How to Leverage New Learning Channels for Client-Facing Professionals
Asset management firms face some of their toughest challenges in decades, with historically low interest rates, regulatory uncertainty, product proliferation (including ETFs) and increasingly knowledgeable clients. It’s more difficult than ever for client-facing teams to articulate their value and differentiate their products. They need new tools to stay in the game.
Modern mobile and video technology offer a way around these hazards. The flexibility and convenience of mobile can help client-facing teams enhance current relationships, find new opportunities, cross-sell more effectively and uncover new clients. Using mobile also allows these high value talents to find critical and relevant information quickly rather than spending time ‘off-line’ in meetings, sorting through the morass in search of nuggets.
Yet few organizations harness the speed and ubiquity of mobile to advance their training initiatives. The current state of corporate learning—clunky technology, sporadic training events and poor access to internal expertise—doesn’t do enough to help them succeed.
For your talent to engage in meaningful client conversations, they need the confidence—and competence—to present products and positioning effortlessly. Your high value client-facing team members need to acquire new knowledge, commit it to memory, and be able to grab high-impact refreshers when they need it.
Adapting to the New Game
As a financial services executive with over 30 years of experience, I remember the days before the internet. I’ve seen the transition from the analog way of doing business to the digital world. I don’t miss reading through stacks of paper to pull out information, then manually cutting and pasting to disseminate good ideas.
I was an early adopter of some of the newest financial services tech and saw the difference it made in my team’s performance. Developing skills that can track the client’s needs in a constantly changing environment means becoming agile and keeping your best foot in the game. Using mobile and video can transform how organizations train their client-facing teams.
Leveraging Informal Learning
One of the challenges any leader has is making sure that people are fully versed in the products and in their stories, so that they’re confident when they face off against clients at the point of sale.
There are many ways to share information. One of them is through formal training. In my space, we did that through national sales meetings where we brought people in once a year. We also accomplished the same through regional meetings on a quarterly basis. In addition, we had formal training, as needed, when launching a new product or onboarding people.
But incremental learning, with real value, comes from more informal channels, when people are able to listen to and watch practical applications live and “in color.” Have you ever noticed how people at sales meetings congregate around their successful colleagues to soak up the stories or learn about the process these practitioners employ? When asked for feedback on how to improve these meetings, most participants express that they want more peer-to-peer conversations or informal swapping of success stories, rather than to be lectured or ‘talked at’.
One way that my firms leveraged informal learning and responded to the request for peer-to-peer engagement was with a daily report called the “High Five.” The “High Five” listed the five largest trades for each day. We sent it out in an email and added it to Salesforce.com (our CRM system). The report included the client, the amount of the sale, the strategy, territory, and salesperson responsible.
The idea was to share various modes of winning in the field so that everyone could learn from and emulate them. At the end of each week, we compiled the ‘high fives’ and selected a few that had some similarities, to encourage others to follow a similar process.
We included these scenarios in a weekly email called “Success Stories.” This allowed us to provide a bit more insight and color on how these sales came about. We also created two-minute videos using Allego to capture a handful of success stories. The videos showed the salesperson talking about how the sale evolved, how he or she moved the client to a decision of ‘Yes’, any helpful collateral, and how they used the competitive landscape in our favor.
We distributed these broadly. What we found is that our client-facing people liked to see how it was done in real time so they could replicate it. We then added those videos to a catalog of resources that the client-facing teams could search for specific cases that they might face. Someone calling on Merrill Lynch about our strategic income approach, for example, would be able to locate all the collateral they needed, plus a related success story and a video that showed how it was done in real time.
Another way video improved our team’s performance was by preparing them to handle objections. Because even if you know the story, if the person you’re sitting across from gives you an objection that you haven’t heard before or isn’t in the material that you reviewed, you won’t have a good response, and it will disrupt your flow.
We had salespeople feed objections back to the product manager or the content expert, saying, ‘Here’s what we’ve heard.’ We could then fashion a response and share it in writing, in a voicemail, and in an Allego video to prepare our teams.
Video allowed us to capture the answers to how you overcome objections and get it out in a timely manner. Our client-facing people could then start to make adjustments and course corrections on the fly.
Driving Adoption of New Learning Channels
Most salespeople are entrepreneurs and ‘Type A’ personalities. But when we first launched our video learning initiatives, we found a bit of insecurity in everyone. Our client-facing professionals were a little resistant to the idea of recording themselves.
To overcome this resistance, we encouraged senior management to take the lead. Senior leaders had to engage with the tool to show that it wasn’t intimidating, that we weren’t looking for Hollywood production quality and that we’d all benefit from this enhancement to our idea-sharing and communication mechanisms. It was important not only to tell the teams that this tool would be useful, but also to show them ourselves.
In doing so, we communicated that we believed that video would make us all better in our skills and improve our ability to tell a more compelling story at the point of sale. To further validate the tool, we selected some of our best people, the most respected storytellers among our teams, and we asked them to put together videos of their most memorable recent successes. We shared these vignettes broadly and our audience became engaged and started to grow.
Once the teams saw that the leaders—the people they respected—were using this new tool without Hollywood quality, from their offices, from their cars, etc., it started to take off like wildfire.
Preparing for the New Game
Knowledge is the currency that creates confidence among client-facing people as they share their stories at the point of sale. However, the traditional approach that firms used in the past to capture and share information may not be agile or flexible enough for today’s ever-changing world. New technology gives companies the opportunity to overcome challenges and improve knowledge in real time by sharing pertinent, relevant and customized learnings—individually and collectively—throughout the organization.
About Joe Kringdon
Joseph D. Kringdon, Principal, Kringdon & Associates/HMC, spent several decades in the Wealth and Asset Management business, managing and leading both advisors and wholesaler investment consultants.