When Portfolio Managers are Asked to be Marketers

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues.  To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

I work for a large firm as a portfolio manager. We are increasingly asked to make sales presentations and find new business. Is managing money no longer important in this business? It used to be we were charged with growing assets by investing well, but now we are charged with growing assets by finding new ones. I don’t want to be a salesperson. I want to manage money. Is there anywhere I can go where this is still rewarded?

Name withheld

Dear Inquirer,

It would be nice if we could go back to a day when assets were found by market gains, wouldn’t it? The trend you are observing is happening everywhere out of necessity. Costs continue to rise, even if the market doesn’t, so companies are increasingly turning to their client contacts to find new assets. We know that somewhere around 70-80% of new assets are coming from existing clients one way or the other, so it is a natural focus.

Unfortunately, your situation is common – you didn’t go into finance and investing to be a salesperson. But before you make the jump to another situation, see if you can improve your current situation. As a start, reframe the way you are thinking about this. Don’t think of it as “selling.” While it is presented as such, it’s really just learning a different way to be in relationship with your existing clients and new prospects. The best salespeople are those who learn to question, listen to the answers, and then tailor their comments to the needs of the audience. They aren’t the ones who “go for the jugular”!

Think about it as a chance to deepen relationship and learn more about the people you are serving as an adjunct to your investing experience, not as a replacement to it. You may find the new approach actually makes you a better investment professional. The more you know about your audience, your investors and their needs, the better decisions you are able to make on their behalf. Try to combine the two disciplines instead of feeling like you are trading one for the other.

Dear Bev,

We recently spent a lot of money and time buying and implementing a CRM system, but cannot get people to use it. My team knows we need to track our clients, marketing efforts and prospects, but they aren’t doing it. We have spent time and money on training, too – to no avail. Any suggestions?

Mike S., Boston, MA

Dear Mike,

This is the eternal dilemma. We need to capture data, so we invest in an expensive system to track clients and information – and then no one uses it!

This happens in firms large and small. A CRM is a critical technology to have in place, so I applaud you for putting the emphasis on it and for seeking ways to increase usage. There are a few common mistakes companies make in increasing adoption. See if any of these could be areas you could improve: (1) Make sure you have a process and a clear way that people are inputting and using the data. If there are steps outlined in the sales process, client onboarding and client management that everyone in the firm knows about, have these in the system. If you don’t have these processes in place, start by developing them. (2) Be sure you are asking the right data of the right people. Too often people get stuck because they don’t have access to the data they are expected to input. Be clear about what you need, and from whom and at what stage. (3) Consider having an admin or support person be the one to input data. In many cases your senior people are simply too busy and don’t have the bandwidth to enter the data. It will fall to the bottom of the list and then won’t get done at all. (4) Use the system on a daily basis: pull reports, circulate updates, etc. Often, if no one is using the data, employees think it isn’t really all that important anyway. (5) Lastly, tie usage of the system to compensation. Make it part of their performance rating. If you emphasize the seriousness of using the system, employees will realize it’s time to adapt.

Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers.  She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.

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