Six Steps To Creating A Sales Culture by Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Sales Culture
Sales Culture Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Dear Bev,

My firm sent me, a fairly new advisor, through a great training program where I learned a number of techniques to grow my book of client business. I am not salesy, never have been and never will be, but I am enthused and excited. The partners tell me I have turned into a “sales guy,” and they don’t say that nicely. I am perplexed. They sent me to learn how to grow my own clients, and now they criticize me for trying to do it. How can I help them to understand that my objectives are in their best interests?

Katie P.

Dear Katie,

Is this a case of “Be careful what you wish for?” They wanted you to do a better job of finding new clients, but now that you have ideas you want to implement they are resistant to change. Unfortunately, our industry takes a very negative view of selling. Instead of the relational building skill it really is, it’s considered unseemly, “dirty” somehow – especially by long-time advisors.

I encourage you to talk about sales culture with the partners. Instead of selling, talk to them about what the firm could do to support your efforts for growth. In fact, try and use the words “growth,” “new clients” or “business development” instead of “sales” and “selling.” For whatever reason, advisors gravitate to the former, even though all these terms mean essentially the same thing. See if you can get the partners to sit down with you. Then, outline the following six steps:

  • Create a business growth plan together. The more practical and tactical you can be, the better the partners will grasp what you really mean when you say you want to “sell.” My guess is that you will have a number of softer ways to meet and greet new people and this could give them comfort in your style and objectives.
  • Review your client communication program. Everyone knows the best source of new business for any advisor is existing clients, but the partners may not want you cold calling their clients or their clients’ friends and neighbors. Make sure you are communicating with clients in a way that makes it easy for them to refer and engage.
  • Get clarity on their expectations. You don’t say how many clients you have now or whether you also have portfolio management duties, so it’s hard to know what the partners expect of you. Outline, together, the performance expectations and priority areas of focus.

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