Financial Advisor Recruiting Tools & Techniques

The Data Possible Podcast

Episode 1: Financial Advisor Recruiting Tools & Techniques

Guests: Sarano and Brooke Kelley, The Kelley Group

Summary: In this episode of The Data Possible Podcast, Sarano and Brooke Kelley from The Kelley Group discuss the importance of strong communication skills during the recruiting process, as well as specific tools and techniques advisors and recruiters can use to engage more successfully by focusing on EQ (emotional intelligence) versus IQ. The Kelley Group has recently garnered national attention and experienced their biggest surge in business yet after giving away their 90-Day Game coaching program for free during the COVID-19 pandemic. Join us for a great discussion and learn:

  • The difference between campaigning and selling while recruiting
  • Why you should focus on being as known as possible, building goodwill with every interaction
  • Why recruiting efforts stall mid-process, and what preventative measures you can take
  • Why discovery is the single most important element of your sales and recruiting processes
  • And more!

Resources: The Kelley Group | Discovery Data

The Data Possible Podcast is produced by our partner, Advisorpedia.

Podcast Transcription:

Doug: Hello and welcome to The Data Possible Podcast presented by Discovery Data. This is your host, Doug Heikkinen. Today we’re excited to introduce Sarano and Brooke Kelley of the Kelley Group. Welcome.

Brooke: Thank you.

Sarano: Thank you very much, Doug.

Doug: How has the year been for you two, in general?

Sarano: Well, much better than we had thought. The moment that the pandemic hit, we immediately didn’t know what to do, but we thought, how could we help? So we have this process called the 90-Day Game. It’s a best-selling book, is how people are able to achieve peak performance during normal times. We knew that it was a great solution during this time, so we sent out a press release announcing that we were giving a gift and offering our coaching for free. And we were shocked that the television community reached out to us and they actually made a documentary of our efforts is going to air on CNN, CNBC, and Fox Business. And out of that, I would say that we’re seeing the biggest surge in our business that we’ve had in the history of the company, which is definitely shocking, very, very shocking.

Doug: That’s fantastic. For people who don’t know you, please tell us what the Kelley Group does and what has made you so successful to this point.

Brooke: The Kelley Group is the leading, speaking, coaching, and training company to the financial service industry. Sarano has been rated the number one speaker at the Wharton School of Business. And I have developed a private practice inside of our company where we serve largely the Forbes and Barron’s members. I would say that what has made us successful, I think, is that we have a very different approach. The emphasis on training is very rigorous and inside of the training, whereas many of our competitors are looking to improve someone’s closing ratio or get them to pitch more or increase their activity, not to say that we’re not proponents of that, but I believe that our approach is fundamentally very different. And that we’re really raising the EQ of an industry that is largely high IQ. And that is the theme that runs throughout all of our coaching, training, and speaking. I believe that makes us different and that’s how we’ve distinguished ourselves.

Doug: You’re also big on recruiting in this industry and successful recruiting is similar to winning an election. How would you describe campaigning versus selling?

Sarano: Well, to Brooke’s point, it’s interesting because there’s great information about recruiting, you guys provide incredible data about recruiting, but prior to the release of our book, there was no training, no formal communication skills training. We know this because when managers, and we coach a wide range of individuals, new advisors, seasoned advisors, managers, we were shocked that none of them had ever read a book about recruiting. And then we found out that because there was no book. When we first began to sit down, Brooke and I like to think through this model and everything that we do is modeled on what works in the real world. So, for example, the 90-Day Game is modeled after sports in the military. And we asked ourselves when it comes to recruiting, what would be the right model? Like, let’s not make something up. Let’s actually take something that we know for a fact works. And we thought, well, geez, a manager or a leader who is looking to recruit probably has a relatively limited number of candidates, is not an impressive candidate. They’re probably going to be in some key geographies. So it’s almost as if they needed to run for mayor of the advisory community and their geography. And we thought that that was such a massive pivot in psychology because a manager who thinks that they’re selling the moment they get to know, they move on and they may never go back. But this is not a short term, short sales cycle. It’s a long-term relationship cycle. So we thought, what if they began to think like their campaigning, that the worst mistake that they could make is not getting a no. The worst mistake would be not being no.

Brooke: In summary, I think the psychology of recruiting like politics, is about creating as many goodwill ambassadors to be as known as possible. And regardless of how an interaction unfolds, that your primary objective, in addition to recruiting, is goodwill. Whereas when recruiters are approaching recruiting from a sales standpoint, they’re thinking largely transactional, which is why that wouldn’t align with the political model. And we found that that also that the political model gives a refrain to people who haven’t been successful in recruiting before, and it’s something that they very easily embrace.

Sarano: I will say that it’s always interesting that some of the single best managers or individuals who recruit are people who literally operate this way. They’re of value, whether you’re immediately moving or not. They’re just goodwill ambassadors and they’re out there spreading the gospel about the difference that they can make for others. And they’re typically doing it from the very moment that they’re first interacting with you.

Doug: You mentioned the game and recruiting being a game. And if you’re watching the NBA playoffs like I am, it don’t happen. It’s not all on at once. And for the people that are being recruited, it’s a huge life changing decision that affects so many people. What have you found the best way to move the ball down the field and win the game?

Sarano: Well, it’s always surprising when we tell managers to envision the way in which they’re conducting themselves as a spreadsheet with various columns and imagine the first column, you have all the great data of prospects and all the great prospects that you want to go after in the A column, well, you reach out to them. Everybody actually communicates back. So the people who do, they go into the B column and then the people who say, hey, let’s have a further interaction, actually go into the C column and it’s easy for them to see how that data begins to actually show a sales process with different phases. And obviously, what we’re building in this way is a sales pipeline. But then we say envision this as if it were football field. And let’s say that every time you move a name from one column to the next, let’s consider that moving the ball down the field. And the reason why Brooke and I came up with this was because we would talk to managers and we’re like, how’s it going? They’re like, well, I met with this million-dollar producer. I met with this and I met with this team. Right. But you know how it goes. Why are you acting like that? You did something good. Did you move the ball down the field? They’re like, yeah, but it’s not a touchdown. We’re like, in football, you actually get a high five for getting a down. Having this sort of attitude where you don’t think that you’re doing something right until the end is a really bad idea because you’re not enjoying the process is killing your enthusiasm. You’ve got to be able to celebrate every down, not just a touchdown, because that’s ultimately how the game is won. The game is won in inches.

Brooke: So measurement is fundamental to everything that we’ve ever coached. We essentially took the same principles and apply them to recruiting. And to Sarano’s point, what we found were that managers were good at beginning these interactions and good at ending these interactions. But the middle was where a lot of recruits, rapport, and leverage was lost due to a lack of tracking and/or lack of system to even track. And in alignment with that, once the tracking was implemented, what we also reinforce is that there are several predictable recurring conversations inside of any recruiting interaction or any time that you’re recruiting. And what we also force those that we work with to do, is to know those scripts and those conversations cold, not so that they will occur as robotic. It’s actually quite to the contrary. When they know those codes, they can actually pivot inside of interactions that require something slightly different. But mentally, they’re not preoccupied with what they’re going to say next when the recruit is actually giving them the answer key as to how to recruit them. And they’re thinking about what they’re going to say.

Doug: As we touched on a little earlier, COVID has changed the world for everyone. What’s been the most effective way you’ve approached it in this area?

Sarano: It was fascinating because one of the things that we do and people say this about us is they appreciate that we’re doing the very thing that we are telling them to do. When COVID hit, we knew that some sort of decline was going to be in the future, that there would be some way in which it would negatively affect the economy. Whenever you see something like that loaning, the thing to do is to actually immediately begin to promote because that actually buys you an opportunity to expand before the marketplace begins to contract. You would think, doesn’t everyone do that? The answer is actually no, not really. Many of them get fixated on the loaning danger and they begin to cut back, which unfortunately lessens the chance that they’ll be able to expand in the face of this contraction.

Brooke: I think that one of our superpowers is also pointing out the obvious and there are a couple of things that have been successful in this environment. One is pointing out to those responsible for recruiting that the pandemic has created an environment where people are really open to change in a different way because so much has already changed and that creates a fertile environment for them to go back to conversations that they’ve had, start new conversations. Secondly, because of the pandemic, people are working from their homes which means managers aren’t going through gatekeepers as much and even having a conversation by FaceTime while you’re in your home and they’re in their home begins to create a different level of bonding and necessarily a normal environment. So pointing out those two simple concepts I think has been quite helpful. But I think the most obvious thing that we’ve pointed out is that during a pandemic or any kind of major event, most people contract and that the individuals who expand, promote, and move quickly will have a significant advantage. The mere idea of them having an edge if they were to expand versus contract like their competition has created tremendous success for those who were coaching or recruiting capacity right now.

Sarano: So Brooke and I were actually having this conversation with a really great manager who was concerned about his recruiting. And it was interesting because there were these two back-to-back calls and you would’ve thought that maybe we were a little psychotic or something. Because in one hand, it was a manager who was calling from one of the major wirehouse firms that were like, hey don’t resist the message like the media. You need a headline so don’t avoid the COVID situation and don’t set yourself up for people to delay because of COVID, lean into it. The opening to your message might sound like here during COVID, the same way that there’s been a fight to quality in terms of investors. There’s also a flight or a movement towards people joining larger, very stable, very secure firms with great balance sheets. I like to have a conversation with you. The next thing, we’re on the phone with a different of firm, an independent firm and we’re like you’re predicting to sound more like here during COVID, rapid changes needed and it’s important that you be agile and to be part of an institution that has the ability to navigate troubled waters. So, two very different recruiting situations and at the same time the need to message things in a way that plays up their strengths and not avoid what is going on during this time but how does this accelerate the message, how does that expand the message.

Brooke: And after an effective headline or message, not unlike like the point I made previously. During the pandemic, for recruiting and any relationship, the interaction needs to be more EQ based as opposed to IQ based. When someone is considering being recruited especially in a time like this, what we found is most affective is when they are interacting with managers that really care deeply and that understand them and understand what’s important to them during this specific time. So I also believe this is a period where people who are operating with more of an EQ have a significant advantage because everybody is going through something.

Doug: The first few seconds a recruiter is able to connect with another professional on the phone has got to be key. Are there strategies that you can share on how best to prepare for that conversation?

Sarano: There are. I know that many people have mixed feelings about the movie Glengarry Glen Ross and we all remember the line, coffee is for closers, put that coffee down. There’s a part in the speech where he talks about attention, interest, desire and believe it or not, that’s actually fundamentally accurate. So when someone first gets on the phone, you don’t really have their attention. They were engaged in some other activity; they were engaged in some thought. So if I was calling you, the first thing to do is to get your attention which means when I open the call I’m not going to go, “Hi this is Sarano” cause you’re like first off, why are you so cheerful and two, who the heck are you. The first thing I’m going to say is I’m going to go; I’m going to use your name. The second thing I’m going to say is, “Doug, listen” right, because right away I know the first thing I have to do is get your attention. I need to pull it out of wherever it was before and get into the present moment. The very next thing is I’ve got to rapidly establish interest and that’s a headline. That headline needs to be something that feels real, relevant, as if I’m reading your email and the great thing is that in recruiting you talk enough to people, sift through enough data, you know what the topical issues are. You know where the pain points are. I know I start with, “Hi this is Sarano, I’m with such and such firm, I’ve heard great things about you” instead what I’m going to do is I really want to get inside your mind so I’m like “Doug, listen, here during COVID, we’ve seen some 20,000 moves in the industry when most people think that people aren’t moving. Why are those 20,000 people moving and why are they moving now. Let me explain.” All of a sudden, what I created is interest, I’m starting to build towards desire. There are many things about that particular movie that were a little off color. However, like any other piece of literature, there are often bits of accurate data that gets thrown into the mix.

Doug: Take us through a little more about the interaction with a prospect. This is really interesting. I’m sure the question you always get is why your firm? Why now? How relevant are the current circumstances and industry statistics helpful in moving you down the field toward success?

Sarano: Well here’s the thing if you can’t answer why now than you should expect delay. If you don’t answer the question than I can tell you what the answer is going to be which is, there going to see all the reasons why not now. So one has to be out in front of that and then the why my firm. It seems like an obvious piece because you hear people, “Well our firm has”, but they’re not asking or speaking from the point of view of the person they are trying to recruit. Why would their firm be relevant to this particular recruit? It’s not just some litany of bullet points about your firm. It’s got to be customized to what is the likely, hot buttons that would be relevant to this particular recruit. So we do have a general format for why my firm and why now, but also which we teach, but also embedded in that is something unusual, which is also answering the question why me? And so that’s where a person has to be willing to tell a small detail, a personal detail that actually causes the other person to bond with them. It’s kind of hidden. It’s not something that’s obvious, but it’s something that’s planned. And it can be as simple as someone who also played football at a very high level, I learned what it was like to take hits and get up and get back into action. And you would say that to someone where you knew that as you did your research, they have previously either had that in their background or clearly they were a fan of, right. It would be a way that you’re telling just a quick story, that creates a personal connection. So you’re really answering three questions, which is, why my firm, why now, but also in terms of having a relationship, why me?

Brooke: I think that as important and fundamental as this question is to answer, people get fixated on being good at this question. So I’ll just highlight it all the ways that you would actually truly be effective at it. That said what this question or this conversation point highlights is the degree to which a recruiter is good at discovery because inside of the discovery, that would take place before you would share this. Ideally you really are uncovering those different pain points, which is entirely where all a recruiter’s leverage lies, and then incorporating them in a very conversational way into the conversation. So in short, people get fixated on having a great answer. And a great answer is really based on being very adept at the discovery that would inform you as to how to position it.

Sarano: And I have to admit that I love the name of your organization because in selling the single most important thing that one can do is not pitch, it’s discovered. And what we find is that because people don’t do enough discovery, they don’t have enough leverage. And then they’re shocked at the end that they get objections. I’m like, why are you shocked? You didn’t do discovery. You’re just throwing stuff up against the wall to see what sticks, that’s not really selling.

Brooke: And in the discovery process, that is where the trust is actually built. And we presume and hope that prior to building that trust, you have also established leverage and rapport. So one’s ability to engage in discovery is where they’re going to create the degree of trust that they’re going to have. That trust is going to give them the amount of agreement that they gain. And when they have leverage and rapport and trust, and then they can very conversationally and authentically answer, why me, why my firm, why now, it makes a very compelling argument for someone to come over.

Doug: At this point, you must have become experts at gauging their interest. Do you associate levels with them?

Sarano: It is important to recognize that if someone is not interested, then the person would typically say to you, no. So for example, Doug, if I said to you, do you mind if I haul off right now and kick you in the shin? I don’t think he would say, well, let’s check into that about that when COVID is over. Right? Or let me check with my wife. Right? I think that Doug, you would say to me, no, you probably say heck no. A lot of people, when they hear people say things like, “I got to tell you, I don’t really have the greatest opinion about your firm. As a matter of fact, I know people have gone to your firm and they haven’t been happy. And I’m very happy where I am. I’ve never considered moving. I’ve been at the firm that I’m at for the last 30 years.” Why are they telling you all that? Because they’re interested. It might be a low level of interest, if they weren’t interested, they would say, no, thank you. And they would hang up the phone. So it’s because we tend to look at interest as a switch, black and white, you’re interested, or you’re not. We have the inability to see that it’s a dial, that there are shades of gray. If we knew that you would find ways to dial in more interest, instead of seeing this as a go, no-go rejection or acceptance equation.

Brooke: And it’s a very simple metaphor that we provide is that sales is a gradient scale of agreement. Recruiting is a form of selling. And a lot of times when we say sales is a gradient scale of agreement, people think, we mean, what others mean when they say that, which is, get them to say yes as many times in a row until the big yes. And that’s not what we mean. We mean that as you reach them and they hear the sound of your voice over the phone, they’re either agreeing with that or they’re not. As you interact with them, they’re either agreeing with that or they’re not. As you promise to follow up, but miss that follow-up window by two days, they’re either agreeing with that or they’re not. We teach everyone that we train how to gauge those different levels and be able to correct them. A lot of times recruiters think that interest is something that happens to them, as opposed to something that they can cause and correct. So I think that yes, there are levels and it’s most important to be able to read them. But to also know if you’re getting a bad read, it can be corrected, but that one must be thinking in terms of gaining more agreement as they move forward and knowing how to correct it when they read that they’ve just lost it, not waiting until the end to resolve something that they caused disagreement on several parts earlier in the cycle.

Doug: So you haven’t got “the kick you in the shin no” and there’s an interest. So what do you do when there’s interest? So what do you do when they go radio silent? Or I guess the new term is ghost you.

Brooke: So radio silent is worse than someone offering overtly to kick you in the shins. There’s a very effective strategy that we use for radio silence. That said, it’s important to know that this strategy is a highly proficient, reactive strategy, no different than a sport. One should be able to play on offense and defense, right? So this is really defense. When someone goes radio silent, the first thing one has to confront is that they’re offense lacks something and that’s something to correct later, but it is important to know that it is because of you, that they have gone radio silent and to take responsibility for that, that said, there’s a very effective strategy. And I would encourage anyone listening to this, to do what many of our clients have done, which is try it now. If you have individuals that have gone radio silent, send them an email, the subject line of that email should read, are you okay? The body of the email should say, dear Doug, just checking in on you, wanted to make sure that you are okay, signed you. It’s very important that you not insert into the body of that email anything that would have that person feel like they are wrong for going radio silent or that you’re judging them or evaluating them. That again, we’re looking for agreement here. We have had hundreds of advisors and managers use this strategy. And I haven’t heard someone come back and say that it didn’t work almost to their disbelief. They want, they were like, come on, how good can this be? And they’ve been shocked at the closing ratio, but again, that points to EQ, when you’re in an interaction like this, most people are thinking for very cerebral business-minded place and you can’t blame them. But once the relationship has digressed into radio silence or being ghosted, what’s required at that point is a personal touch. That is a result of EQ.

Sarano: It’s almost funny during the trainings, obviously we’re doing more of them now with recruiting webinars for the different firms. But before this, we were doing them live and we would open the session and have people go ahead and come up with three to five people who had gone radio silent, who it goes to them. And at this point, they don’t really know what that well, they’re wondering, is this going to work? How’s this going to go? And we’re like, let’s just do an experiment. We want you to just send out the following communication. If it’s a text message, just, are you okay? With an email, are you okay? And as Brooke said, I’m concerned about you and your family, are you okay? And literally within an hour, without fail, people consistently get back into communication. Some people that might take the day, maybe two, but often within the hour, managers are shocked that people who are out of communication get back to them and you always get these interesting stories like, hey, I apologize. My wife has been sick. Wow. I actually didn’t get your prior communication. Forgive me. I’ve been a bit depressed. That may sound like oversharing, but to be candid with you, here’s what’s happening right now. It always opens up for more humanistic conversation.

Doug: And we’ll get you out of here with this, Discovery Data shows that while the overall movement trend is down during the pandemic, there’ve been over 20,000 rep moves year-to-date. Wow. With so many firms continuing to actively recruit, do you have any advice for recruiters as they continue to transform their approach due to COVID-19?

Sarano: The single two biggest factors that will determine someone’s success in recruiting remain the same. One is to understand that it is a numbers game and that many people unfortunately, are not engaged in a sufficient level of activity. Just statistically put the odds in their favor and they have lots of reasons for not doing it, but you either have reasons or you have results. But the other part of the ledger, so let’s say people are willing to do that. But the other side of the equation is improving one’s effectiveness. Like for example, in the handling of objections and how you negotiate issues, how you get a person’s attention and have them want to talk to you, how you uncover or discover what is driving them, what is their decision-making strategy? These are fundamentals that we often don’t work on, and there are four ways to be great at anything: study, training, practice and coaching. You’d be shocked how many managers will tell us that this is the first time that they’re being audiotaped and how they’re presenting themselves over the phone is the first time they’ve been videotaped having to deliver why me, why your firm? So what’s amazing is that people are doing an incredible job during difficult conditions. But in most cases, they’re not training. They’re not sharpening the sword. They’re not bettering their game. And we believe that when people better their skills, they want to get on the field much more.

Brooke: I would add to that, that there are two things that I would add, the first is to reference the political model. And two, if you’re a manager looking to recruit, think about who you would have in your cabinet, who could some advocates be around you, other advisors that love you, and that love your firm and that are connected to advisors at other firms. Think in terms of building goodwill ambassadors so that you have massive goodwill in the marketplace, and that it’s not only you waking up every morning with your last name on your jersey, responsible for all of it. Ultimately, yes, you are responsible, but using the leverage of others and the goodwill that ensues is strategic. And the second thing that I would say is there’s a lot of discipline required to be an excellent recruiter. And even as someone who trained for the Olympics and believes in discipline, I believe it’s overrated in that the most successful recruiters that we’ve had the pleasure to train. They continue to work with a coach and they have someone else who is keeping them accountable, who is giving them good energy, who’s helping them get resolved in conversations that they’re not quite sure how to approach. They’re maintaining their momentum and ensuring that they stay on that steady track. So whether it’s a coach or another person that you can be accountable to, don’t just expect to generate all of that for yourself. And don’t think less of yourself for not being able to find a way for something outside of you to contribute, to generating your recruiting efforts.