Randy Fuss: The long and short for boardroom advantage is to understand your prospects and/or clients better than your competitors and that’s why we call it the unfair boardroom advantage. It does start with a not unique premise, but the fact that there’s four different personality styles. I think every single advisor that I’ve known has at some point gone through Meyers-Briggs or Kolb, DISC social styles, so that part of it is not unique. But where we’ve tried to bring some uniqueness to the boardroom advantage is to really focus in on the employer themselves and know that they might be more than one individual. There could be three or four, five or six in there, that all have different nuances. But, I also like to point out that even the industry that they’re in could have a unique personality. A group of attorneys will be different than, say, a nonprofit, which would be very different from an engineering firm and we might as well throw in a car dealership into the mix.
Randy Fuss: Amongst these different industries, a company can take on a personality. But then, we’ve got to be able to boil it down to that individual layer and learn the nuances of the people that are around the table and, more specifically, what some of their buying behaviors are.
Ben Jones: And, for advisors that are listening, why do you think this is such an important topic?
Randy Fuss: It’s an important topic, really, because it’s a very competitive industry, obviously. The margin between winning and losing is razor thin or retaining something versus it being taken away from you by a competitor. If, from a personality, you’re able to understand your client or your prospect better than someone else, well you’re going to increase your chances of either winning or retaining that business.
Ben Jones: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I thought about how to go about drawing on a lot of the wisdom that you and your team have put together around this topic and I thought maybe one of the easiest ways to help advisors who are listening to this is to just walk through the process step-by-step. Assuming that we could do some underplaying a little bit, let’s just say that I’m an advisor who has a finals presentation coming up with a new corporate client, where do we begin?
Randy Fuss: I think we begin with you, Ben Jones, financial advisor. From that standpoint there’s different selling styles. I mean, clearly, you’re on the selling side of this equation. Again, you’re going to hear the number four quite a bit. Four different quadrants, four different behavioral styles. The first part of the conversation is really trying to figure out how you’re wired and what your selling propensities are. Knowing that if your client or prospect is similar to you, it will be fine. More times than not, they might be different where some adaptation needs to take place.
Ben Jones: And so, to go through that first step, I have to figure out what my personality profile is. I know there’s a lot of these out in the marketplace. There’s DISC and there’s Kolb you mentioned. Briggs and Myers. What do you recommend? How does one figure out their own personality?
Randy Fuss: Well, you can go find it yourself, but from my own standpoint I’m a registered corporate coach and what comes along with that is being certified to do DISC and the D, I, S, and C are these four different personality types. D is for dominance, the I is for influence, the S is for steadiness, and the C is for compliance.
Ben Jones: Excellent. I’m curious, have you taken the DISC test? Where would you fall out?
Randy Fuss: You’re never going to be 100% of one and 0% of the other three, but clearly the spike is on the I for influence with some D mixed behind it.
Ben Jones: Excellent. Yes. I have a similar personality. I’m not sure if that’s why we get along, but I definitely tend to have higher D and I scores.
Randy Fuss: That’s why we like each other so much.
Emily Larsen: The DISC Model of Behavior was originally created by Psychologist William Moulton Marston in the early 20th Century. Fun fact, Marston also created the superhero character Wonder Woman. DISC isn’t the only paradigm you can use to create an unfair boardroom advantage, but we’ll stick with it, since it’s Randy’s specialty. Now, once you know your own personality type, it’s time you look at your plan sponsors and try to figure out where they fall in the DISC Model.
Randy Fuss: Now, we step across the table over to the plan sponsor side. This is a little bit more involved. There is sort of a first layer of understanding the D, the I, the S, and C, just from the buying styles. The D is going to just want to get to the bottom line. I is going to want to chitchat with you for an hour. The S is going to want to make sure that they can trust you and then the C is going to want to see all the data. Just having that general description first starts to put some ideas into Ben Jones financial advisor’s head in terms of how they might approach this. That’s just the first layer.
Ben Jones: And, I love this because it really helps think about who’s going to be in the audience. I’m curious. I think people naturally are going to say, “Well, the CFOs going to be the data guy and, you know, the CEOs going to be the D.” But, do you find that those stereotypes actually hold true?
Randy Fuss: Not all the time. It’s really very, very interesting. I’ll share with you that part of the beauty of the qualified retirement plan business is that you get multiple trips to that plan sponsor prior to the boardroom and it gives you the opportunity to view what we call cues and clues. The cues are the things that they’re saying. The clues are the things that you’re seeing. You’re basically listening and you’re looking. Sometimes, it matches it to a T. Sometimes, it can be 180 degrees. My best example is a meeting that we with a Girl Scouts council, you expect them to be these nonprofit, shy sort of people, and they were a bunch of high Ds.
Ben Jones: When it comes to these cues, could you give us some example of some verbal listening cues?
Randy Fuss: Yeah. Probably one of the biggest one is volume. Again, you got these four different personality styles. A few will be … The Ds and Is will have very loud volume. You’ll have very soft volume. You’ll have inflection. You’ll have tonality. Is somebody monotone or is someone really animated in terms of the tones in their voice? It even goes to the use of words. Certain styles will be making statements while others will be asking questions. Some will be expressing their feelings. Others will be expressing the facts. Again, all the advisor needs to do is be listening to pick up those cues.
Ben Jones: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And so, somebody who’s monotone would be a cue that they are?
Randy Fuss: Clearly a compliant individual.
Ben Jones: Excellent. Let’s jump into the clues. Let’s assume that we all get back to normal this year at some point and we’re able to go into the office and meet with the prospective client. What are some clues that I should be picking up on?
Randy Fuss: Again, in terms of the clues, these are all going to be things that you’re just using your eyesight. It can actually start with the surroundings. When you first go into the building or office, what is the appearance? What are the furnishings like? What’s the configuration of the office? You can then get to the individual layer and it could be everything from their dress, their accessories, their facial expressions, their posture, their use of colors. Probably my favorite is the meet and greet. A simple meet and greet, I would say a good 75, 80% of the time, just based upon that exchange, you could say this person’s a high D, this person is a high S.
Ben Jones: Interesting. This assumes that you have the opportunity to go and make a number of calls or have conversations ahead of time. In a COVID world, how do you recommend that advisors get a little bit more clarity around these cues and clues?
Randy Fuss: It’s kind of interesting because if you break down the cue and the clue, the cue is verbal, which is clearly listening. That part of it is still there, even looking through a computer screen, but it’s the clues. It’s the not having the ability to look around or experience a meet and greet. That part it almost gets taken away from you so it becomes that much more difficult. Here’s where the true unfair advantage comes into play then. We now have the ability, this is a little bit scary to mention this, through artificial intelligence that … We have a service that we subscribe to on a monthly basis that we can actually plug names into LinkedIn and it will kick back a three to four-page personality report on that individual. It will, to a very large degree, give you a blueprint of what some of their buying behaviors might be and, more importantly, some of the selling strategies you should use.
Ben Jones: Randy, and you don’t have to commit to this, would you be willing, so that we could show the audience this type of somewhat creepy, but exciting, work, would you be willing to just plug in my name or Emily’s name into LinkedIn and see what kind of profile you get and we could share it?
Randy Fuss: I will certainly do that. I do not have it with me right now. It’s something that’s meant for our back office, but I’d love to pump your name in and see what comes up.
Ben Jones: All right. We’ll link to it in the show notes so that the audience can see the type of information that the internet can provide. It would be really interesting to know, given that you’ve done this before, how accurate do you find the personality profiles to be coming out of some tool like that.
Randy Fuss: You know what? It is part art and part science. I would share as a disclosure it’s not 100% accurate. Where it really gets skewed is specifically for you and I, anybody that’s a registered rep, because quite often our broker dealers are going to make us put some disclosure language in there. It’s going to skew us towards being compliant individuals, which we clearly are not.
Ben Jones: Yes, exactly.
Randy Fuss: I would say that from the advisor side, if somebody is an independent and does not have the cumbersome disclosure language, it would be much more accurate. If you step out into the plan sponsor world, you’re not going to find a lot of industries that have this same type of regulations or rules or disclosures on their LinkedIn profiles. It’s deadly accurate when somebody’s paid attention to their LinkedIn profile. Unfortunately, you’ll also have the 65-year-old CEO that just says Ben Jones, been working for this company for 32 years, and nothing else on there. Clearly, there’s not enough to give you any accurate reading.
Ben Jones: Wow. Here we are in a dystopian future of 2021, an era where you can plug my LinkedIn profile into an AI tool and it spits out some report about my personality type. That’s not creepy at all. But, seriously, Randy plugged Emily and my name into the system and while it wasn’t perfectly consistently with our DISC profiles, it was pretty dang close. Both Emily and I agreed that it would provide good direction to someone on how they could expect to interact with us. Now, you can see both of our profiles from this tool on the show notes page at www.bmogam.com/betterconversations. This type of tool could give you a leg up in figuring out what kind of boardroom dynamics you’ll be dealing with, especially during these socially distanced times. Now, to learn more about using the tool you can reach out to Randy and the team over at CUNA.
Emily Larsen: I am shocked by this tool’s ability to key in on my personality. Now, for this next section pay close attention as Randy and Ben cover the dos and don’ts when your boardroom is made up of mostly one personality type. There’s a ton of actionable advice here, which will be key to getting the most out of your meetings.
Ben Jones: You mentioned that some industries or companies in certain industries take on their own personality. Maybe you could give us an example and let us know how we might test that hypothesis if we do run into it.
Randy Fuss: Sure. Let’s start with the D for dominant. A group of attorneys, a group of physicians. You absolutely know that if this is your group you have to get in there and get to the bottom line very, very quickly. If it’s a high I, it could be really anything of a sales or hospitality. I mentioned car dealerships before. I’m up in Wine Country. Clearly it would be visiting a winery. Here, it’s going to be much different that they do want to have social hour at the end of the day. If they like you, they might want to work with you. When you get to that high S, this is 100% nonprofit. Everything’s going to slow down quite a bit. They’re really going to be asking … One basic question is can I trust you? And then, finally, getting over to the high C, this could be an engineering firm, this could be a technology firm. It’s very, very data based, information based, and so all of those four different industries meeting these four styles, completely different buying behaviors.
Ben Jones: Now, those are great examples. I think really relevant for people listening. Now, we’re at the point. We’ve done a little bit of prep work. We know who’s going to be in the room and we’ve done our best to assess cues and clues for each person’s, maybe, individual personality. We’ve kind of thought a little bit about the industry and the company and their personality. What do we do with all this information?
Randy Fuss: The entire process is called C2D2. The two Cs are the cues and clues. The D2 is the dos and don’ts. Another way to think about this is listen and look before you speak. The listen and look is the cues and clues. Now, rubber meets the road. We got to figure out what are some of the dos and don’ts, the strategies, of working with each of these four different styles.
Ben Jones: Walk me through how you then determine dos and don’ts.
Randy Fuss: Sure. Let’s tackle these individually first, but then we’ve got to come to the final crescendo, which is they’re all in the boardroom together. That’s the real nightmare.
Ben Jones: Yeah. That’s when you get the group dynamics going, right?
Randy Fuss: Exactly. Imagine that you’re stepping in with a bunch of attorneys. You do know that you’re going to have to move very quickly and be prepared. Just stick to the facts, get through it quickly. Know that from a don’t side, there’s really not going to be social hour. There’s not going to be idle talk, rapport building, so we just going to get down to the bottom line, the nitty gritty, very quickly and know that they’re also not real detail based. Fact based, but it’s got to get to the bottom line quickly. How is this going to help? They just don’t want to get buried into the details. Sometimes, we’ll suggest put together a one-page executive summary for them because if you try to walk through a 30-page PowerPoint they will interrupt you on slide three and ask you, “Ben, you’re not going to go through 30 pages, are you?” Moving on, I mentioned the influencer and specifically a car dealership. Using that as an example and, like I mentioned, a winery as well, is that you do have to socialize but it works different as we’ve got to figure out how to direct things back to business because certainly you don’t want to have a finals presentation that goes 2-1/2 hours. With that in mind, we’ve really got to not necessarily dictate the conversation, but we also don’t want to lose the focus. It’s going to be sort of a blend of business and social. It can be very difficult. It can be challenging because there’s one thing we have not mentioned about the influencers yet and that is that they like to talk. You’re doing a lot of listening, they’re doing a lot of talking. Anything that we can do to take their words and turn it back into a business example will help us get things back on track. Sometimes, they’ll also recommend that … They encourage the influencer to have the “detail” person in the room with them. You have the ability to socialize here, but turn to the detail person that you know is going to absorb the information a little bit better.
Ben Jones: Okay. Next is S.
Randy Fuss: Yes, so Ss are steadiness and the perfect example is nonprofit. One of the things that when I’m doing a live presentation or even now that we’re in the Zoom world, I will often ask, “How many of you have been calling on a nonprofit for over a year and they still haven’t made a decision about whether they’re going to do anything or not.” Right?
Ben Jones: Yeah. Everyone’s hand goes up.
Randy Fuss: Every hand goes up, right? We just know that patience is going to have to be exhibited. We’re going to have to slow things down. Exhibit some listening skills. Your biggest do though is to acknowledge the fact that they may not want to change. This is one group that is going to be asking the why. Why should we change what we’re doing right now? We have to, on the do side, give very logical reasons for the change. There’s others that we’ve covered, the D and I so far, they’re very quick to change. If it’s better, if it’s different, it’s more exciting, they’ll say, “Yeah, let’s do this.” Just know with this group we’ve got to be very cognizant of the fact that maybe your best outcome in the near future is to become broker of record on the existing plan and slowly lay out these steps of small change, incremental change over time, versus big change right now.
Ben Jones: And, as far as the don’ts for these people? I’m assuming the don’ts are don’t rush, don’t be too aggressive, don’t push?
Randy Fuss: Yeah. To a large degree, when we’re thinking of the classic situation of being in a finals presentation, you might think it’s a finals presentation so you’re going for all of your closing techniques at the end. On their side, they don’t like the pushy salesman. There’s sort of this balance there of being careful just from how you approach it. I’d also mention too that you certainly don’t want to get in a situation of badmouthing the incumbent. This is probably the group that has the strongest relationship with the existing solution. We certainly want to go in there bashing that. Again, going back of the basics of just discussing why, why the change is needed or is going to benefit them.
Ben Jones: I like that. Let’s cover compliance. I mean, I’m assuming these are going to be more COO, CFO types, but tell me what are the dos.
Randy Fuss: On the Cs side, similar to what we’ve covered with the dominant individual, there’s no need for social hour. There’s no need for trying to “rapport build” with them. Just be very direct. Facts, figures, proof, pros and cons. Exhibit all these things. They’re going to want answers to their question, which is the how. How does this work? How is this going to happen. We’ve got to be prepared to do that. We really do need to slow things down. This is something that they want all the details versus other groups we’ve discussed who wanted none of the detail. Be careful about wasting time. Know that they actually have a very unique wiring. Is I’m writing you’re wrong. We have to be very careful about all of a sudden giving our opinions or they’re going to say, “I don’t care about it.” We’ve got to be very careful about glossing over details, because they want all of the details. Be very cognizant of giving incomplete answers because they also want very complete answers.
Ben Jones: We’ve got these four different personality types and as Randy already noted, a boardroom in certain industries may tend to have a majority of one type or another. But, inevitably, you will find yourself in a room with a mix of these types of styles and personalities so how do you, as a financial advisor, approach a boardroom dynamic made up of different personality styles?
Randy Fuss: One thing on each of the four styles from the financial advisor selling perspective, the high Ds always want to be in control. The high Is always want to talk, primarily about themselves. The high S, and this is from the sales side, tends to sort of shy away a little bit, not really convicted and then the high C is going to come in and say, “I’m right, you’re wrong.” I can’t imagine a boardroom ever blowing up. Now, when you blend that with what is in the boardroom, I will suggest to you that if you have three or four different personalities in there, which is very, very common, that perhaps you have a wing person. If I know that I’m a high I, my polar opposite is the compliant individual. We are what we call oil and water. Completely different. Completely different wiring. If I bring a co-presenter in, which is a high C, now we can cover the room a little bit better. If their high C asks a question, I might just give a sly little tap on the shoulder of my companion to answer that question.
Ben Jones: I like the idea of augmenting, rather than trying to correct your weakness. That’s a really great tip. What if an advisor listening goes, “Yeah, that’s a great idea, but I’m a solo practitioner”?
Randy Fuss: Well, you might have some challenges there. I think, at the end of the day, some adapting is going to need to happen. Let’s suppose I have all four of these personalities sitting in a room in front of me. It doesn’t really matter which style I am because some of them I’m going to be in tune with, some of them I’m not. I can share with you if there’s one I can discard it’s probably the high I in the room. A high I is what we call the shiny metal object person. They will be looking at their Facebook feed within the fourth minute of you sitting down. We can discount them just from the standpoint of they’re really not wanting to be there or pay attention. Now, we have the other three left. The steady individual is in there saying, “Why should I change?” For that individual, who might be the head of HR, we’re really going to have a pretty compelling message for why the change makes sense. We got the high C that, to a large extent, is going to come down to fees, funds, and fiduciary. The want all that data and the basis points it’s going to cost in their investments. We’re going to need to fulfill their need in terms of data. And then, at the end of the day, the dominant individual is likely to be the head decision maker. A lot of times, it’s going to come down for them on return on investment, ROI, where they’re going to want to look at the bottom line and ask the question, “Is this going to put us in a better place than we are right now? Will it allow my employees to be more productive?” That’s really the questions that we have to answer for each of these groups. Obviously, it takes them some talent and some pivoting, if you’re a solo practitioner, to meet all those needs.
Ben Jones: Yeah. I wonder if there’s an opportunity at times to even leverage some outside help from time to time to help with these things. For example, I know people can lean on recordkeepers, investment providers, et cetera, but just thinking through that. Those would be a really tricky thing to navigate if you don’t have others on your team to bring in to help augment your talents.
Randy Fuss: That’s what we could bring to the table in terms of being a plan provider, as I was mentioning prior, in terms of being able to generate the reports. Part of our strategy of working with a financial advisor is advisor, give me a list of who’s going to be on that committee. Who’s going to be in that meeting? Let’s run some reports and let’s have a dialogue and see if between you and I we can figure out a strategy of how we’re going to address this group.
Ben Jones: I think that makes a lot of sense. You get all these people in the room. I’m sure you’ve been there, I know have, where it’s clear that the board members or the decision makers in the room, the committee, whatever it might be, disagree or there’s some tensions there as well. How do you address those things or how do you navigate those tensions when you get these different personalities together?
Randy Fuss: That is probably the million dollar question right there. I try to get underneath the hood of what each person might be having issue with. Unless we can really get down to the dynamics of what the differences are over, it’s very hard to address. I can share with you that you will always have the contingent that’s going to not want to change. To a large extent, I use HR as an example because their battle with everyone else is this is going to get dumped on me. You’re going to say yes and then you’re going to pitch this whole pile over at me that I’ve got to deal with. We do know that for that why change individual we’ve going to really appeal to ease of use. We really need to appeal that we got your back. We’re going to make this a ton easier for you in the future than if you stay operating the way that you are right now. Over on some of the other sides, you mentioned this CFO. Well, know that to a large extent they might want to have their self-directed brokerage account for their own personal use. They may want to have the CITs that average three basis points. We need to figure out from kind of a technical standpoint what it is that they’re after. The real wild card is that dominant individual of really trying to understand what is it that’s going to drive them to want to change. Again, I’ve mentioned this whole idea of the higher ROI, but we do always need to meet these individual needs to hopefully head off some of the struggles that they might have between each other.
Ben Jones: Now, I do have to ask one question which is, you do all your homework on this, you come up with your playbook, you bring in your team to augment talents, and you’re in the boardroom in the middle of the meeting you have this aha moment that you diagnosed someone incorrectly, how do you pivot?
Randy Fuss: Boy, that’s a difficult one. I would say that you’re not going in with 100% confirmation that they are wired exactly how you have them printed out on the paper. I think that there needs to be some good qualifying questions to see if you can help determine that they really are the way that they are. I think that a couple of open-ended questions at the very beginning of something to the effect of what does a successful retirement plan look like for you. I know it’s maybe overused to say, “Gee, what are your pain points right now,” and “What would be a better future for you?” I think we do want to have some form of confirming questions before you’ve opened up your mouth too much and gone too far to just affirm that they are the way that you think they are.
Ben Jones: I think that’s great advice. It sounds like a lot of creating this kind of advantage in boardroom situations really comes down to spending the time to do your homework, which I think you’ve made the case for very clearly here.
Randy Fuss: Ben, actually, we’ve got some feedback before. I’m thinking of one situation where it’s a one-on-one where myself and the advisor group are having a discussion on this whole approach. They said, “Well, this seems like a lot of work.” Okay, well, I’m trying to give you an unfair advantage. If you want to win an unfair portion of the business it’s going to take more preparation. If you want to go in and wing it, sometimes maybe you’ll win it for you. More times than not, you might’ve said something the wrong way or rub somebody the wrong way and you end up not getting the plan. You’re exactly right. That investment of time will hopefully pay off with more plans.
Ben Jones: I absolutely love Randy’s philosophy on this point. You must do the hard work, the homework, in order to improve your ratios and serve the right types of clients for your practice.
Emily Larsen: There’s a lot to unpack here and you might want to revisit this before you prepare for your next boardroom presentation. The point that really stuck with me is the idea of augmenting your skillset with a presenting partner when possible. You certainly have options if you’re a solo practitioner. But, for example, bringing along a data person to satisfy the compliance hype in the room is a good choice if that’s not your strongest area that way you can focus on your strengths.
Ben Jones: I sincerely appreciate it when fellow professionals give us a taste of their trade secrets and for that I just want to give a big thank you to Randy. Now, we encourage you to check out our show notes for more of Randy and CUNA Mutual’s work on this subject. You can also check out those artificial intelligence generated reports on Emily and my DISC profiles. Now, before we finish up, here’s the last word from Randy on what happens after you nail your next boardroom presentation. If you’re an advisor, what does it feel like when you get all your homework right and you walk out of that presentation?
Randy Fuss: I do a lot of presentation training as well that’s a little outside of the boardroom advantage. At the end of the day, there’s going to be a call to action. Walking out of that boardroom feeling good about it is knowing that they’re going to take the next step. All right, so maybe it was to sign a letter of intent. If you get some real strong buying signals that they want to do that, you can come out of that boardroom and feel like it’s a victory. I don’t think very often you’re going to walk out with them actually signing your paperwork, but if you get all the buying signals, that’s really what you’re after.
Ben Jones: Yeah. No, and it’s got to feel great like you nailed it. I’ve been in very few meetings where I felt like we nailed the finals presentation that didn’t take that next step. Now, what does it feel like to be the client or the people on the other room of the table when they’re being presented to by an advisor that’s done their homework?
Randy Fuss: At the end of the day, they feel like their needs have been met. I think, at the end of the day, they feel like their voice was heard and that the other party, the financial advisor, is going to be able to fill that need. At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to.
Ben Jones: Thank you for listening to Better Conversations. Better Outcomes. This podcast is presented by BMO Global Asset Management. To access the resources discussed in today’s show, please visit us at www.bmogam.com/betterconversations.
Emily Larsen: We love feedback and would love to hear what you thought about today’s episode. You can send an email to [email protected]
Ben Jones: And we really respond.
Emily Larsen: We do.
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Emily Larsen: And I’m Emily Larsen. From all of us at BMO Global Asset Management, hoping you have a productive and wonderful week.
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