He may be in the hot seat for sharing a bit too much lately, but Facebook cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg certainly understands the value of sharing. In a 2011 interview with Charlie Rose, Zuckerberg summed it up by saying, “In terms of doing work and in terms of learning and evolving as a person, you just grow more when you get more people’s perspectives.”
That philosophy is not only true in personal life but in the business setting as well. Sharing what works and what doesn’t can have a signification impact on an organization – from fostering a more collaborative work culture to increasing revenue. In a highly competitive investment market where many wholesalers are struggling, knowing what’s working and what’s not in the field can deliver powerful insight. By implementing success-sharing mechanisms among their network of advisors, wholesalers can reap measurable benefits.
The value of sharing
As children, it may have been difficult to see the value in sharing. After all, sharing a toy or favorite snack didn’t necessarily benefit the toddler on the giving end. However, as adults we can view the value of sharing through a different lens.
Creating an environment where sharing best practices is the norm can pay out in a big way by:
- Reducing time to perform repetitive tasks
- Avoiding duplication of efforts
- Enhancing productivity, thus reducing costs
- Improving efficiency to get better results
But how does information-sharing apply to wholesalers who rely on advisors to sell their funds? Quite simply, for an industry whose lifeblood depends on the effectiveness of individual financial advisors, wholesalers who leverage best practices from the field across their networks stand to gain revenue.
By soliciting regular input from field advisors as to which messages and products resonate with clients and prospects—and which ones are confusing or met with negativity—they can alter marketing efforts or redesign product suites to better accommodate their clients and their journeys.
The bottom line: when products are easier for financial advisors to promote, they’ll likely sell more. Sharing effective sales strategies that meet the needs of buyers by focusing on what they’re trying to accomplish positions financial advisors for success.
Why sharing is difficult
Business author Tom Peters said, “Innovation comes only from readily and seamlessly sharing information rather than hoarding it.” Yet, cultural and structural fundamentals within the investment industry can still get in the way:
- Disconnect with advisors – Because they are not direct employees, financial advisors may be succeeding (or struggling) in the field—and many wholesales have no line of site to them.
- Lack of resources – Financial and personnel resources may limit a firm’s ability to collect and document strategies from the field.
- Open-system constraints – In a big firm, it isn’t always easy or timely to implement systems that allow easy disbursement of information across multiple advisor networks.
- Relationship limitations – Legal agreements with firms may prohibit or limit information sharing from advisors of one investment firm with another.
- Human nature – If it’s not part of the core culture, sharing typically doesn’t just happen on its own. It takes commitment from the top and across an organization to purposefully share information.
5 steps for rolling out best practices
“Wealth management firms are focused on increasing sales force productivity rather than simply recruiting more advisors,” according to Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company).
Part of productivity improvement is tooling financial advisors with strategies for success. Here are some fundamental steps to build platforms for sharing and promoting effective tactics.
- Build a roadmap. As with any process improvement, the best start comes when you know what you’re trying to accomplish. Put a scope around your inaugural program and don’t bite off more than you can chew. You may want to limit your information solicitation to just a few advisor networks to start. Set goals and timelines for collecting the information. Test your new process and work out the bugs before rollout out across all networks.
- Find the hidden gems. You won’t find them if you aren’t looking. This requires building a formal process for regularly tapping financial advisors for information. The process doesn’t have to be complicated, just routine. Collect data and analyze it. But don’t try to interpret it in a silo. Make best practices a topic of conversation at your annual review with advisors. Be sure to cover what’s working and what’s getting in their way of providing value to customers and prospects with strategies such as portfolio construction, asset allocation and even financial planning and practice management. [Not holding regular annual reviews? Perhaps it’s a great reason to start.]
- Get it on record. An anecdote from the field is only as good as the person who hears it—that is, unless you document it. Create a template of information that’s needed to turn great stories into powerful selling tools. Tie the insights you gather from the field to buyer personas, highlighting areas that appear most influential in the decision-making process. Be sure to capture the fundamentals: product being promoted, journey stage of the client or prospect, obstacles encountered and, most important, ways in which the advisor ultimately delivered value. Be sure to vet out the one-offs and focus instead on strategies that can be duplicated.
- Make sharing easy. This could prove the most challenging step because it likely involves multiple internal stakeholders and concerns, from IT to marketing to legal. Tools must be easy for financial advisors to use or they simply won’t. Fortunately, there are a number of great platforms available to disperse information back to field advisors, such as HubSpot, BoostHQ, GSuite and Evernote. Integrate them into existing systems and the adoption process will be easier.
- Engage advisors. Don’t be the parent who insists your child share a toy for no apparent reason. Let financial advisors know what you’re trying to accomplish and how it will benefit them. In return for their feedback, remind them that they will have access to the broader knowledge base for their own learnings.
Over time, strive to provide ROI data that shows financial advisors how contributing to and leveraging best practices on success sharing can position their own portfolios for growth. Do this with enough frequency and the process will become part of your internal and external cultures.
Of course, you don’t want to “overshare,” as everyone’s favorite social media guru will tell you. Your financial advisor network may not want all their relationship-building secrets revealed. Assure them that their feedback will be protected through white-labeling, for example. Still, by engaging these five steps, you’ll be on your way to rolling out a game-changing pool of best practices that can increase the power of your financial advisor network.
If you liked this post, please check out another that I've written: 3 Steps for Nurturing Investment Clients Until They're Ready to Engage