospecting and figuring out what they should be doing during the day to grow their firms.

For these advisers, help is focused on making them more productive — blocking time for prospecting, making calls, networking, etc.

Founders of older firms need more help building their operations. They may require help creating official job descriptions, hiring and retaining employees, incentivizing the team, and making their business run more efficiently, Ms. Muusers said.

"We help the adviser become more like the leader of the firm, rather than the technician in the firm," she said.

Coaches offered recommendations for what advisers should look for when seeking out strategic business help.

Make sure the coach has professional training and certifications, and has helped others achieve what they want for their business.

Also, advisers must consider whether the coaching style itself is a match. If the coach wants to learn about the adviser's hobbies and family, is that something they are willing to share and be open about?

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