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Advisers should take pride in selling

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Many years ago, I recall attending a sales development course at Royal Life’s training centre near Chester. Our first session kicked off with a debate over titles. The proposed change was from life consultant to broker sales consultant. Several objected to the inclusion of the word sales. These objections did not surface when they spoke of their sales figures - sale success or sales commission/override.

Recent comment by fellow columnist Nic Cicutti reminded me of their paranoia of the association with selling.

If you speak to the senior partners of the main legal, accountancy or management consultancy firms, they will say their partners need to sell their services if targets are to be reached. Those who do not are shuttled out. Journalists sell stories all the time, that is what freelancers do.

Nic - selling advice is not a bad thing per se but selling where your sole objective is remuneration is unprofessional. I have noticed this aversion to the word sales in the UK where elsewhere such anxiety does not exist. When we pitch our services to clients we are competing with their other spending. We need to persuade them of the necessity to prioritise now to deliver choice later. If we provided advice and left it completely to them, many would not get round to it. We act as a prompt, we act as a conscience.

Perhaps if people were better educated in things financial, then we could just put our services on display, but they are not and so we sell. I am proud to have been a successful salesman in several locations and roles. Ethics do not need to take a back seat and nor do they.

Talking of history, I recall when the Society of Financial Advisers developed a submission to form a trade body alongside its professional arm. We spent many hours on it but then found that the request for proposals was a sham, as the Association of British Insurers was driving the whole process. Garry Heath was to be sacrificed as the Government wanted trade bodies that would toe the line. They were able to do the deed and Aifa was borne. The life companies were firmly in the driving seat and I, among others, was approached to consider applying for the chief executive role that Paul Smee ultimately took on.

Some will point to Aifa’s successes, such as the menu, but that was again driven by the providers. We now have a new director general who is ex-provider. The ability to lobby is directly proportionate to the organisation’s ability to reach a balanced consensus. This is unlikely with independents being more clientcentric than other distributors whose focus is far more on revenue.

There is no doubt that other bodies may appear and jostle for position but if that new body focuses on the quality of advice then there is no crossover. Aifa has never understood that advice was the message, hence its current state.

If you like, they needed to sell their objective to those who shape our environment. Instead they have spent their time listening to voices rooted in the past with personal agendas and zero vision.

Those who do not sell their expertise, services or objective will not prosper unless they are incredibly talented and can do things of great value that no one else can. Therefore all successful professionals sell. Use the word promote instead, and all you do is to indulge in semantics.

Robert Reid is managing director of Syndaxi Chartered Financial Planners

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Readers' comments (20)

  • I am proud to say that I am a good salesman I have been selling Insurance Life Critical Il;lness and Income protection for over 25 yrs. I know many of my clients wouldnt have bothered to BUY insurance or worse still would have bought on line without advise. Had I not SOLD to many of my clients they and their families would not be living comfortably after the death or critical illness (never had claim turned down) of their parntners. The best advisers in my experience are also very good salemen/women as they passionately believe in the product they are selling

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  • Well said, Cicutti is an over opinionated journalist, who doesn't seems to have a very good grip on reality.
    I for one don't even bother reading his self indulgent lectures, that he dresses up as financial articles and would be glad to see the back of him.

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  • We should be proud, but the FSA dont quite see it that way. remember the widows story sadly people do need to be reminded and disturbed to think about priorities. The same goes for pensions which was well fixed by the introduction of stakeholder would they listern not a chance. The RDR will for too many be the end of advice and guidance.

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  • Adviser stopped SELLING pensions and savings plans 15 years as the renumeration was classed as commision hungry advisers. Guess what no one now has a pension or savings plan and we are heading for distaster in old age. Well done consumer protection NOT

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  • Well said.

    Selling means using all ethical methods at out disposal to persuade somebody to do something that is good for him and affordable.

    This is a force for good, not something to be deplored.

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  • I am deeply shocked !! Congratulations !!!

    Someone else has woken up - selling is what it is all about. Forget all this new model wealth adviser nonsense - no selling = no pension, no life cover, no savings no hope !!!

    FSA and all the pro RDR 'wealth' advisers 'I'm an adviser NOT a salesman merchants' wake up too.

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  • Selling is essential to our industry and to our target clientele and must never be underestimated. A good salesperson is approachable, technically gifted and balanced in their approach with honesty, communication skills and patience virtues considered essential. Many so called 'professionals' do not actually sell their services properly. To be merely reactive rather than proactive in the client relationship does a client a great disservice and has serious repercussions possibly in the future. What nobody wants to be seen to be part of is a transient, 'here today, gone tomorrow' type of sales activity without continuity of advice or motive. Sadly not all of those operating in our marketplace even attempt to reach these high ideals.

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  • Advisers should take pride in giving advice. That's why they are called advisers. The clue is in the name.

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  • I remember being told by one of my clients many years ago that 'selling' is the art of good communication. Nothing more.

    I was also told by one of the UK largest accountancy firms partners that accountants that cannot sell are useless to him and his company.

    I therefore think its save to ignore the oddity of title and the word selling. Its one of those odd britishness things that the press and regulators get hung up on but thankfully the public, our clients don't have a problem with.

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  • The world has changed. This industry used to be about selling products. Unfortunately the product wasn't always the most suitable for the client and anyone who denies that unsuitable products were sold with the aim of generating commission is a deluded fool, or worse still a liar.
    Selling is still critical but now we are selling a service rather a product, and that service is (hopefully) best advice. When best advice is given product selling isn't required.

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