The foundation of advisor excellence lies in the ability to solve problems. That begins with listening.
Financial advisors work in a very dynamic and ever changing business. Clients want their problems solved quickly and efficiently. Having a process in place to handle problems is essential. It will save you time and money and demonstrate your ability to solve problems in a deliberate and caring way.
Years ago, I worked with an advisor who always appeared overwhelmed by the day to day problems in his practice. These were distractions that were clouding his focus, frustrating his staff and keeping him from growing his business the way he wanted.
On one of my visits to his office, I explained that how you think about a problem is key to solving it. When you stop and think, all wealth has been created by solving problems with ideas and solutions that save people time and money and that make their life easier. As advisors, this is what you do. You listen to the problem first and then you prescribe a solution that makes your client feel better.
I’d like to share the 5 step process to problem-solving that a generous mentor shared with me years ago and that I was able to share with this advisor. I hope this will be as useful to you as it was to him.
The problems advisors face and how to solve them
1) Define the problem.
” If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” (Albert Einstein)
I suggested that this advisor begin by writing the problem down as a material fact, not as an abstract question. How was the problem impacting his client? My instruction was to make it brief and concise. If he didn’t have clarity of thought, it would be hard for him to have clarity of action. Now that he had clarity about what he was dealing with, he was able to move forward to step 2.
2) Identify the cause.
“A problem well put is half-solved.” (John Dewey)
He collected as much information and data regarding the cause that he felt was necessary to solve the problem. Was the cause due to internal or external factors? Did he have a formula he normally used to solve a problem like this for his clients? Is it a recurring problem or a one-time event? What bothered him most about the problem? Who is involved or needs to be involved in finding a solution?
3) Explore possible solutions.
“The foundation of excellence lies in the problem-resolution process: That begins with listening, empathizing, apologizing and solving.” (Author unknown)
I counseled the advisor to explore all the ways he may solve the problem. Had he faced a similar problem in the past and if so, how had he resolved it? What had he learned from having this problem? Experience has taught me that it’s useful to solve the problem hypothetically.
I suggested he ask himself, ” If he applied this particular solution, would his client still have this problem or would it lead to others?” How would they feel about the solution he was considering? What were the probabilities of success of each of the solutions? Here is where various solutions are proposed and evaluated for their probability of success. My advice to him was, don’t hesitate to seek advice here when warranted. Often by talking to other advisors about the problem he may gain a broadened and useful perspective that can lead to the appropriate solution for his client.
Many times it may be appropriate to take a larger problem and break it into smaller parts that each would require a specific solution.
4) Decide on the best solution.
” I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” (Socrates)
Once the advisor considered the consequences and implications of his decision, he was able to make a decision and develop a plan. Writing the plan down served as a welcomed reminder for him and his client as to why they made that decision. This is particularly important should they encounter any resistance in implementation.
5) Direct action to implement.
” You can get almost anything done if you don’t care who gets the credit for it.” (Harry S. Truman)
My question to the advisor was, will you personally implement or will you empower someone else to? If he empowered someone on his staff, he had to clearly communicate the details of the plan and the importance of solving the problem as he proposed. Now he or his staff could begin to resolve the problem.
Now that he had a 5 step process, he was able to brainstorm further on how he and his staff might customize this process for their own business.
It’s inevitable, problems will occur. By following the plan that I laid out for him, this advisor’s distractions were reduced and he was now able to spend more time growing his business.The advisor now had a path to the solution for his clients!
Mike Sciortino has more than 30 years of experience in the investment management business. Mike speaks at Conferences and writes often about how advisors can differentiate themselves, grow their practice, and improve their lives through time-tested processes. See all of Mike’s stories for CMG Advisor Central. Connect with Mike on LinkedIn.