Augmented Sales Readiness: What Sales Success in the Financial Services Industry Looks Like Today

February 28th, 2019
Oscar Collingwood-Smith
Oscar Collingwood-Smith

Financial service institutions looking to thrive shortly should look to augment sales readiness methodologies of technology companies – here are some of their proven practices we’ve observed that yield high ROI.

It’s no secret that we’re approaching an inflection point in the investments industry: for over a decade now we’ve been running with the most extended bull market ever, but as history tells us, all good things must eventually come to an end. Firms are on the edge of a precipice – not only because of the cyclical nature of the market – but pressures that they were historically immune to, are finally catching up. Automated robotic competition and self-service platforms, better-informed buyers, ETFs, regulatory changes, and cost adjustments just to name a few. Fundamentally, it’s become almost impossible for associate sellers to stay informed and ready to put their best foot forward when interacting with clients.

So, what do you do if you’re a financial services institution selling complex financial planning solutions like fixed income strategies, business banking, or alternatives?

There’s another industry that has been dealing with these pressures for over 30 years – from complex products, stiff competition, waves of automation and changes in buyer behavior – that can provide us with lessons learned, and, subsequently, proven practices.

Technology sales are dynamic and highly competitive: often you’re in a crowd of many fighting for buyer attention. Deals are rarely won based off the feature and function of your solution, and often, it comes down to the salesperson’s ability to demonstrate their value in the process and become a trusted advisor to the customer.

To help their sellers, technology companies birthed the concept of sales enablement or “readiness,” a methodology (usually facilitated by platforms) that proactively arms sellers with the right knowledge and behaviors to consistently out-smart, out-skill, and ultimately out-win the competition.

Here’s how:

1. Their “ambassadors” evangelize the brand and culture

When it comes to learning culture from technology companies, I’m not talking about bean-bags and craft beer. Employees consistently rate technology companies as the best place to work in the US, and that translates the satisfaction of their customers with some of the highest NPS scores in the world. These companies foster a community of “best” by regularly engaging employees on the latest wins, recognizing champions and obtaining feedback on perceived vs. actual performance with initiatives. They also recognize ALL their employees as “brand ambassadors” who need to clearly articulate the value proposition, arming them with the latest company/product updates to ensure the most accurate and up to date information reaches their customers.

Investment firms could augment this practice with ‘“just the right amount, just in time” market information to their associates. Imagine a world where we see a drastic drop in market capital, and there’s an influx of calls from customers and intermediaries looking to understand what’s going on and how it affects their assets. With the right enablement program and readiness platform, portfolio managers and market experts would be able to proactively prepare answers to these questions, distribute to their team, track who’s up to date and who needs to be followed up. All before the calls start rolling in!

2. They practice a coaching culture

Technology companies recognize that their products and services are only as good as their ambassador’s ability to find a customer’s problem and tailor a solution to fit their needs. To do this, they flip their customer discovery process around on their ambassadors and assess their capabilities and support requirements. This process is underpinned by a consistent operating rhythm that stretches beyond the onboarding boot-camp, focusing on incremental skill building, crowdsourcing best practice and leveraging peer-to-peer coaching. A recent study by Deloitte highlighted that a one size fits all approach to performance management was no longer sustainable, and that a shift to a data-driven, continuous coaching and development model was the best path forward.

Investment services could augment a coaching culture on two levels:

Advisor coaching. If it’s pitching a new fund, educating a broker, or handling difficult questions, set a clearly defined and consistent process to coach incrementally to the specific scenario or behavior. Firms could leverage their top associates to demonstrate the correct response or methodology to establish a baseline, build an observation or role play around the scenario and coach to that specific behavior. Determining what the core competencies are, where skill gaps lie and prioritizing training initiatives based on this data is critical to establishing a robust and meaningful coaching culture.

Intermediary coaching. One of the biggest challenges for investment firms is managing a high volume of intermediaries who sell their funds. Gaps in portfolio understanding cause an unwillingness to pitch it to a customer meaning brokers will often default to presenting alternate options they understand the best. Firms could solve this problem by engaging brokers with portfolio updates with an enablement platform that has engaging and interactive ways to explore fund information, supported by robust reporting. This method would allow for investment firms to understand which brokers are (and are not) interacting with what portfolio training materials at what time – correlate that data in real time against actual broker performance – and enable their associates to prioritize what relationships need the most attention and coaching.

Putting your best foot forward

For financial services companies looking to stay competitive and elevate their existing training programs, take a page from sales playbooks of the best technology companies in the world. They’re putting programs and technologies in place that enable and ready their customer-facing representatives to have differentiated, prescriptive and engaging conversations with customers and prospects. These reps can convey their company’s culture, brand and value proposition because they’ve they have the training, coaching and ongoing remediation to make them successful.

If you’re interested in learning more…

If you’re ready to take the next step towards improving your sales enablement strategy and learn how MindTickle has helped our Financial Service Customers to drive results with a blended approach, schedule a demo with one of our Financial Service Industry experts below.