Have you ever slowed down enough to ponder who you are? Or why you do the things you do? Maybe you are the kind of individual who is always working. Or possibly you have a very controlling personality. Are you the kind who is skeptical, or competitive to a fault? Are there things about you that have remained the same since you were a kid and have never really changed?
You should be able to answer those questions about yourself. Calling yourself a "people person" is a cliche, but you need to have an understanding of people and human nature when you work in sales.
As a financial advisor, you are asking clients to trust you with their financial well-being. Doing business with you is a big decision for the clients and it is not taken lightly. Knowing how to treat each client according to his or her psychological make-up and personality type can be extremely beneficial in growing your practice.
Have you ever met someone new and thought, "She reminds me of myself?" Have you ever met someone and instantly hit it off? Maybe you are in a great marriage and you never fight because your personalities mesh (or maybe the opposite is true.) Do you have a friend who you are constantly trying to change—i.e., improve—and you can't figure out why they won't? We go through life surrounded by people and many times we become frustrated by their behavior.
Every person likes different colors, foods, hobbies and so on. We are all independent thinkers and we each have different quirks. However, we are not as unique as you might like to think.
Depending on which Harvard PhD you want to believe, personality is a function of genes and environment. Some of the experts believe that who you are is derived from 50% genes and 50% environment. Some believe 60/40 and some 80/20. No matter which ratio you want to believe, we are a product of genes and environment. We are also all born with a certain chemical make-up that will determine our energy level. Some individuals are naturally high energy and some low—this will never change. By the time we are about the age of 10, our core personality is fixed and remains relatively unchanged.
There is a fantastic study of personality types called the Enneagram. It originated in Asia thousands of years ago. The Asians noticed that there were many similarities among humans. They had many types back then, but when the psychologists in the United States got hold of it, they narrowed all human beings down to just nine types. There have been many books written about the Enneagram, but my goal is to just introduce it and help you understand why it is important to you as a financial advisor.
There are many studies of people and personality types such as Myers Briggs. But what I like about the Enneagram is that it tells you why you are the way you are. It does not put you in a box, but rather helps you understand how to get out of the box you are in.
By knowing your type correctly, you are able to see yourself—to "catch yourself in the act"—as you move throughout the day. With this increased self-awareness, you are also able to avoid reacting in negative and potentially dangerous ways.
And knowing how to treat each client according to their personality is very important.
To use myself as an example, I remember one client when I was in production in the late 1990s. This was before I became a student of personality types and was not able to recognize that I needed to respond differently to different people in order to maximize my efficiency.
The market was booming and business was great. And this client would question absolutely everything. Every time I gave him an investment idea, he would have 20 questions. I had the hardest time with him. He always wanted me to mail him literature and wanted a prospectus on all stocks. Many of you probably remember the expression, If you're mailing, you're failing. This is how I felt with him.
We would debate everything. He was very set in his ways and I did not like to lose.
I remember questioning if I should just fire him as a client. He had about $1.5 million in assets with me and I ended up keeping him as a client, but I suffered through every minute of it.
I look back on our relationship now that I am more knowledgeable, and realize all the mistakes I made. Now I know he was a type-1 personality. This means that he is very opinionated and the world is black and white with little gray area. A type-1 really does want you to send them information and they will read every letter. They are the typical first child who has to be perfect.
If I knew then what I know now our relationship would have been very different. I should have gladly sent him all information that he requested. In fact, I should have sent him information supporting what I thought he should do. I should have made him feel every investment idea was really his. I should have never debated with him because that will get you nowhere with a type-1. I look back now at other old clients and wish I would have become a student of personality types sooner.
The key to success in sales is the ability to communicate with others, to inspire them to share their vision, goals, hopes, dreams and fears. As the sales professional, you must listen, educate and provide clear direction, as well as keep things on track through clear feedback. Yet communication is often difficult if personality type is not taken into account. People tend to believe that others think the same way they do and have the same motivations, values, priorities, and reactions as they do. By understanding personality types, we can speak the language of others, which may be very different from our own. Real communication is then possible and we are able to deal more even-handedly with the different types.
Once you understand the nine types, you will quickly realize the mistakes you have been making during your career. Selling the same way to each client is a big mistake most sales professionals make. You should never sell to a type-8 the same way you would a type-2. If you did, one would become very turned off and possibly seek counsel elsewhere. Every personality type has a basic desire and fear. Once you understand this, you will customize your presentation to each type.
When you delve into the nine different types and understand how to use that knowledge, you will close more business. This in turn will help you keep your clients more satisfied with your service.