Chronicles Of A 30 Year Old Bachelor: Sales Guy vs. Advisor

Learn. Save. Earn- this is the theme for the 2019 Money Week Campaign. I’ve spent time in Quthing, Lesotho this week as a member of the Financial Education Steering Committee (FESC). Our mandate is to drive financial literacy in Lesotho as part of the Global Money Week and the Lesotho Money Month campaign to promote financial wellness and this is always a life changing experience for me.

Being a passionate advocate for financial literacy and seeing more people make better financial decisions; I’ve learnt a great deal this past week from the engagements with the locals of Quthing. Equally challenging is being a Business Development consultant tasked with increasing sales, new client acquisition and managing relationships- chasing monthly targets. Sometimes we get so caught up chasing sales targets that we omit providing advice. Where do we find the balance?

Many a time, I’ve focused on helping people use budgets effectively, planning investments, retirement, managing tax affairs and promoting healthy lifestyles in my capacity as an “advisor”. This week- I’ve had an awakening to new insights (which I’ve taken for granted) about money matters and my key take away centered around 2 aspects that impact people’s finances almost immediately; leaving them with heaps of problems and sadly these are often overlooked.

1. Driving “banking” education.

Having worked for a local commercial bank before, spending time here was indicative how much more commercial banks need to do to educate and/or advice clients about the products and services they sell. The norm is to push products, close the sale and make budget (well we do have targets to meet). More concerning is how we take matters for granted, assuming that clients are financially savvy, that they “get” or understand what we are selling to them amidst our jargon. Other times we ignorantly think that those who do not ask questions or seek clarity are illiterate and uninformed- which is a BIG mistake. Although, our clients have a responsibility to manage their finances or should be responsible, we as financial services providers need to take the lead (which we aren’t doing). The array of problems clients complained about started from opening unnecessary cheque accounts, fear of using online banking, not understanding fixed deposits, how much interest they are paying on loans or why they need to provide for monthly installments. Last week I tried to explain and help a client reference transactions correctly and why this was important. This is something I assumed everyone knew (surprise, surprise!). The second aspect is understanding insurance.

2. Understanding insurance

A few times before, I’ve said that insurance is one of the hardest industries to understand besides taxation. Perhaps it’s because we do not make the effort to understand it or read our contracts properly (if at all). For someone like me to say this, imagine how much more complicated understanding insurance must be for an non financial person. Two weeks ago I had a heated argument with a friend about having an insurance policy to cover her life. This week in Quthing, the challenges surrounding insurance resurfaced again- an indication that there is a gap. Similarly with commercial banks, the lack of education and comprehension why people need insurance was evident. People have policies yet they do not understand why they them have or what the policy is meant for. People pay premiums for policies they do not need, money which could be used to increase savings had they been correctly advised or educated. As sales reps, our mistake is and continues to be pushing products down the client’s throat. We chase the monthly target (which is always very high) to the detriment of our clients- chasing commission and bonuses. But do we stop to think about the consequences of our actions?

While initiatives such as the money month campaign and several other initiatives by financial services providers are helping to drive financial education, I believe that we need to be very intentional from the get go- when sitting with a client in our respective organizations to honestly give advice that addresses a client’s need. I think we need to look beyond just closing the sale, meeting the target and being paid commission. It is time we proactively work to add value to our clients, that we push to improve their lives through the financial products we sell to them. We have that responsibility to help, inform and assist. My question to you is ” Are you doing your part?”

Till then, let’s keep sharing practical financial tips that will help us make better financial decision. Keep learning, keep saving and make your money generate you earnings

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