My Team Won’t Listen to Me
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.
We have spent a great deal of time over this last year examining our client base, identifying the niche market we should focus on and creating a segmented approach to service our clients most appropriately. Two of our more senior advisors have pushed back at every turn. saying that niche marketing is too limiting and that segmentation means that we are treating our smaller clients with less attention than we should.
Many of us do not see it this way. We believe this will help us to focus our efforts and give our clients the service that aligns with their needs.
Is there a way to change an advisor’s mind who is pushing back on this so they can understand my view and see that it isn’t a negative but rather a positive?
Is there any validity to their viewpoint at all? Have you tried to understand what’s underneath their concerns? Have you allowed them to voice what’s bothering them in an open and inquisitive manner? I’m not suggesting you agree with them, or even that I agree with their perspective; I’m suggesting that sometimes people need to be heard – really heard – before they can agree or embrace a new initiative. Many times, I see advisory firms push out something new or make decisions without consulting team members. Then it is harder for those who weren’t involved in the process to go along. They question “Why?”
Hold a meeting and talk about the importance of niche marketing for your firm. Take a step back and share with everyone how you see this benefitting your client management and growth efforts. Talk about your definition of “niche marketing” and how you see applying this to your firm. Share your ideas on segmentation and what it means for your firm. Sometimes with segmentation, drawing a schematic to show your “minimum” level of client service is quite robust (assuming that it is) and the options for clients go from there. I often hear advisors say segmentation means small clients lose out. But that is often not the case; the small clients get a high level of attention and service and the more complex clients get more because they need more.
Sometimes you have to “sell” your internal team members on a new idea just as you would share ideas to influence someone outside the firm to embrace an idea or take action. This gets overlooked because we think team members should jump on board. But you these advisors work with you because they are smart and professional. You want to respect their legitimate concerns and address them by getting their buy-in, explaining what is happening and why and reframe the conversation.
We have been rolling out a new planning process that is an enhanced version of what we’ve used for the last many years. Some clients are resisting because it is more time-consuming and we are asking questions we’ve not asked before.
I know this process will eventually be much better for our firm and our clients, but the problem is my advisors. When the client says “no,” they say “Okay” and then tell us, “They don’t want to do it,” as if this is the final word on it.
I’m suggesting to them that the client needs to be sold on this idea, shown the benefit, or told a story about another client who was helped by the process. But to my advisors “no” is “no.”
I’m providing as much support as I can but it frustrates me when there is no willingness to consider a different point of view.
Are there other ideas to get my advisors to embrace this change? Should I go around them and have a couple of the planners work directly with the clients and cut out the advisor for this part of the process? What do other firms do?
Do your advisors have the language and the stories they need to help the client see the benefit of this change? In many cases when leaders want their team to embrace change, they tell them what needs to be done, what is changing, or how to implement the new ideas – it is a bit of a “just do it” mentality even if you think you are being supportive. Your advisors might not feel equipped or think they know exactly how to respond.
Role play with them. Have them play a client who is saying “no” and someone else in the firm plays the advisor helping them understand the benefits. Sometimes you learn your advisor is really the one (now playing the role of client) who resists this process. Does the advisor believe it is the right thing? Are they the one putting up the obstacles?
I like to do these sort of role plays for two reasons: The advisor can get into the seat of the client and see the world from their lens, and you uncover mind blocks that the advisor might have about the process when they are presenting it.
Another option is to hold a SHIFT Model® session with your team. This is a process my team and I created years ago and can be very helpful when a team, or a firm, is trying to shift behavior and make change happen. Call your team into a room and talk through the process as follows:
- S – specify the desired outcome. Is there agreement about how many clients should be using this new planning process? Is there a qualitative goal about how you want clients to think or feel about the process? What’s the end state that everyone can agree to?
- H – highlight the obstacles and categorize them. Sometimes you need to let people share the problems, issues and concerns they are facing or believe they will face. Have them make a list about everything that stands in the way of a successful rollout of this process. Then categorize them: What can the advisor control, what can they influence, what’s out of their control. Focus on problem-solving for only the first two.
- I – Identify the human factor. This is where you can get your advisors to open up about their own concerns. Do they have the information they need? Do they want more training? What sorts of clients are the ones pushing back? Are there themes? Human factor looks at the human dynamics in a more objective manner to review what’s happening and how to deal with it most effectively.
- F – Find the alternatives. So, looking at the first four steps, what CAN the advisor do to start to help clients shift to this brave new world of expanded planning? What options are there? Have the advisors brainstorm this and come up with criteria to determine what best fits their client base and their comfort level. Don’t back off of the (S) – always stay focused on the end goal.
- T – Take disciplined action. What can each advisor commit to doing – what will go on the calendar in terms of time and activities – what steps are they willing to take to move this forward?
Giving people space to discuss these things, but doing it in an organized and process-oriented fashion can help you reach your goals. You can learn more about SHIFT and how it works at our website.
Never force change or shut people’s concerns down. Rather, acknowledge them and help them work them through to see that they do have options for moving forward more effectively.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.