The Right Online Course For Financial Advisors is a Wise Investment

Limit your search for online training courses for financial advisors to those that are evidence-based. 

As someone who makes a living coaching financial advisors, it’s not surprising that I would be an advocate of sales training.

But does it work?  Will undergoing sales training generate more clients, increase your AUM and provide revenue growth?

The answer is something less than a resounding “yes.”

Motivational speakers aren’t sales trainers

Initially, it’s important to differentiate motivational speakers from sales training.

The appeal of motivational speakers is undeniable.  They are often charismatic speakers with compelling personal stories.

They deliver a “feel good” message which can inspire an audience.

Their message can be very appealing.  It often boils down to “I did it, so can you.”

They distill life lessons into a series of easy to understand and implement mantras, which often involve just thinking positively.

Steven Novella, an academic clinical neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine, observed that, “the big sellers in the self-help industry seem to be completely disconnected” from published evidence. According to Dr. Novella, “What they are selling are made-up easy answers, personality, and gimmicks.”

Dr. Novella uses an example of a well-known motivational speaker who encouraged his followers to demonstrate their new found belief in themselves by walking over hot coals, while thinking the coals were just cool moss.

Predictably, some suffered burns requiring medical intervention.

The explanation for those who were unscathed is far from what the motivational speaker would have his followers believe.  It wasn’t because they had “released the power within”.  It’s mostly due to the low thermal capacity and conductivity of wood coals, which transfer energy very slowly.  When you walk over these coals briskly, there isn’t sufficient time for much heat to transfer to your feet.

Motivational speakers and self-help gurus rarely have evidence to support their advice.  Instead, they rely on mantras and appealing catch phrases to persuade their audience that making lasting changes doesn’t require much time, effort or thought.

As Dr. Novella notes, “What is frustrating is that there is actually a great deal of published evidence that can inform the very questions raised by the self-help industry, but the big sellers in the self-help industry seem to be completely disconnected from that evidence. What they are selling are made-up easy answers, personality, and gimmicks.” 

Other experts agree.  According to Marcus Cauchi, motivational speakers are “peddling you a fiction”.  The most you can expect is an improvement for a “a couple of weeks.”  He is skeptical that using motivational speakers will secure lasting improvement in sales performance.

What about sales training?

“Sales training” is very different from motivational speaking.

It’s defined as “the personal development of skills and techniques related to creating and exploring new sales opportunities, as well as closing sales for an organization.”

Sales training is big business.  By some estimates, the global market is $4.6 billion.

But does it work?  The following data is sobering:

There’s evidence up to 80% of newly acquired skills are lost if not used.

Almost 85% of sales training fails to deliver a positive ROI.

Close to 90% of the skills learned in sales training are lost within a month of learning them.

Online training has additional impediments to success.  According to Cauchi, “the gold standard for online training programmes is that only 3% of delegates complete the programme.”  You have to wonder how many of that insignificant number are able to utilize the skills they learned.

Sales training has some inherent limitations, which may help to explain why the promise often falls short of the reality.

An online or in-person course won’t cure mismanagement and poor leadership.

Because a sales training course has to teach the same lessons to all participants, it can’t take into account the different personalities, strengths and weaknesses of individual sales people.  If a salesperson lacks motivations, doesn’t have sufficient product knowledge or suffers from other inadequacies, it’s unlikely taking a sales training course will make a difference.

A critical distinction

I’ve never met a financial advisor who didn’t have reams of support for the investment philosophy of their firm.  Yet, when I ask whether there’s similar support for the process used to convert prospects into clients, or to generate more inquiries, I get a blank stare.

Most aren’t aware of the hundreds of studies that describe how we react to different kinds of interactions.  I set forth these studies in my book, Ask: How to Relate to Anyone.

I’ve had advisors tell me about sales training courses they took which were an “expensive disaster”.  When this occurs, I always ask: “What evidence supports the basic premise of this course”?. 

No one has been able to refer me to a single study.

If you are considering an online course for financial advisors, and want to avoid a negative experience, you should be aware of this critical distinction:  Some of these courses are evidence-based.  Most are not.

I recommend against relying on any course (in-person or online) that is not supported by many peer-reviewed studies from reputable academic institutions.

Another test

I recently was pitched by a vendor who was selling an automated program that scanned social media and identified potential clients.  He wanted me to recommend it to investment advisors who used our digital marketing firm.

I told him I would do so if he could send me the names of five financial advisors who paid for his program, used it and would state they had a positive return on their investment.

I never heard from him again.

If someone is trying to persuade you to invest in an online program they say will improve your conversion rate and generate more AUM, it’s reasonable to ask them to provide references who will vouch for its efficacy.

Our online course makes precisely that claim.  Not only do we provide a 100% money back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied with course for any reason, we post testimonials on our website from advisors who have learned the lessons in the course and successfully implemented them.

The bottom line

Don’t be discouraged by the inability of motivational speakers to impact your sales teams, or the fact that non-evidence based sales training is unlikely to be effective.

Instead, limit your search for online training courses for financial advisors to those that are evidence-based and have a verifiable record of success with your peers.