After preparing for a career in financial services, fresh out of college, I considered myself fortunate to land a position with one of the top five U.S. financial institutions in the industry.
I’d long been impressed by their depth of wealth management expertise during a summer internship I’d done with the firm a couple of years prior – working with high net worth business and personal clients, as well as portfolio management and alternative investment professionals, was truly a formative experience. I was excited to join such a sophisticated operation and couldn’t wait to learn more about the multitude of products and services they offered. However, soon after I started I was asking myself: how do I start selling, and what do I need to do to stand out to clients and add value?
Our training consisted mainly of floating around, observing, and basically learning by osmosis. Sometimes a manager would come by and say “Hey, we’ve got a big project and we could use an intern’s help.” Other times, we would go out on our own in search of projects to work on. It was far less structured than I expected – a “learn what you can where and when you can” environment.
Life at the deep end
When I proudly accepted a full-time position as a registered client associate, I expected my on-the-job training experience to be more formal. What surprised me was that it wasn’t all that different from my internship days: an unstructured, in-at-the-deep-end, sink or swim process — with “shadowing” or “learning by doing” training. I quickly started having conversations with clients about their portfolios, lines of credit, and business accounts, but quickly realized that I wasn’t equipped to handle questions about competitor offers or details related to our products or market research.
When I finally received some formal training, it was the “old school” off-site kind. What struck me was how costly, time-consuming and relatively ineffective the training was when it came time to actually help the new hires understand how to be successful in our jobs. For example, triple checking detailed financials is painstaking, but crucial because each line carries real financial impacts on the clients. What we needed was the building of systematic knowledge of products, prices, services, and practices in real life situations – not to mention a way to effectively handle objections. The same goes for client-specific research; while Bloomberg and trading platforms were designed to enable us to add value to our customers, the training to educate us on the use of these platforms was boring, time-consuming and left us wanting.
On the compliance side, while I received regulatory “training” via an incumbent learning management system (LMS), what became apparent was that it wasn’t all that helpful in teaching me how to actually be compliant in a persuasive, client-centric way.
In the few years I spent with the company, they launched several recruitment and rotational training programs for new hires – but none of them helped us effectively interact with the clients. In short, what I came to realize is I did not receive the kind of training that would make me able to deliver a “superior client experience.” What I needed was useful and structured onboarding and easily-accessible ongoing training, especially given the high-pressured and fast-moving nature of the financial services industry today.
Sadly, of the dozens of enthusiastic new hires that started at the same time I did, only four or five still work there today. I wonder what this attrition has cost the company? And, do other financial services institutions suffer the same rate of loss?
Beyond “sink or swim”
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with asking new employees to stick close to the more experienced associates and financial advisors and learn by observing them. It’s certainly a great way to get to know your colleagues and the company culture. But looking back on my experience, I’m struck by how much more the company could have accomplished by using a sales enablement approach.
Beyond “shadowing” experienced advisors, digging through emails for basic knowledge or figuring out how to do our jobs through hallway conversations, there was a missed opportunity for the company to connect and support new, enthusiastic reps like me.
What would happen had they employed sales enablement to develop skills and shape productive behaviors? Furthermore, what if we could have easily acquired real-time updates on cross-selling initiatives, trained on new or improved services or practiced offering portfolio analysis or handling client objections?
Since joining MindTickle, I’ve observed best-practice sales enablement from some of the world’s top companies, who are leaders in putting the customer first which results in ongoing brand affinity and revenue growth. Here is a list of capabilities FinServ cos could use to deliver a “superior customer experience”:
Effective, useful onboarding. Not every company, not even financial services companies, have the resources to run massive, one-time, in-person events. A sales enablement platform can help to cut expensive one-time events in half and also deliver the knowledge and necessary skills that sales reps need to succeed in their jobs.
Engaging, structure ongoing learning. A sales enablement platform can help to create a highly engaging environment. For instance, it can offer gamified exercises conveniently available on any mobile device or, by providing a structured virtual practice (role plays). Both could help reps develop the confidence to handle unexpected customer concerns and objections, like finding unexpected fees on their account.
In fact, rather than reps checking compliance boxes as fast as possible, with a sales enablement platform, they could share their progress on a leaderboard to show progress. And it could easily cover a full range of needs, from how to use software systems to structuring engaging customer conversations.
Helpful assessment and feedback. Sales enablement can provide rigor and accountability to process-oriented knowledge and training. Let’s say your new reps have been assigned research projects around recent market data. With a sales enablement program, you can run a quick assessment of reps’ knowledge of the details and differences between, say, their knowledge of equity funds or alternative investments. Assessments can show managers where there are gaps and issues with each rep so they can step in with feedback or if need be, coaching.
Analytics-driven insights. Advanced sales enablement systems correlate data between the training and support provided and ultimately, the results reps achieve on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. Managers are able to access assessment results, so they don’t have to guess or go with their gut about a rep’s readiness to sell. Plus insights based on data can help managers easily assess gaps in their sales teams skill-sets and lay the groundwork for personalized coaching.
The FinServ institution I worked at had the best financial research in the business. However, they couldn’t apply the same data-driven approach to training the reps who were talking about that same data.
After my experience working in my dream FinServ institution and now working for a leading enablement provider, I’m convinced a sales enablement platform would improve their onboarding processes, provide ongoing training and updates, boost knowledge retention and ultimately hold onto more than a few of their reps. Top-tier players in the industry who know the competitive advantage they’d gain by providing an exceptional client experience could finally do so.