Communication is key — here's how to develop yours
BY BRETT DAVIDSON
I've spoken to several business owners who are trying to develop a struggling adviser. Here's an idea you probably haven't thought of that might just work.
Do you have any advisers in your business who are struggling a bit?
Are you an adviser who just knows you could be better in front of clients?
I’ve got a solution for you that changed my life and my career.
My financial services journey started in January 1991. I was 23 years old and started as a commission-only life insurance salesperson with a leading Australian life office.
Yes, it was as bad as it sounds.
I knew nothing and it seemed the answer to every client problem was a Whole of Life Insurance policy.
Somewhere deep down I knew this was bullshit, but as I said, I didn't know anything and it's hard to critique something from that position.
Fast forward 7 or 8 years, and I have to be honest, I was still totally rubbish in front of clients. It wasn't that I didn't know my onions technically by now, that was coming along nicely and I was surrounded by some good quality people in my business. However, my communication skills lacked confidence, and in an advising context that comes across really badly to clients.
Then I met a guy called Ken Bernard. I heard him speak and he was one of the best communicators I'd ever had the pleasure of listening to. I then discovered why.
Ken had won the 1982 World Toastmasters International Public Speaking contest. That's where he'd learned to speak and he suggested I join my local Toastmasters club in Sydney.
He gave this advice to everyone he met by the way, but I took it.
Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs.
I attended a meeting one night per week for about 2 years. I went from being a relatively poor public speaker and lacking confidence in front of clients and I transformed into the person I knew I had the potential to be.
As readers of FP Advance know, when I came to the UK I built my business by speaking in public. You would never have believed that if you knew me early in my career.
What's this got to do with you?
I meet lots of business owners who have an adviser on their team who is struggling a bit. A recommendation I often give to owners in that position is to get the adviser to start going to Toastmasters.
Your struggling adviser will learn to speak in public, one of the handiest skills any professional person can acquire. And they’ll do so in a supportive environment getting feedback from experienced and empathetic mentors.
It’s cheap too.
Don’t pay thousands for expensive one-day or week-long courses. They tend to be better for experienced speakers trying to work on polishing their skills.
Overcoming any fear around public speaking translates into valuable skills and personal confidence that has direct application for advisers working in front of clients one-to-one.
In fact if you’ve got a team of advisers, why not get them all to go to Toastmasters? That’s one option. Everyone I know could benefit from what they’ll experience there and maybe it builds some camaraderie, too.
If you’ve got younger future leaders that you’re trying to develop within your business; your next-generation talent, they could also benefit. They might be advisers, but they could also be your practice manager, or senior administrator or para-planner, who have the ambition to lead and manage in the future.
And while this is not the main reason to attend, one of the side benefits will be networking and connecting with other professionals in your local area. That will certainly increase your professional profile and might even become a new source of leads.
What have you got to lose?
It’s a tough hiring environment right now. Finding new advisers to join your team with the right skills is beyond challenging.
Toastmasters might just be a route to improving the existing people on your team, rather than searching in vain for new recruits.
If someone needs a nudge to attend, take them along yourself for the first three or four meetings and then insist they continue. There are lunch-time meetings and evening meetings in most areas.
This is personal and professional development that all younger or less experienced advisers could benefit from.
Give it a try.
Let me know how you go.
BRETT DAVIDSON is chief executive of FP Advance, a boutique consulting firm that specialises in working with growing and aspiring financial planning firms.
Picture: Miguel Henriques via Unsplash