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How to Succeed as a Financial Advisor


Female financial advisor working with a young clientFinding success as a financial advisor matters for growing your business to a sustainable level. But that may mean encountering various obstacles and challenges along the way. This is not unusual in itself but how you approach the bumps in the road can affect the results you’re able to achieve. Wondering how to be a successful financial advisor? Here are some of the most important characteristics shared by advisors with thriving businesses and full client lists.

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Successful Financial Advisors Are Focused

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as an advisor is allowing distractions to steer you off course. This can keep you from concentrating time and energy on business activities that are designed to move you closer to the goalposts.

“Successful advisors don’t waste time and money by buying every sales system out there,” says Dawn Santoriello, a certified financial planner and president of DS Financial Strategies.

Instead, good advisors keep it simple so they can tune out white noise and reach their objectives.

“You only need one system that works for you,” Santoriello says. “Networking and becoming known by your target market are essential for success.”

If you feel pulled in too many directions in your efforts to scale, consider what’s working and providing a solid return on investment for your time. And cut out the things that are a drain on your energy and resources.

Successful Financial Advisors Prioritize Communication

Clients are the reason your business exists. So it’s important that you’re communicating with them regularly to better understand their needs—and how you can best serve them.

“Some financial advisors only call their clients when the market is doing well but clients want that phone call when there’s a downturn,” says Nolan McIntosh, investment advisor representative at McIntosh & Associates in Freeland, Michigan.

Staying in regular communication with clients, whether it’s a phone call, email text or in-person meeting can help to build trust. That trust can be critical to your long-term success.

“Time and trust are two things that go hand in hand for a financial advisor,” McIntosh says.

He says that while people may accept a doctor’s opinion at face value if they’re sick, it may take them longer to trust someone with their money. Staying in touch regularly is one way to earn that trust.

Consider how often you’re reaching out to clients and whether the frequency could be increased. And factor in how your clients prefer to communicate as well, then tailor your communications to those preferences.

Successful Financial Advisors Know How to Listen

Having conversations with clients on a consistent basis is important for building trust. But those conversations may be meaningless if you’re not tuned in to what your clients are saying.

“Every client has a story worth hearing,” says Victor Medina, president and founder of Palante Wealth Advisors in Pennington, New Jersey.

Too often, Medina says, advisors rush to find a solution and don’t spend adequate time listening to clients. This can lead to missed opportunities to satisfy what the client needs and it could even be off-putting enough to send them looking for financial help elsewhere.

“If you want to be successful as a financial advisor, stay curious in all of your meetings and seek out their story,” Medina says.

Successful Financial Advisors Know Who They’re Helping

Data scientist at work on his PC

Part of successfully growing your business means knowing who you want to help. In other words, it’s about finding your niche or target market. “When you’re first starting out, you want to work with everyone,” Santoriello says. “But by picking one target market you’ll be seen as the ‘go to’ expert in that area.”

Being recognized as an expert in your niche can make you more referrable and it can help you to scale at a faster pace versus working with everyone and anyone.

So if you haven’t chosen a niche yet, think carefully about who you most want to help and how your particular skill set or expertise allows you to do that.

For example, you may want to specialize in younger couples, entrepreneurs or older retirees. Once you identify a niche, lead generation can become easier since you know who you want to target.

Successful Financial Advisors Value Transparency and Honesty

Clients don’t want to have to try and decipher your motives through a smokescreen. Instead, they want straightforward advice that’s tailored to their situation.

This is where transparency and honesty come in.

“Honesty helps me be successful,” says McIntosh. “I have clients who want to travel the world, buy a second home or buy more land in retirement and I’ll tell them when I don’t think they can swing it.”

And, says McIntosh, if they do have the assets to make their dream retirement a reality, he tells them that too.

“Either way,” he says, “they respect someone who isn’t just telling them what they want to hear.”

Telling a client that they don’t have the means to buy a yacht and sail around the world or purchase a villa in France may not be a pleasant conversation to have. But it can open the door to having honest discussions about retirement goals that are achievable.

Successful Financial Advisors Are Confident

If there’s one thing that’s virtually guaranteed to hinder your success as an advisor, it’s second-guessing yourself. After all, if you don’t trust in yourself how can you expect your clients to do so?

“If you’ve done the work to learn your craft, you should take the time to be confident in your recommendations and solutions for clients,” says Medina.

Otherwise, you’re going to have a hard time gaining their trust. And if you feel that there’s a gap in your knowledge or expertise somewhere, work on filling it so that you’re better able to serve your clients without self-doubt creeping in.

The Bottom Line

Male financial advisor offers guidance to clientsBecoming a successful financial advisor doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. There’s a certain amount of trial and error involved and everyone goes through a learning curve to a degree. Working on developing the characteristics of a successful advisor can translate to positive results for your business in the long run.

Tips for Sourcing Clients and Growing Your Advisory Business

  • Pre-screen for prospects that meet your client profile. SmartAsset AMP (Advisor Marketing Platform) is a holistic marketing service financial advisors can use for client lead generation and automated marketing. Sign up for a free demo to explore how SmartAsset AMP can help you expand your practice’s marketing operation. Get started today.
  • Expand your radius. Many financial advisors rarely look for prospects outside of a short drive from their home or office. But 60% of prospects who completed a survey with SmartAsset indicated that they were willing to work with an advisor remotely. Consider broadening your search and working with investors who are comfortable with less frequent in-person meetings.

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