You Need both Hard and Soft Skills to Succeed as a Financial Advisor
You can’t offer financial advice until you have the necessary training and education under your belt. Learning the technical side is fundamental to your career, so that you can recommend appropriate products as well as adhere to the increasingly strict industry regulations.
But hard skills alone won’t secure you success. Even if you’re highly competent with technical information and product knowledge, unless you also possess the right soft skills, you won’t get your message across. Without excellent communication and interpersonal skills, you won’t get past the first post. That’s because prospects won’t understand what you’re saying or see why they should do business with you.
Soft skills are essential for building rapport in the first meeting
Making prospects and clients feel they are important – and smart – is an essential element of your job. By coming across as genuinely interested in prospects as people, rather than in their assets, you will predispose them to trust you. Put your soft skills to work by smiling, listening and talking to prospects on a level they can understand. Don’t introduce jargon and don’t talk excessively about the numbers or they’ll leave your office bewildered and unlikely to take things further.
Soft skills provide the framework for a ‘holistic’ relationship management
It’s your soft skills, rather than your hard skills, that provide the framework for building and managing relationships. Over time top advisors tend to become more than simply financial managers – they often end up becoming friends with clients, helping them with other areas of their life. This could involve anything from helping them achieve their ‘bucket list’, visiting them in the hospital, or celebrating their financial successes – for example being able to pay tuition fees. The best advisors are also on hand to mitigate the pain of real-life problems such as aging, Alzheimer’s or illness.
If you, like these advisors, embrace the bigger picture, you will be able to deliver value that goes way beyond portfolio returns.
Use soft skills to understand what motivates clients
Having ambition and true desire to help people are essential if you want to get ahead as a financial advisor. But you won’t achieve these goals if you attempt to sell products to people. Instead focus on giving out real, valuable advice based on what clients really want.
Use your soft skills to find out what motivates them to strive towards their financial goals. Then stir up their emotions –when it comes to big decisions people use the right ‘emotional’ side of the brain. They instinctively ‘feel’ their way to decisions rather than rely on the ‘logical’ left side of the brain.
Storytelling is an essential soft skill
Stories are an excellent way to engage with prospects and clients – when you say, ‘I’m going to tell you a story’ you’ve already piqued peoples’ interest. They’re engaged and alert, waiting to hear what you’ll have to say next.
Metaphors are another useful way to get your message across. Albert Einstein said ’If I can’t see it, I don’t understand it’. Metaphors can encourage clients to ‘see’ possibilities they hadn’t considered before. By using metaphors you’re helping to package ideas in highly vivid language, making the unfamiliar familiar.
In a world where information is everywhere, hard knowledge is a commodity that’s rapidly diminishing in importance. Your hard skills, no matter how good, won’t differentiate you in a crowded market. Creating and maintaining an emotional connection with prospects and clients on the other hand, will.
A recent study by the CFA Institute revealed that soft skills will continue to become ever more important than technical skills over the coming years. So, practice your soft skills and make sure you’re ahead of the curve by offering a service that goes far beyond explaining benchmarks or managing returns.