As a financial professional you have received a lot of training. First you needed to become licensed, and then you needed to learn your firms systems and products. Next you were trained on how to attract and retain high values clients. You have been trained on portfolio management, insurance, equity and bond research, cash management, and every year need to complete compulsory continuing education to maintain your licenses PLUS any additional certifications you may have earned (CIMA, CFP,CFA, CLU, ChFC, etc). I’ll bet the amount of training an advisor receives on portfolio and client management over ten years could fill an ocean. I’ll also wager the amount of training an advisor receives on managing staff couldn’t even fill a thimble.

Let’s face it; you need a team to reach the heights of this business. This article will discuss how to manage and compensate your sales assistant to get his or her best efforts every day. You will learn how to do a strengths assessment, how to determine what your assistants top tasks are and how to delegate, and how to structure a bonus system. Let’s talk about the benefits of managing your staff based on their strengths first.

Everyone comes into the world blessed with certain natural talents and cursed with obvious weaknesses. Lesson number one is to understand that fact and manage accordingly. If someone can’t work a computer don’t give them computer related tasks. If someone lacks people skills don’t have them answering your phone. If you think someone who lacks certain strengths is going to change that is the “delusional” style of management. You can’t put back in what was left out to begin with. Your first job is to learn what’s there and hope to tap that persons “natural” potential.  Please read my mentor Barry Conchie’s book, “Strengths Based Leadership” and use the provided PIN code to determine your own strengths. Your strengths will fall into one of 4 categories, executing, influencing, relationship building and strategic thinking. Then get another copy of the book and have your assistant take the same assessment. I’ll tell you straight up, if your assistant lacks “executing’ type strengths don’t think you are going to make them good at executing tasks. If he/she lacks relationship building strengths don’t think they can change to become great communicating with clients. Once you understand the cards you are dealt now learn how to play them. Your assistant will only meaningfully improve in the areas of his/her strengths but you still need to be a good leader. If someone makes a mistake they can’t go back in time and change it. Frame your feedback by saying, “The next time you do such and such do it this way not that way”.  You MUST provide feedback and/or recognition every week to ten days if you want to see continued results. When you provide recognition does your assistant like to be recognized publicly or will they be embarrassed? You need to know if you should provide it privately instead. You can recognize good work verbally, in writing or an e-mail, of through a small gift. The key is you should put it in your calendar as a reminder and provide feedback and/or recognition every 7-10 days. Now let’s discuss how to determine what tasks your assistant needs to focus on.

80% of your results come from 20% of your tasks. Do you know what your top 20% tasks are? Most likely they are prospecting, meeting with clients, and closing business.

What are your assistant’s top 20% tasks? I suggest making a list of all they do and identifying the 3 things that provide 80% of their results. How much time do they spend on top 20% tasks? My guess is it is likely less than you would like it to be. Once you know the top tasks and are tracking how much time your assistant spends on those tasks you need an effective form of delegation.

Let me share a common style of delegation which I call “black hole” delegation. You take a task and simply tell your assistant to do it or you e-mail it. Once you have delegated it the task enters the black hole and you have no way of tracking it to completion. If the task isn’t completed you have only yourself to blame.

Why do you think Outlook, Act, Lotus Notes, etc all come with task or to do managers? If you want to avoid the black hole send the task through one of these tools. Now you can track it right on your PC until completion, simple.

Finally let’s discuss setting up a bonus system. Most wire houses take care of the base salary for you and have different rules about additional compensation. Please make sure you know the rules before following my recommendations.

First you want to provide individual and/or group bonuses. An individual bonus should be paid monthly and should be linked to those top 20% tasks. If your sales assistant outperforms great, give them a financial bonus (in addition to the recognition). You should be happy to pay the bonus knowing when they have executed on these tasks it moves the needle for the practice.

Next is a group bonus linked to the overall growth of the practice. Let’s say you expect to grow 10% if everyone shows up and does their job. You would then pay a bonus if you grow more than 10%, typically 1% or 2% of your assistants base salary for every 1% you grow above the bar you expected. If you only pay individual bonuses it may detract from team work and if you only pay a group bonus underachievers receive the same bonus as overachievers. This is why I recommend providing both. Individual bouses are paid monthly and group bonuses paid quarterly based on quartly growth.

I hope you enjoyed this article. I realize you may want to know what strengths are typical for super star sales assistant and I’ll be happy to send my analysis of over 100 sales assistant’s strength assessments upon request to my e-mail.

Todd Colbeck is principal and founder of the Colbeck Coaching Group, a subsidiary of General Business Center, Inc. You can reach him at this email address.