Much of my training is with the newest members of the financial services industry. Many of them are in their 20’s and this is their first career out of school. The amount of training provided by agencies varies greatly — some companies have highly structured training programs and others are more dependent on the sales managers to train their own recruits. The industry continues to be challenged by a low agent retention rate and every manager is fighting this battle. Some are more successful than others.

When I talk to younger advisors (and I always refer to “age” as a product of time in the career, not one’s biological age) they are brutally honest about what is troubling them. Low appointment numbers is everyone’s first concern. When I press the issue further, I discover a distinct lack of knowledge on how to fill one’s calendar. Due to the cultural shift created by smartphones, the ability to “dial one’s way” to enough appointments has been thwarted. These newer members of the industry must be more creative in their prospecting.

Too many advisors are clueless as to what they should be doing for many hours per week. If there isn’t a structure training class and they’ve made as many outbound calls as is reasonable, they’re completely stumped. What tends to happen is they cluster around each other in the office doing non-productive things. Most rookies don’t know how to create a marketing plan and simply don’t have one.

Managers need to be honest about how their training addresses the 40-60 hours per week we expect advisors to be busy. For someone building a practice, there’s no service work. If sales are few, there’s very little paper work.

So what DOES an advisor do for dozens of unscheduled hours per week?

Managers must take an active role in presenting ideas to help new advisors meet prospects. Most of these ideas should involve an activity out of the office. If “networking” is something you encourage, each advisor must be given a research mission to find the right venues to attend, which gives them a conversation starter with their manager. Local trade shows, fairs and expos should be researched and discussed. There are pros and cons to any event. Having a group discussion with several newer agents is a productive way to teach them how to “think” about events. Then there needs to be training and role playing on how to monitor a booth at a trade show.

For networking, the entire group of rookies must be taught the art of conversation and made to role play. When I’ve done these exercises as part of my training, observing managers are shocked to see many overt problems — slouching posture, not making good eye contact, stumbling over questions to the “prospect”, etc. No one is born knowing how to network so training is critical.

Once you have addressed the overarching need for “conversation training” you will have covered a lot of event challenges. Sending newer agents out to the local coffee shop just to meet people and talk to them is a good idea. No one should be afraid to approach a stranger in this business, so make sure to train your advisors on the art of saying hello.

Too many agents are asking me “what should I be doing?” when they call me for help. The problem is pervasive and with most prospects NOT picking up their phones, we need to re-think how we teach the acquisition of clients. Filling a calendar with meaningful, face-to-face marketing activities is part of knowing how to “create business.