Before the RDR, the importance of sales skills for advisers was never in doubt but the move from commission to fees for everything except insurance and mortgages has led to a shift away from selling financial products, particularly for whole of market advisers.
The focus is now on holistic financial planning and advice services that prioritise client relationships and long-term goals over selling products. So does this mean advisers no longer need the ability to sell or do they need to adapt their sales techniques to the new regime?
National advice firm Foster Denovo sees sales skills as more relevant now than they have ever been. It recently developed a sales training programme in response to feedback received from its external financial adviser events, which showed many advisers felt that developing their sales skills would help progress their careers and develop their businesses.
Sales and marketing director Darren Laverty believes sales techniques can help clients achieve objectives but selling within financial services has negative connotations. “What’s really driving that is the meaning people give to selling. Most people give it the meaning of manipulation and pressure but that is when it’s done badly, with a product in mind and manipulation leading to that product. Proper selling is done with integrity and respect. It’s where you have to get the client to tell you the truth, open up and trust you. You need sales skills to get to that meaningful conversation,” he says.
Laverty believes selling is no longer about financial products but about advisers selling themselves. Not only their services as an adviser but also their character and trustworthiness. “Advisers used to be able to walk a client through a couple of meetings before discussing the costs but now they have to get there at the first meeting. You need to blow their socks off, understand what they want and why it is so important. “Clients need to trust us as characters as well as having trust in our capability. Advisers need to think like a doctor, listening to people and providing a solution. Advisers are selling that whole process and a lot are struggling with it because it’s a different mindset. But they have to accept that they need to learn something and practise it.”
Harris Keillar, managing director of recruitment firm Keillar Resourcing, says the skills set employers are looking for has definitely changed.
He says: “Pre-RDR they had to sell because they got paid by commission, so it was worth revisiting clients’ portfolios of protection, mortgages, investment or pensions. There could be valid arguments for rebroking and changing clients’ asset allocation but churning got a bad reputation. Now advisers are paid on a time cost basis or a 0.5, 0.75, 1 per cent fee for looking after portfolios, they don’t have the same pressure to sell. But product providers haven’t cottoned on to that fact yet.”
Keillar says although the relation-ship between product providers and advisers has fundamentally changed due to the removal of commission, many advisers will still need to interact with providers to ensure they are equipped to provide clients with the most appropriate financial solutions. “That might mean something is sold but the relationship between the adviser and client is not about needing to buy this or that; the adviser is getting paid whether the client buys it or not,” he says.
Adviser view: Carl Lamb, managing director at Almary Green
Sales training could be good for some advisers because it never hurts to do anything that helps to improve yourself. There’s a lot of similarities between the sales skills advisers needed before the RDR and since the RDR but there’s a slightly different tack needed now. By that I mean the job hasn’t changed but it’s now about how you incorporate the RDR with the fundamentals of financial planning. It’s all about holistic financial planning. Advisers are selling that – and not just selling products.