Our Team Won’t Adapt New Technology
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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Some of our advisors ran a project to implement a new CRM that talks to our existing systems and offers a streamlined approach to communication and sharing of information. It was truly a group effort. Four primary people were on the search team and a larger pool of staff gave their opinions.
It was an expensive endeavor. We now have the program installed, but no one is using it. I’m old enough to remember software that stayed sitting in a box in the storeroom and was never opened. Of course, this CRM is not a tangible product, but that’s how it feels. We do all this work, get everyone engaged, there is agreement on what we should do and yet it is still “sitting in the box.”
Do people lie about what they need? What am I missing to help move everyone to embracing the next step? Lately you have written about firms evolving and changing. This is a great example of how we have to keep moving forward. If we do it in a collaborative way, why is there resistance and pushback?
That is the question for the ages: If you take the right steps, do something that would improve someone’s life and condition, why in the world would there be pushback? It’s a psychological question at the heart, and there are many factors you could consider. But let me take a different tack and talk about the process and business elements you could be missing.
Do the technologies all talk to one another? Is this the seamless and streamlined approach you were expecting, or are there complications because the systems aren’t connected and cohesive? In one engagement, when I was trying to uncover obstacles, I found employees had six user credentials for each of six technology platforms. Information was in multiple places and the same information had to be entered several times. I tracked the time people were spending with these different systems and it was stunning. Time wasted and frustration mounting every single day. Look at this and make sure you aren’t missing extra work or complications you are giving already busy people (and everyone in this business is extremely busy!).
Did the vendor who provided the technology offer training? Did it customize the product to your environment so the process, words and approach everyone is used to are reflected in the system? I’ve often seen a great technology fall flat because there might be an “in the box” process already embedded. With a CRM, the firm could take very different steps to track prospects and clients. Everyone keeps their side copy of material because the system doesn’t match and map to what they do each day. Make sure you have aligned your business steps with what the system is doing. And leverage your vendor. Most have great training resources or online tools or online webinars. You could select a couple of internal champions and have them trained and then have them do the internal training. This approach often works because internal staff is invested in the outcome.
Last, and often the most overlooked of all, ask your team members about the obstacles. You have smart people working with you, you were thoughtful and organized about how you went about finding this solution. You engaged multiple people to make the decision, and you invested in the outcome, so what’s the obstacle? Don’t ask about problems, issues or concerns. Those are negative words and sometimes people will reject them and tell you nothing is wrong. Review with staff the steps you took and where you are. Then ask about the obstacles to implementation and usage.
It is very likely you will hear one of the things I’ve asked you to consider, or you might hear something entirely different. I had a client who had hired an intern and expressed frustration to me that the person was not putting in effort. I had occasion to speak with this individual and asked about their obstacles to ramping up. I learned they had never been given a log-in for the computer! The intern was a young 20-year-old and didn’t have the confidence to tell anyone or ask about it and sat there waiting until someone recognized it.
Yes, I know you could say this person should have asked and had more confidence. But I’ve learned over the years it is much easier for the person or people in leadership to be the ones to seek to understand. You might not like what you hear, but it is important to know what’s happening in your firm.
We recently implemented (system/vendor name removed) to upgrade our planning process. While we were very impressed throughout the sales process with the attention the vendor provided, we are duly unimpressed with the support and coaching we are receiving.
We’ve never been much for full-scale planning, and we are morphing our firm to focus more on this. Our advisors, like most, don’t enjoy changing up the conversations they have always had with clients or the way they do business. So the process is being used by only a couple of them.
How do I get the team excited? How do I get the vendor to understand we are not going to be a good reference if they don’t help us with how to use this new system?
I removed the name of the vendor you included in your note to me because without more context, I don’t want to have a negative review of a firm or product appearing in my column.
Moving to a planning approach when you’ve not focused on this in the past is more than just implementing software. The best systems (including the one you noted, which I am very familiar with) do an excellent job of giving the advisor the fields to use, and often in guiding the advisor to speak with the client about changes they could consider making to improve their financial picture.
It’s often not the software that is the problem; it’s the training and coaching your advisors need on how to have a different type of conversation with their clients. I’ve seen this many times, especially in cases where the business model is changing from mostly portfolio management around goals to in-depth planning. Advisors struggle with how to propose something to their clients they possibly should have been doing years ago. Or, to propose this to clients who only wanted investment management and aren’t interested in planning.
I’m going to assume the focus should be on helping guide your advisors to the types of conversations they could be having, including giving them some introductory words to use and ways to frame the conversation. Then, even as they peruse the software with the client, they may need support if something seems off or the client isn’t engaging as they would hope. Give them tools and coaching so they know how to navigate adeptly. Advisors are viewed by their clients as “expert” and they don’t want to embarrass themselves, so make sure you are supporting them with ways to look smart using this new approach.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry, in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. 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.