By Kevin R. Clark
“If you want to be successful, you have to speak up! You need to talk!”
Throughout my adolescence and into my early career, this was a common refrain. It came from well-meaning friends, mentors, professors, colleagues and even family. The directive only intensified as I found my calling in financial planning.
When applying for a promotion at my first employer, I was told that, “You have all the credentials and in many ways seem like a perfect candidate, but I don’t believe you have an engaged enough tone of voice to talk with new customers.”
Less than two years later, after moving on from that first company, the lead advisor of my first wealth management team and a classic Type A extrovert aggressively stated to me, “You will never have what it takes to be a client-facing advisor.” I promptly moved on from his team as well, not knowing where I may end up but confident it would provide a better opportunity for me to have a successful and satisfying career.
Sadly, this belief that one must be gregarious to be successful is still perpetuated by many financial advisors and companies today, and it is further reinforced by societal norms. Most training programs at large brokerage firms still primarily focus on “consultative selling skills,” and teach new advisors how to convert leads through small talk versus how to offer meaningful advice to those seeking it.
Introverts Can Succeed
Having good rapport with prospective clients is often deemed more important than educating them. A lot of bright and talented young people I meet and speak with today are passionate about serving clients. Many of them also worry that being introverted or quiet will disqualify them from fulfilling that mission.
As an introvert, I come bearing good news for these prospective planners: you can be wildly successful in our profession. Your quiet personality should be embraced, as it affords you a rare and essential skillset that our clients need now more than ever.
Susan Cain lays out in her book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” – a book I cannot recommend enough to anyone regardless of age or demeanor – the facts supporting a need for more introverts in our profession and on advisory teams, as well as in society at large.
The best teams in any business are composed of complementary people; they offer an inclusive environment that celebrates each person’s strengths, expertise, and contributions.
These teams value the thoughts and efforts of every member and offer a forum for candid and respectful dialogue. In such a culture, introverted advisors can flourish and maximize their abilities to serve clients. Just as having more racial, sexual, and gender diversity and representation is important, so too is promoting a mix of both introverted and extroverted personalities in the financial planning profession and on its teams.
Cain cites research that growing up quiet and observant enhances a person’s abilities to listen, read body language, and recognize subtle non-verbal communication. An introvert is often able to look beyond what a person is saying and sense what that person is really thinking and feeling.
This intimate knowledge of people leads to deep relationships rooted in trust…the kinds of relationships that our clients need to fully open up about sensitive and important details regarding their life and money.
Clients Are Introverts, Too
What many in our profession miss when promoting what Cain terms “the Extrovert Ideal” is that clients are introverts too. A lot of people are desperately in need of our advice and guidance, and a good number of them are introverted individuals. It takes courage for these people to strike up an innocent conversation with a stranger. Imagine the pressure and anxiety on these people when they’re expected to disclose their most private information to this stranger too.
Some may completely avoid meeting with prospective advisors lest they need to sit through an uncomfortable and intimidating “hard close.” We introverts try to avoid this same situation ourselves when dealing with other professionals. For these clients, comfort level increases significantly when working with someone who shares their temperament and who is willing to be patient, to listen, and to not pressure them into making hasty decisions.
In short, introverted clients need introverted planners. They need YOU, and you’ll naturally attract them by embracing your quiet nature and channeling your respective strengths to serve their needs. There has never been a greater demand for competent financial advice and education than there is today. Our profession needs you to meet this public need.
Kevin R. Clark, CFP®, CIMA®, EA is a Financial Advisor at Highview Advisor Group in Worthington, Ohio. He serves as the national NexGen President-Elect of Financial Planning Association (FPA).
FPA NexGen, a community of the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®), aims to provide support and collaboration for those professionals new to the financial planning profession. With more than 2,500 like-minded young professionals, members of FPA NexGen are ready to share their experiences and further the future of the financial planning profession. Learn more about our engaged community and join the conversation on Twitter.
Here are past NexGen columns: