As published in the September issue of ‘riskinfo’ magazine.
Baz Gardner is the founder of The Social Adviser, a consulting service which specialises in social media strategy and other solutions for financial advisers. Baz has met hundreds of BDMs and interviewed over 500 advisers about their relationships with their BDMs. That experience, combined with his 15 year pursuit of perfecting the art of digital influence, is what provides the inspiration for this article.
There has been much attention paid to the effect that social media may be having in the world of financial and professional services. Most advisers and planners are now trying to navigate a pathway through to a new world of digital communication.
The world of social advice and social business is far more than just a new age method of advertising or promotion; it is the herald of a new way of doing business. Building relationships and opportunity at scale is not just something that appeals to advisers – it should also be of significant interest to those that represent financial and risk products to them.
Our research indicates that more than 70% of advisers now have LinkedIn accounts, and many are learning to engage clients and peers through this professional online networking tool. Yet whilst these numbers should be compelling to our product providers and the BDMs that represent them, very few understand how to actually benefit from the opportunities created by LinkedIn.
Fear of compliance issues, restrictive compliance guidelines, and overly restrictive corporate IT policies are all severely limiting the ability of BDMs to do their job in a truly effective manner and, as a result, affecting the bottom line of their employer. All of these issues are easily resolved with proper corporate strategy, coaching, and training of sales teams.
The most important requirement to become a ‘Social BDM’, or a ‘Social Adviser’ for that matter, is not technical, but philosophical. We have been raised in the industrial age where our businesses and corporations have industrialised service and product delivery. The lesson was learned from manufacturing, and the ideals of Henry Ford have permeated our culture and our business practice.
The current social evolution of business is far less about social media than it is about learning to deliver service and product in a far, far more beneficial, enjoyable and profitable manner than our out-dated command and control production line based business models.
A truly Social BDM understands that good product is nothing more than a ticket to the game. Features, benefits and the bells and whistles are like putting on professional clothes in the morning – necessary but ultimately unhelpful to achieving much more than being allowed through the door.
The Social BDM understands that building effective relationships with advisers is the key to creating a catalyst for a mutually beneficial relationship. Effective relationships do not start with a sales pitch or a description of a product. BDMs should focus on building trust, giving value beyond product and helping the adviser understand how their relationship can allow them to set aside the advisers’ fear of using the BDMs’ company’s products.
Social BDMs know how to demonstrate the personal value that they can bring to the advice relationship. This has always been the case. However the problem is that product providers do not understand how to empower their greatest asset – their people – and to systematise this process and then build these relationships of trust at scale.
So what has changed? Social media and digital communication is breaking the commercial balance that has previously existed. Leveraged communication is now granting the Social BDM and Social Adviser such a powerful competitive advantage that it is beginning to trigger an evolution in how professional business is done.
At the moment only a handful of BDMs in the world are being truly proactive and innovative in this space, yet their influence is growing exponentially. However, the real change will begin when the product providers themselves start to empower and support their BDMs to evolve and adapt to this new age of ‘Social Business’.
This is the reason we started The Social Adviser, to bring the tools, systems and process to advisers, their licensees and the BDM’s and product providers that support them. We believe that the new age of Social Business is better for everyone and is far more profitable.
TAL is an example of an insurance company that is beginning to embrace the philosophy of the Social Business, and they have engaged The Social Adviser to run some programs nationally for their sales teams.
They are creating ways to support advisers that have nothing to do with the insurance products they represent. Their teams are learning how to digitally express their unique personality, and to use digital influence to bypass all of the normal road blocks to making new connections with advisers.
Those connections can then be moved to trusted partnerships in a faster and more seamless way, as BDMs engage advisers in exactly the kind of high value relationships that they are craving, which ultimately helps them service their clients better.
In addition to opening new doors, those learning to become Social BDMs are also learning how to effectively harness digital communication to manage far more relationships than previously possible. Faster trust, deeper relationships, more opportunities and far greater efficiency lead to exponential commercial performance.
As companies and individuals embrace the move to Social Business, their incredible competitive advantage will force the revolution to gain pace. For early adopters, as in all revolutions, it means adapting and out-competing. For those slower to move it will mean either adapt or become redundant.
The rise of the Social BDM is coming; look out for them because they will be armed with the skills, networks and support to empower advisers to grow and improve in new and exciting ways.
For those wanting to be Social BDMs or Social Advisers be warned: this is about far more than social media. It is not something you can outsource to marketing or a social media consultancy or agency. This change requires consistency, strategy and ongoing support and training. It requires a change in thinking and breaking old habits based on out-dated commercial process. Change management is the key for individuals and corporations.
Results and return on investment can come quickly, but this is not a quick fix. The rewards will be exponential and ongoing for many years to come for those who choose to embrace the revolution.
Advisers, licensee representatives or product providers who would like to learn more about Baz Gardner’s The Social Adviser can connect with Baz via LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/bazgardner