Why The Best Sales Training Approach Depends On Your Unique Sales Personality Style

As published in Kitces.com on February 18, 2019

The lifeblood of a financial advisory firm is getting new clients in order for the business to sustain itself, especially if the demographic of your client base is aging, taking withdrawals, or outright passing away at an accelerating rate.

For those who truly do want to grow – at least enough to offset aging client attrition – many prospecting and marketing methods have been tried, tested, and trained around, yet it’s been quite difficult putting a pulse on a systematic approach for growth in the 21st century. Unlike the old days when cold calling was the go-to method for most advisors to grow, or simply passively waiting for client referrals to come to you, there doesn’t seem to be a clear path to a reasonable “Cost of Acquisition” for finding and getting a new client to sign on with the firm.

So, as an ambitious financial advisor looking to grow your practice, you’ve bought books about selling, learned about marketing campaigns from experts, listened to a plethora of interviews, sought advice from fast-growing advisors, and attended master classes at workshops and conferences. You’ve been given scripts on how to “ask for referrals” to get more introductions from your clients.

But how can these methods possibly compete with the advisor you met at the latest financial planning conference who goes to networking events twice a week and mingles until 10 pm, coming back with a bunch of business cards and connections? Or the advisor who has cultivated an entire repeatable system of conducting seminars, and can tell you exactly how many leads, prospects, and clients are converted in every activity step along the way? Or the advisor who has developed a popular blog or podcast that already has a tremendous readership or listenership and is driving new clients with every article and recording?

Most advisors have tried some version of these approaches along the way, but usually with very limited results at best. Which makes them unappealing to try again. Yet the reason for your resistance to, and the “watered down” results of, any of the above methods is the lack of clarity on which advisor personality type each one is best suited for in the first place.

Despite the importance of sales skills, and learning how to bring in business, most sales training and advice given to advisors these days seeks to convert and mold them into a stereotypical extroverted “salesperson,” a traditional StrengthFinder “Woo” type who is a serial mingler with lots of connections, can strike up a conversation with just about anyone, chit chat with hundreds of people, and be the last one to leave a conference.

In turn, that’s who we assume we need to be (or as a firm owner, who we need to hire). Accordingly, most advice and sales training assumes a “one size fits all” approach can make an impact, as long as all the introverts convert into extroverted networkers, extroverts into systematized activity-trackers and bloggers, and everyone into social media prodigies.

The problem with such advice and sales training is that it looks to change financial planning professionals into someone they are not, which can waste their time and talent, and can be inauthentic to the base of prospective clients they’re trying to reach anyway.

For example, many sales training and coaching programs out there look to completely reconfigure the natural style of our introverted professionals, asking them to wine and dine prospective investors to want to do business with their wealth management firm. By requesting this from some of our most insightful problem solvers, we are basically asking them to fake themselves into a different persona if they want to have any hopes of growing a practice, stepping up into leadership roles, or doing anything besides client service.

As studied by my colleague and one of our coaches Heidi Brown, even if you look at personalities from a scientific perspective, you will see our industry’s sales training approach needs to be different. Introverts and extroverts actually use two different neurological pathways when they process information. Introverts use a long pathway when get asked a question, and it takes them a while because they go into the brain and edit ourselves and vet theories. Extroverts use a much shorter pathway to respond. Even that research alone can show us that teaching people to go to conferences and come back with business cards (or to ask clients for referrals) utterly fails to recognize the importance of different personality types across financial planning professionals.

There is a better and much more efficient solution around business development training, one which can be more of a downhill rather than an upward climbing battle! This solution, in our opinion, is to identify and then embrace your existing personality, even as an introverted or shy professional, and own it.

Then, and only then, find sales training and coaching that is specifically designed around your personality type, not despite it. Learn marketing and sales strategies that work best with your specific DNA, not ones that underestimate your innate skills and ask you to go against them.