Advice for New Financial Advisors – 8 Things Veteran Advisors Wish They Knew When They First Started Out
“Experience is the best teacher. But only a fool learns by no other.”
This is a slight misquotation of Benjamin Franklin. But the idea is sound: We all can and should learn from the mistakes and experiences of those who came before us.
And advisors are certainly making mistakes! Somewhere between 70 and 90 percent of financial advisor trainees are out of the business by their fourth year. And too many of those who survive aren’t thriving.
So we asked some veteran financial advisors what they wished they knew when they first started out in this business, or what they would do differently if they could start over. There was a lot of variation in the details, but most of them had these themes in common.
#1. “I should have focused on a niche sooner.”
Of all our responses, this one was by far the most common. Many advisors say they wish they had focused their practice on a single niche or concept much earlier in their careers.
There are a number of advantages to this:
- It sets you apart from the crowd.
- It allows you to become among the leading experts in the country on one topic, instead of fighting among the generalists.
- It helps justify a premium fee – and beat the Commoditization Trap.
- You can focus your marketing and advertising much more effectively.
- It helps increases online conversion rates, and offline closing ratios. When you’re the expert in your niche, people come to you.
Don’t be fearful of technology. That’s just being fearful of change. Instead, embrace technological change – and make it work for you!
#2. “I should have prospected more.”
Call shyness is one of the number one killers of young advisors’ careers. Anytime you speak with an advisor who survived his or her first five years in the business, you’re already dealing with survivorship bias: They survived five years because they prospected enough to make it that long.
But even then, nobody told us they prospected too much. They may have wished they prospected smarter. But nobody said they should have prospected less!
So, pick up the phone, or knock on those doors, and collect a few hundred rejections this month. You won’t regret it. And you’ll meet a lot of people. Feed that pipeline.
#3. “I should have hired an assistant sooner.”
This is one of the more common variations of “I should have delegated more.” Most advisors start their career suffering from massive diffusion. Paperwork, admin and scheduling is constantly encroaching on prospecting, selling and client service time. Many people found that as soon as they made the leap and brought on an assistant to help with these noncore tasks, their productivity soared. The cost of adding some staff – even just a part-time personal assistant – paid for itself many times over.
#4. “This isn’t the ‘money’ business. It’s a people business!
Many advisors became extremely technically proficient at an early age. They knew investment products backwards and forwards. They became wizards of their chosen software programs. They could generate beautiful-looking reports and financial plans in minutes.
And they couldn’t close a sale to save their lives. Until they internalized this powerful lesson: It’s not how well you know money. It’s how well you know people.
Once you stop thinking you’re in the money management business and start thinking you’re in the people business, you’re going to have a lot more success.
This is why I’m constantly hammering on soft skills. I know most of you already know the technical and financial aspects of this business pretty well. But you can delegate most of that! It’s going to be your soft skills – your people skills – that will really feed your success.
#5. “I should have embraced technology.”
There’s no doubt about it: Technology is changing the way financial services are marketed and sold. For the better, I might add. But that doesn’t mean some advisors didn’t get left behind. A few can afford to rest on their laurels, doing business the same way they did since the Carter Administration.
You aren’t one of them. Smart advisors are investing aggressively in a good website with great client interaction, in first-class contact management software that saves precious time, and in best-in-class practice management software.
This is another way of saying you need to work on your business, rather than in it. Technology will help you create processes that will help you serve more people – and bring in more revenue doing it.
#6. “I should have set a higher account minimum early on.”
Most veterans we speak with lament that their early account minimums were too low, or non-existent. Yes, we all wish we could help everyone. And people with little or no investable assets need help more than most! But our veterans quickly find that having low or no account minimums really put a crimp on their ability to grow their business.
Not only did they spend a lot of time servicing accounts that didn’t generate much revenue, but they found that small accounts tended to refer other small accounts. Big accounts on the other hand tended to refer other big accounts.
It was tough to turn away business. But once you’re bringing in bigger accounts, the cycle of success tends to tighten and become more powerful.
#7. “I wish I fired more clients early.”
None of us can be all things to all people. Some clients and advisors just aren’t a good fit. If a client doesn’t jibe with your business model, or if they make your life miserable, don’t be afraid to let them go.
Once you get to a certain point, it will be much easier to go out and prospect or get referred to a new and better client than to keep serving a bad one.
This doesn’t need to be a negative thing. It can be a positive both for you and the client. Someone who’s no longer a good fit for your practice might be a great fit for someone else’s.
#8. “I should have spent more time with my family.”
This is one of the most common regrets veteran advisors have – and by far the most important. Yes, this business is grueling. Especially in the early years. You need your family to be supportive. But you also have to be supportive to your family, or what’s the point?
Take a 4-day weekend once every quarter, and just do family stuff. Take your spouse for a night out after a success. Make time for those soccer games and those recitals.
Your clients will understand. You’ll be a better advisor for it.
And you’ll get more business.
If you have been in business for five years or less, and are looking for ways to kick-start your practice, watch this 4-minute video message to learn how we can help!
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