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Do not dismiss the soft skills of selling

Stephen Gazard

Stephen Gazard

A salesman is one who has many stereotypes and even some negative associations, such as the caricature of the used car salesman. 

Sometimes, these negative perceptions are also associated with advisers in the pre-Retail Distribution Review era – a reputation the industry has made a concerted effort to shake off.

However, removing the perceptions of a salesman aside, salespeople have a skillset advisers should not dismiss.

In particular, they engender trust and convince their clients to do something.

Now, this is not so they can sell them something unnecessary; the truth is that most people do not realise they need to take financial advice or how much they can benefit from it.

When is a salesperson’s job easiest? When they can prove they have a product that is both something people need and which would make them better off.

Advice ticks both boxes but empirically proving this is a struggle. Advice is intangible. It is not about the products or the investments but about how those are used and ensuring clients stay the course.

To try to measure the value of advice, we recently ran a project called Adviser Delta.

The project looked at three areas: the way an adviser gets their client to hold an investment, that is, whether it is contained in the most efficient tax shelter; the value an adviser adds through their buying power to leverage price or obtain product enhancements; and, finally, how an adviser helps to ensure their clients avoid inherent behavioural tendencies such as panic selling and over-trading.

We found on this third point that behavioural training added almost 40 per cent of the value.

This highlights how important soft skills – those shared with salespeople –are for an adviser, as it will be hard to get the right behaviour from a client unless they trust you.

Advisers are not salespeople and it is right they do not want to be associated with them.

However, advisers should not dismiss their skillset.

Stephen Gazard is group managing director of Quilter Financial Planning