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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)

  • Well well well. At last Robert Reid is saying something I agree with. It was exactly the philosophy of the LIA, what a pity the PFS, even when under Robert Reid's leadership, don't see it as he says he does.

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  • If we were all sitting in our offices with a queue of people outside our door waiting to receive our ADVICE on where to invest, how to protect etc. Then we would clearly be advisers dispensing advice and charging for it accordingly.
    However, in the real world, where most of the rest of us have to live, this simply doesn't happen. The vast majority of the population doesn't go out and buy (or seek advice) on protection savings and investments - fact.
    The protection and savings gap in this country has increased in direct proportion to the reduction in the amount of people in the industry. In short, if the man in the street hasn't got somebody encouraging him to save and protect - he doesn't bother!!
    Or to put it another way if people aren't SELLING financial services to him he doesn't go out and buy it - he will go and buy a new telly instead and get further into debt.
    No amount of "Money Advice Services" will ever restore the savings culture in this country which has been regulated out of existence. And the RDR will be the final nail in the coffin - the man in the street will save and protect even less than he does now!! Well done the FSA and co, if your remit was to completely destroy the savings culture in this country and the financial services industry along with it - you are star performers!!!

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  • I downt beelieeeve itt

    Gobsmacked Mr Reid... gobsmacked.

    Although I believe it is actually the art or persuasion once a need has been established rather than just selling for the sake of it I am still gobsmacked by your comments, well done.

    As for anyone who comes up with the 'selling of advice' bolleaux you should remember the world is all about selling, from politicians (good and bad) shopkeepers (good and bad) regulators (good and bad) fee only advisers (good and bad)... I'm bored now.

    Time for dinner, beef in ginger, yum yum. The butcher sold my wife the most suitable beef, the greengrocer sold her the most suitable ginger and the off licence saleperson sold me what she believed was the most suitable wine. Within a couple of hours it will be all gone and I won't complain about the 100% loss of money. But some people will do so tonight and get away with a free meal. If the selling of food was regulated to the extent that financial services it then Tesco and Asda would be struggling.

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  • Q -Robin Algar - Do you not "sell" or "recommend" investment products then ? - Do you simply advise clients of the generic reasons why they should invest and then allow them them to choose their own product ? - If so I congratulate you on achieving an income without any of the responsibility for "arranging" a "product" and their may be a very tiny minority who do "advise" in this way. This is not however how this industry was born or how it survives to this day. Competition amongst product providers has produced the better products which are available today. What is wrong with the concept of finding out client needs then choosing the best products from the market place and "persuading" or "selling" the client the best products to suit their needs ?

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  • Sales is now a dirty word in the UK in many professions.

    However, never forget unless the salesman in any organisation makes sales, the rest of the staff may well go to sleep.

    Any company that offers a product or services needs sales, because without such, the rest of the organisation is useless.

    Part of the problem with the UK is that we do not do enough sales and that is both for companies producing goods and those selling services. It is good salesman that are going to get us out of the mess we are in.

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  • Production without sales equal scrap! I suspect Nic Cicuttis public sector background has distanced him from the need to sell a product in order to make a profit, in order to make a living!
    The UK is full of fat cats and parasites removed from the need to justify their wealth by actually making and selling a product or service.

    This attitude has had it day and it will not be at the hand of the chattering classes but because the Far East to about to teach us that the world does not owe us a living and welfare benefits are a privilege afforded by wealthy countries, wealth is based on production and sales. Very soon China will be eating out lunch!

    Salesman - succeeds or fails on a daily basis

    "It is my profound belief that a salesman succeeds or fails on a daily basis and must justify his position every single day of his working life.
    Therefore that salesman must also be in a state of perpetual anxiety, the healthy anxiety that makes one reject complacency."

    Source: Jacques Maisoneouge
    Former Senior Vice President IBM

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  • Robin Algar | 12 Aug 2011 2:32 pm

    Many thousands of products were sold that "WERE" suitable so don't forget to shout equally for the many widows and orphans whose livlihood is now based on a deceased spouse who was "SOLD" the protection that he would not otherwise buy.

    Don't also forget that the average IFA can expect less than 1 complaint to FOS in every 20 years of selling, a statistic that other so called non selling professionals would give their right arm for!

    The statistics don't support your views. Best advice has and is still the majority occupation for the majority of advisers! You are in danger of perpetuating an anti sales myth that does not reflect the huge benefit our industry has conferred on the public.

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  • Enter the Dragons Den;

    Dragon; "Can you give me your SALES figures please"
    Pitcher; "Sorry I don't have any SALES figures"
    Dragon; " For that reason I won't be investing in your firm ..... I'm out!

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  • One of the best and most honest articles and comment chains I have read for a while.

    Remember the 'sales hierarchy', with protection right at the top? Financial planning has always placed protection of finances as the number 1 priority in any matrix of advice. However, it requires spelling out to customers why? From a customer's perspective it is easy to make decisions to attempt to grow wealth (or invest it)....much more difficult to decide upon life, income protection or CI.

    The FSA over time has failed consumers by restricting professional advisers the right to illustrate the risks of not protecting the basics. I see too many order takers these days....unfortunately few of these orders are for the basic protection products.

    The widow's story should be mandatory viewing for all.....not gathering dust in the archives.

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  • It looks there are lots of salesmen around.

    If we have done so good why those clients would like now not to be sold anything anymore by financial advisors ?

    Probably we have done not so 'good'. I wish I am wrong but you need only to ask a few people on the street.

    Actualy we haven't done so good. How can I explain to my new client who has 4 pension plans and to his no tax payer wife who has an onshore investment bond that we have done good for them.

    No salesmen (I shall not say advisor) paid them a second visit after they sold those products. So as a result their investments are where they are - nowhere.

    Probably it is time to replace a one off 'sale' with an ongoing service, dare I name it 'advice'.

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