Capacity is an inevitable roadblock for any successful advisor. As you grow your book of business and pursue higher-value prospects, your ability to prospect, manage sales, run the back end of the business and serve your current clients will become increasingly impractical. You need help.
That will likely mean hiring support staff initially, but eventually you will bring in other advisors. In today’s market, hiring advisors to work with you is an opportunity not only to increase capacity but also to inject new perspectives and new knowledge into the firm. If, for example, your strong suit is sales, you could hire an advisor who is a master of all things service-related.
Most advisors think about hiring this way, but the new advantages to making the right hires go beyond finding complimentary skills. The most competitive firms are using hiring to strategically bridge the generation gap, bringing young advisors into the firm to fill gaps in technology and access — using millennial advisors to engage the millennial audience.
The gap I’m referring to looks like this: Many advisors are 55 or older. The next most represented generation is in their 20s, and there is a sizeable group of these young advisors looking to have an impact in the industry. You have some advisors who are between the ages of 35 and 55, but they are not numerous; hence the gap.
Before you try this in your own firm, you should plan ahead and have the right strategy, hiring and training processes in place so you not only can find the right talent — whether a millennial or someone making a career change — but also position them to make a competitive difference in the firm.
The Old Hiring Process
When I first started as an advisor, hiring was very different from what it is today, and many readers will have had a similar experience. As a young advisor, I saw a high volume of turnover in advisors my age. Companies brought us in en masse; they taught us all the same script — the pre-canned answers to questions like “Why are you in this business?” — and pointed us to a phone.
Although they gave us some training through some courses and certifications, most of what we learned boiled down to “dial.” You learned through a great deal of trial and error, and if you stuck around, it was because of some combination of luck, hard work, and the need or desire to actually have income.
Looking back on it, the “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” philosophy is a bit goofy, and it’s a dynamic that simply does not resonate with the millennial audience. We veteran advisors need to be sensitive to this. How we came up is not how the next generation wants to come up.
If we apply old methodologies to this new group, we will never find the right talent and the right fit because they will move on to another firm or another career.
Millennials think of sales differently from how we do. They like the idea of helping people, but they often have a perception of sales being manipulative or dishonest. We also know that millennials expect a more flexible work environment, expect to have their work interwoven with the latest in technology and want more than income. They want their work today to lead to a brighter, more meaningful future for them and for those they helped.
The modern hiring process in growing firms looks like this:
- An ideal candidate profile that accounts for hard skills, soft skills and future potential.
- A reliable and readily accessible source for new advisor candidates.
- A robust hiring process that addresses both ability and cultural fit.
- A hands-on mentoring and training process.
- The built-in expectation and desire for the young advisor to drive meaningful change in the firm (over time).
- Prospecting behaviors and plans pre-crafted to get new hires in front of opportunities as quickly as possible.
The nuances here are critical. Although this template can give you a road map for overhauling how and who you hire, it is far from being an automated or plug-and-play solution. If you want your hiring efforts to bear fruit, you need to be as thoughtful and as engaged with building and refining the process as you have been with the rest of your business.
Advisors Are Not Recruiters
We met a highly successful firm with a family legacy. Founded by the father and handed off to the son, the firm grew from generation to generation, and they saw that they needed another advisor on the team to continue to grow. Four hires later, they had not found the right person.
They tried referrals. They tried headhunting wholesalers. They even went as far as to hire the new advisor an assistant to provide administrative support.
Four hires plus an assistant is an expensive series of experiments to run, but these advisors did what most of their successful peers also do when they hire. Unfortunately, it devolves into throwing things at the wall and hoping this is the one that sticks.
When you hire, start with the right mindset. Industry knowledge is a plus, but it is also teachable. The more important quality to find is an advisor who is willing to hunt and who has a desire to find a long-term home. The temptation to take a shortcut and hire from a big provider is unlikely to get you the kind of advisor who was like you when you first started — hungry to learn and hungry to get in front of prospects.
The trade-off of finding a hunter is that they may not have the pre-established industry knowledge of a less sales-oriented hire.
The good news is that you can teach the advisor side. Here is what we recommend:
» Engage a sales coach to provide structured training and feedback for the new advisor. Every prospect counts, and the ongoing insight from a sales coach will make every interaction more valuable for the business because your new hire will improve at a faster rate.
» Set aside your own time to provide mentorship. A new hire will never automatically work in the exact ways that are best for the business. If you want a new advisor to last and to have an impact, you should plan to give them 25%–35% of your time in the form of training and teaching. Courses and certifications help, but the best way for an advisor to become as skilled as you are is for you to show them the way.
» Consider dual hiring. If you have the budget, hiring an experienced advisor and a young advisor at the same time can help you to accelerate knowledge transfer to the younger advisor. Both parties will still need mentorship and training to fully integrate into the business, but having an additional expert in the room helps everyone.
Yes, this is a time-consuming process, and that’s why it is so important to start with the right candidate. You tell your clients each day to look at their finances as a long-term endeavor, making small, incremental investments over time to get big returns later. A new hire is no different. But you also do not want to spend 24 months investing in the wrong candidate, so be mindful of the entire process, from hiring to training.
The Sales Pipeline
For your new hire to have an impact on the business, they need to get in front of prospects as soon as possible. Hiring an advisor with the hunter mentality will make this less of an issue, but your momentum as an established firm gives you the opportunity to hand a new advisor a pre-built pipeline. You have the best practices. You have the resources. Don’t force the new advisor to start from scratch.
In addition to your hiring and training process, consider handing off a pipeline that includes:
- A share of the new leads coming in from firm marketing initiatives (perhaps distributed based on value or type so that the most experienced partners can take the highest-value prospects in the beginning).
- An appointment-setting program specifically for the new advisor, perhaps targeting a new region or prospect type.
- A drip marketing system built out with content and tactics that have already brought the firm success.
When the tools are already in place, you will find that a new advisor will close new business at a much more rapid rate than if you had asked them to begin with nothing. This is true for all new hires, regardless of how much experience they had when you hired them.
On The Horizon
Once your new hire is up to speed, the real opportunity of hiring to bridge the generation gap will begin to blossom. With a bit of experience mixed with their generational perspective, you can identify new opportunities for the firm as a whole. Your new advisor might have access to different audiences, could be better equipped to talk to prospects from their peer group, and will have insights into new things the firm can do to grow.
Those rewards are within sight, and we have seen prosperous firms capture them already. However, they lie across a chasm, and it will take the right candidate with the right training to get to them.