19 Oct 2018
A guide to adviser soft skills
As a financial adviser, you offer your clients a wide range of technical and specialist skills. While these can help you to stand apart from your competitors, many experts now believe that it’s less tangible ‘soft skills’ that could be the key to differentiating yourself from other advisers.
Soft skills are a key part of being a successful adviser. Our guide will help you identify the soft skills that particularly benefit advisers, how you can develop these skills, and the benefits they can bring. Keep reading to find out more.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are personal attributes that aren’t job-specific. Often they are self-developed and transferable between different roles or industries. They are what help us develop relationships with clients and colleagues; keep organised, and come up with excellent solutions for clients.
Financial advisers have a huge depth of knowledge and technical ability, which is part of their unique skill set. These are crucially important to their career. However, soft skills are just as important. Soft skills are around interpersonal skill development and focus on communication and emotional intelligence.
Which soft skills are important for financial advisers?
There are five key soft skills that will benefit you in your role as a financial adviser.
- Listening and learning
Good financial advisers listen to their clients’ needs, concerns, hopes and fears. If you listen closely and remember key information, your clients will trust you more. You’re also more likely to learn more about them and recommend the right solutions for their situation.
By demonstrating that you are interested in their wants and goals, you will build a lasting relationship.
- Simplifying information into language clients can understand
As a financial adviser, you will deal with complicated and technical information and data that can be confusing for the average person.
If you can simplify information in a way that your clients can understand, they will begin to trust you. Don’t impress them with your knowledge; explain everything to them in language free from jargons, which makes sense.
- Passion and enthusiasm
You don’t generally learn passion for your job on a training course. It’s important that you’re enthusiastic and that you have a genuine interest in helping clients by ensuring their security and prosperity.
- Attention to detail
In this industry, even small mistakes can be costly. If you have an excellent eye for detail then you can identify potential problems before they develop.
- Getting feedback from your clients
Actively trying to get feedback from your clients, be it informally by having a conversation with them, or more structured by sending them feedback or satisfaction surveys, is beneficial.
Feedback from clients can help by identifying what skills and areas you might need to improve on. It is also a form of interaction and if acted on, portrays to current and potential clients that you listen to ideas and analyse yourself and your work following comments.
How financial advisers can use these skills in client transactions
Philip Hanley, director and independent financial adviser at Philip James Financial Services, believes that establishing a relationship of trust between adviser and client is more important than ever before.
He says: “As advisers, of course we need technical, business and financial skills. But we deal in intangibles – investments and pensions are no more than computer entries these days.
“You can’t teach someone to be likeable, but learning to listen and interpret what you hear is an acquirable skill.”
Establishing trust requires many soft skills. You need to listen to a client’s aspirations and goals. You have to use your critical thinking skills to come up with appropriate recommendations. And, you have to use your communication skills to explain these solutions in clear language.
How you can train to improve your soft skills
Soft skills can be difficult to measure and hard to evidence. And, while they are mostly self-taught, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn and develop them.
There are lots of courses available that will help you improve everything from your organisation skills through to your public speaking.
Such as the Kinder Institute offer workshops and intensive training for financial advisers with a focus on what founder George Kinder calls “the human side of financial planning”.
The benefits to an adviser business of using soft skills
If you develop your communication, listening and presentation skills there are lots of potential benefits:
- You’ll establish trust with more clients. This can lead to stronger relationships, with clients coming back to you again and again for advice and guidance.
- Listening to clients’ hopes and desires will help you to identify more opportunities that you may otherwise have missed.
- With trust comes word-of-mouth recommendation. Clients who trust you are more likely to recommend you to their friends, family and colleagues, helping you to grow your client base.
If you are interesting in finding out more about skills that might benefit you, why not read our blog on marketing skills that can help financial advisers grow their client base.