By Carlyle Fletcher
When I became a manager at my firm, I took on the role of training agents. While it was an exciting opportunity, which has allowed me to guide many new members of the financial services industry, it was a bit daunting at first.
Part of the anxiety we can feel from taking these leadership roles stems from knowing that advisors just starting their careers have so much to learn, and we may not feel adequately trained to lead them. In addition to this, many organizations’ training manuals are rich in information but often lacking in skill development methods. By focusing on basic knowledge that may feel like second nature to more experienced professionals, we can share authentic expertise and provide newcomers with a solid foundational skillset on which they can build their careers.
Begin With Basics
After years or decades on the job, we might forget how hard finding new prospects or making a phone call to a stranger can be. Phone etiquette, handling telephone objections and exuding confidence are all teachable skills. Keep in mind, many younger advisors may deal with some form of phone anxiety due to different generational uses of technology. A good way to alleviate this anxiety is to improve general public speaking skills: demonstrate to trainees how to deliver effective presentations, control vocal variety and body language and even add a little humor. This will increase confidence in all forms of communication as they begin prospecting and meeting potential clients.
Strengthen those skills with first-meeting simulations with your trainees. Walk them through phone calls with prospects step-by-step and prepare them for possible objections that may arise during introduction calls. When calling new contacts, trainees should properly introduce themselves, clearly state their referral source and the services they can provide and proactively offer times to meet. Mastery of these items is a prerequisite for success in other parts of the job.
Prospecting requires advisors to be adaptable and prepared to navigate a range of conversational twists during in-person meetings, which can develop in any direction. Teach them how to sell themselves to prospects who aren’t sure what they want or need, and to prospects who already know the gaps in their financial plans. Advisors, both new and old, must have a clear formula that can assist prospects to determine if what they have is adequate, too much or not enough. An exchange of ideas is great, but prospects and clients need to know how to quantify their needs and wants. This will help move them to take action and make the process of closing the sale much easier.
Public speaking and face-to-face conversation are practical skills that can take a significant amount of time to learn, which means it’s an investment for those of us teaching, too. To use your time most efficiently, train with small groups instead of one-on-one. This will allow sufficient time for role play. Trainees may hesitate to learn and sometimes fail in front of others, but they need to manage nervousness and that can be easier when they have a group to lean on for support. Treat this group like a class, spacing out your lessons over seven to 10 individual sessions of two or three hours each.
Communication skills cannot be learned from reading a guide or hearing a lecture – you must personally demonstrate them. Only after your students have seen you demonstrate a skill should they be expected to demonstrate it in turn. Approach your relationship with your trainees like a parent rather than a typical teacher-student relationship. We don’t point children toward a destination and expect them to get there on their own, we lead and they will follow.
Equally important is having patience with new agents. Everyone learns at different speeds for different tasks, so this may mean you repeat lessons and demonstrations. Since you aren’t an expert in everything, you might need to bring in outside help from time to time. For example, if you struggle with using humor, consider bringing in a stand-up comedian. Your success as a trainer is measured by the performance of your charges and bringing in additional resources will help ensure your students develop the best possible collection of knowledge.
Training newcomers to the industry is an excellent way to show our love for what we do. By building new advisors’ foundational abilities in prospecting, selling skills, closing techniques and communication skills, we can give back to our firms, our communities and the profession that made our own success possible.
Carlyle Fletcher, CLU, is a 17-year and Lifetime member of MDRT and a senior sales consultant for Guardian Life. In addition to his insurance expertise, he also specializes in training new agents and has successfully inducted hundreds of new advisors during his career. Carlyle is also a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Insurance and Financial Advisor South Chapter hall of fame. He is a member of Toastmasters International, and a two-time winner of the Caribbean District Humorous Speech Contest. He is also a renowned public speaker who has spoken at MDRT and many sales congresses. Carlyle lives in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago.