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Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries

One of the secrets of being a successful financial adviser is to challenge the views held by clients instead of just agreeing with them to enhance the relationship, according to Andy Bounds.

The Sales Executive Council found that people selling goods or services behave in one of five ways depending on the situation, categorised as: ‘the relationship builder’, ‘the reactive problem solver’, ‘the lone wolf’, ‘the hard worker’ and the ‘challenger’.

Although the SEC found that most are relationship builders – defined as individuals who focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships, and are generous with their time – the more successful sellers are ‘challengers’.

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These individuals are classified as those who like to debate, hold alternative views and are unafraid of sharing them, but understand the customer’s business and personal circumstances.

Andy Bounds, an author and business consultant, said: “So, whereas the relationship builder often seeks to agree with the customer to enhance the relationship, the challenger often seeks to disagree – to provoke discussion to ensure they arrive at the best solution. The rationale: customers don’t always know what’s best for them. As Henry Ford famously said: ‘If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse’.

“The simplest way to ensure you challenge others is to teach them something. To make them think ‘Well I’d never thought of it like that’. When this happens, they see you as value-adding. And they want more of it. They seek you out again, which is great for them and for you.”

The SEC defines ‘reactive problem solvers’ as highly reliable and detail-oriented – with a focus on post-sales follow-up, ensuring that service issues are addressed quickly and thoroughly.

Meanwhile, those who fall into ‘the lone wolf’ category are the deeply self-confident mavericks who can be difficult to control, but are highly skilled, and the harder workers are self-motivated and always willing to go the extra mile.

Mr Bounds said: “Challenge their [the client’s] thinking in an engaging way – don’t annoy them. See if the two of you can come up with a better solution – maybe one that neither of you had previously thought of. You’ll both be delighted you did.”

Adviser view

William Annison, managing director at Derbyshire-based HWWA Consulting, said: “You have to challenge your clients when appropriate – that is part of the role of the adviser. Some people hold views that were applicable years ago, but have no relevance today. Approaching the situation can be quite tricky. You can’t just tell your client: ‘No, you are wrong and this is why you are wrong’, because they are unlikely to respond well to this approach. You have to be extremely tactful and ensure you are doing it for the right reasons.

“The reality is that we are not being paid to be yes people, but you should not be going out of your way to challenge clients when there is no need for it. Advisers still have to ensure they develop a good relationship with their clients.”