America loves summer. It means vacations, time spent with family and friends, and recharging for the fall selling season. Dog Days quickly follow. They're just a little hotter and more humid. People slow down. Dog Days came early this year: vacations canceled, consumer confidence plummeted and the economy in malaise.
Record gas prices, political uncertainty, and unstable markets result in wary investors, and advisors face the challenges that come with the teeth of uncertainty.
So where do you go from here? Can you prosper in the future as you have in the past? You certainly can, but you need an aggressive perspective. Follow these five steps to increasing success in uncertain times.
1. Put the evening news in perspective
Advisors need to stay current, but avoid becoming mesmerized by the evening news. The media cares more about ratings and market share than accurate reporting, and as writer Peter Williams once said, "The news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news... and it's not entirely the media's fault: bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news." Look for facts and not innuendo, and protect your positive attitude.
2. Have an opinion
Your clients expect you to have an opinion.
Your opinion comes from a combination of facts, data and common sense. In 1841, Charles Mackay wrote Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. In it, he discussed financial panics and bubbles. Mind you, this was 1841, and it still holds true today. Be a student of financial history. Nothing increases indefinitelyand nothing decreases indefinitely. The secret is to see opportunity where others see crisis.
3. Don't manage money, manage risk and objectives
Chasing returns is madness. Don't try to find the "best" investment. Focus on strategy and not on products. Use risk management techniques and products to put clients at ease. Asset allocation and diversification are always right. Chasing returns is always wrong.
4. Improve your knowledge and skills
Recently, a major regional bank responded to declining sales by canceling sales training meetings. Regardless of your bank's position on training, seek out any and all training opportunities. Market knowledge and product knowledge are not enough; improve your sales and communications skills. Your bank won't pay for training? Be a professional and invest in yourself.
5. Stay in touch
Newsletters, birthday cards, and an occasional e-mail are not enough; clients want to talk to you. When a client initiates a call about market challenges, you waited too long. Be proactive and call your clients more frequently than normal. Be brave. Too often advisors let clients buy the wrong product because it makes them feel better. At times when clients are whipsawed into wanting to "get out of the market," persuade them to maintain and increase positions in out-of-favor sectors. Clients want an advisor with conviction.
Robert Schuler once said that "Tough times never last, but tough people do."
Volatile markets and uncertain times wash out those who believe the advisor business is easy. Bank advisors that follow these suggestions will survive, and indeed thrive, where others fail.
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