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Dan Richards

Earlier this month, I talked to an advisor who’s in the mid-second quartile of his firm on revenue and productivity – above the middle of the pack but not a star. “I’m doing just fine,” he said, “but when I go to our firm conferences and talk to our top 20 advisors, I don’t see anything that separates them from me. I’d like to get into the top tier in our firm, but am not sure how I do that.”

There’s lots of advice on what it takes to excel as a financial advisor. A few examples include:

  • PriceMetrix released a report titled The Anatomy of Outperformers pointing to a focus on larger clients, greater depth of relationships and pricing discipline as key success factors.
  • Ron Carson’s Peak Advisor Academy outlines a nine-step process that leads to success, with particular emphasis on building a blow-away client experience.
  • Consultants  like Katherine Vessenes and Richard Weylman emphasize the importance of focusing your practice and becoming the go-to resource in a defined client niche.
  • Consultant Peter Montoya emphasizes personal branding as the key variable that differentiates top performing businesspeople.

And those are just five out of many industry consultants, all of whom offer the key to success. There are elements of truth to all of this advice, but any suggestion that there’s only one path to success is fatally flawed. As I look back at my 30 years working with extremely successful advisors, what strikes me is the variation in the approaches taken by these advisors. That said, there are three categories of behavior that extremely successful advisors share:

  • Attitudes
  • Skills
  • Activity

This applies not just to you but also to new hires.  I recently talked to an advisor who was interviewing candidates to join his team as an associate, to service the smaller clients in his practice. “When I look at my experience and at that of other advisors, our track record at bringing new advisors into the business is abysmal,” he said. “What are we missing?”

I asked this advisor what qualities he looked for when interviewing prospective associates. His answer was good people skills and a solid work ethic.

Certainly, those are good starting points, but for new hires to be successful in dealing with clients and in assuming more responsibility over time, they need a number of other qualities.

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