In The Trenches: New Advisor Tales
I’ve been traveling across the country this week, so I haven’t read enough blogs to decide on a Blog Post of the Week! Instead, how about if Uncle Joe tells you a story about the good ol’ days….
I’ve had requests from people who read this blog for stories about how advisors are trained. I obviously can’t put a dot on “the one way” people are trained. Even within the organization I worked in, some were trained well and others poorly. Some came with great skills and others with none.
Here’s how my journey began:
I always imagined that anyone working in the financial planning business spent most of their day either in meetings with clients or in a room full of computers drawing up strategies or watching them unfold.
Yeah, that stuff happens.
In fairy tales.
Nope. Conditions in my office were so bad initially that I’ll tell everyone reading this not to follow my route. It was an ugly way to start a career.
How We Spent Our Days
My early clients would never want to hear that I didn’t have time to prepare adequately or follow up enough with their plans. We spent about 80 percent of our time making phone calls. By “we” I mean me and about 12 other brand new recruits who were trying to break into the business. We’d gather daily in a large conference room, pop a film like Rambo or Wall Street on a television and call as many people as possible.
Why we wore suits is still beyond me. I could have been in sweatpants and felt more comfortable while I cold called hundreds of people a night.
Why didn’t we work on strategies more? The reason is simple: I couldn’t survive on three or four clients and the management machine knew it. Sure, I was ignoring my early clients, but I needed to still have a job in the future if those first clients ever expected to get decent help from me.
When people tell you that you should hire an advisor who’s been in the business 10 years, it’s for two reasons: first, they’ve been in the trenches and have probably seen damned near everything. Second, they don’t have to worry so much about marketing and actually DO spend time on client strategies.
When did we work on a client’s business? Maybe for about an hour each morning. They weren’t very well thought out. We had calls to make.
Our Marketing Strategy
The call strategy, no longer used by the company I was with, was called “A/B.” On call A we’d offer free literature about tax planning, retirement planning, or college planning, whichever the victim of my call thought might be most helpful.
How did we get names? We used phone books.
If someone took us up on our offer, we’d call back after sending them a generic brochure to see if they had questions about the literature and just exactly “why they requested it.”
Here’s a typical call. This happened about 24 Million times:
Me: So, why did you request the information, sir?
Them: I didn’t request the information, you called and asked if I wanted it. I said I don’t care.
Me: Well you must have thought tax planning was important at some point.
Them: Listen, I just declared bankruptcy. I don’t really care about taxes.
But, once in awhile, I’d hear this response:
Me: Why did you request the information.
Them: I’m not happy with my financial advisor and I was hoping your firm would do better.
Me: (pause. I’m pissing my pants. Somebody said something positive.)
Them: Hello? You still there?
Me: Uh…yeah. We’re really good advisors. (why did I say that? I’m such an idiot.)
Them: Can I come in and meet with you?
Me: (I just want to do a dance right about now) Sure. When would you like to stop by?
Them: I’m sure you’re pretty busy. What times do you have open.
Me: Pick a time next week and I’ll be here waiting.
I was that desperate.
So was everyone else in the room. Most people washed out.
Why did I stay? How did I make it?
It was because of a woman we’ll call Renee.
I earned the nickname Gepetto because Renee, this older, gray haired Russian woman who sat next to me during the end of my first year, was a liar. She escaped to her car a few times every day to drink vodka, and come back glassy eyed and give every guy in the place back rubs. It was more than a little uncomfortable.
Worse? Wait til you hear what she’d say to clients on the phone.
Renee: What rate you get on CDs at you bank
(everyone in the room would stop talking because we knew there was a whopper on the way) She’d listen on the phone, unaware that we were all hovering around.
Renee: 4 percent? You get 4 percent? We give you 6 percent. Guaranteed. I guarantee you that when you come in, you get 6 percent here.
(I’m not making fun of her accent here…there was plenty about Renee that I could make fun of, but the way she spoke wasn’t one of them.)
I felt bad for her, so I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. But on the other end, being one of the senior people in the room (I had the second highest seniority in my office once I hit the one year mark), I had to help her learn that it wasn’t acceptable to just throw out a rate of return. Plus, we were planners, not brokers. Regardless, I didn’t know of ANY CD at the time that paid better than 4 percent. Anywhere.
So, to save her feelings, I started to call her Pinocchio. It was a way of hinting at the fact that she might not be entirely truthful.
So, the crazy people I worked with started calling me Gepetto.
By the time she was fired, this woman had eight clients. Eight people had sat across from this woman who CLEARLY lied and definitely was drunk a fair amount of the time and said “She’s the kind of help I need.”
So when people ask me how I succeeded and made it through the system without any really successful planners to emulate and only spotty product training, for the most part it was because of Renee. I knew if I worked hard enough, no matter how bad things got, that I was better than Renee and she had eight whole clients. If she can get eight, I should have 800.
It’ll work for you, too. I think in any field if you work hard and realize that life is about pressing on, you can find your opening and build a career.
How about you? Any horror stories about where you work/worked? Let’s hear about some in the comment section. I’d love to know how you got started in the trenches….
Photo: Businesspeople, Businessman: Victor1558
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