A crucial key to effortless influence

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Jacques Prevert (this could easily be mis-spelt!), a French poet, once walked by a blind beggar who had a sign next to him that read…

“Blind Man without a pension.”

He asked the man how he was doing, and the blind man replied…

“Very badly, no one is making any donations.”

Jacques picked up the man’s sign and changed what it said.

Three days later he walked by again and asked the blind man how he was doing.

He said “Fantastic! My hat is filling up three times a day.”

What exactly did Jacques change that made such a difference?

He changed the context (we’ll get to the specifics shortly).

In the process of doing high impact financial planning and helping your clients achieve their goals, then having them follow your advice is crucial.

In addition, it is inevitable that you will need to coach some of your clients and have them change their thinking and behaviour in some way.

Their ultimate success may depend on you doing this because people often have thinking, behaviours and habits that sabotage their goals.

In fact, this could easily be the biggest act of service you ever do for a client.

Why so?

Because the most significant factor in wealth creation, accomplishing meaningful goals and a life well-lived is a client’s own thinking and behaviour.

Your product recommendations or the overall return your clients experience on their investments are part of the overall picture but, ultimately, your client’s own behaviour will have a much bigger impact on their long-term results.

To become a powerful influencer means that people not only listen to you but willingly alter their thinking or behaviour.

Otherwise, nothing changes.

One thing we do know is that people don’t like to be told what to do. In fact, people resist like crazy if they feel they are being talked down to, controlled or being asked to do something that doesn’t make sense to them.

To create the highest and best possibility of change happening naturally and easily you must create the right environment.

How do you do this?

There are many, many ways but consider that you can change the way someone feels about anything in relation to what you did immediately before.

Imagine you have a bucket of room temperature water and you stick your hand in it. How will it feel?

Wet.

Now, imagine putting your hand in a bucket of ice cold water for two minutes and then putting it in the bucket of room temperature water. How will it feel then?

A lot warmer or even hot.

If you put your hand in a bucket of hot water (obviously not scalding!) for two minutes and then in the room temperature water. How will it feel then?

Cool or even cold.

This perfectly demonstrates that what happened immediately before can significantly change an experience.

Jacques Prevert changed the blind man’s sign to read…

“Spring is coming, but I won’t see it.”

He changed the story. He knew that the new context would change the way people thought about the situation.

The most powerful way to create context in your client relationships is, first and foremost, to deeply understand them.

But not just in a logical, numbers based fact find kind of way because there’s no leverage in this kind of information.

If you want to provide more than a transactional service, it is hugely important to go deep with your clients. Do what it takes to find out what matters most to them. Have them get reflective and connect with what is meaningful to them. Help them gain real clarity. Have them see what could stop them getting what they really want.

Ask them intelligent and searching questions and really listen to understand rather than looking for the first opportunity to provide a product or give advice.

It is doing this that begins to create a powerful context because people only ever take action for their own reasons.

My favourite Einstein quote and why it matters

Einstien's Quote

There aren’t that many true bona fide geniuses, past or present, but Albert Einstein was certainly in that category.

Apart from his work in the field of physics his insight and clarity into how the human mind works were extraordinary too.

My favourite quote attributed to Einstein’s is:

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

To me, he is saying that it is inconceivable that we could find the answers we need on the same level of consciousness in which we see something as a problem.

Can you think of a recurring challenge, difficulty or problem you encounter where you feel stuck and would like an insight or a new perspective?

We can all find examples of these in our lives and it is so easy to expend a great deal of energy looking in the wrong place, or rather, from a state of mind in which we’re highly unlikely to get what we need.

The only time we ever truly transcend a problem is when we get new, fresh thinking about it. In other words, we experience a jump in consciousness.

Imagine a glass elevator on the side of a very tall building. The view from each floor is different and the higher you go the bigger and broader the view.

This is like consciousness.

The higher we go the more perspective we have and something that looks like a problem at a lower level doesn’t even look that way any longer.

But you cannot force, control or will your way to a more expansive state of mind. This would be like trying to slow your car down by pressing the accelerator.

A successful business consultant friend recently shared with me that if he wants an answer to something and it doesn’t come to him in about 30 seconds, he just lets the problem drift out of his mind.

His logic is that if he knew the answer then it would have come to him straight away.

He knows that it tends to be when we are not thinking about a problem that we’ll get an insight or a new idea.

There is a reason for this – the thinking we need comes far more easily to a relaxed mind.

Just the other day I was looking for something in our kitchen at home and I spent a good few minutes looking everywhere I could think of but with no success.

I left the room to do something else and returned a few minutes later to see what I was looking for in plain view on the work top!

It was there all along but in a state of mind in which something doesn’t exist then it simply doesn’t exist. Even when what we are looking for is right in front of our noses.

When it comes to producing the results we want, our state of mind can be our greatest asset or our biggest liability.

The ability we all have is to be aware of how we feel.

Internal feelings of pressure are not information about our circumstances – feelings such as tension, frustration or impatience are telling us that our thinking has become tight and constricted.

Seeing this truth allows your mind to clear. Free from extraneous thinking, as Einstein was telling us, our problems will solve themselves because we are not stifling our natural ability to get insights.

Well-being, client relationships and productivity

Well-being, exceptional client relationships and productivity

Creating and delivering real value is essential to building strong, profitable and long-lasting client relationships.

Whilst this statement may seem an obvious point, professional service businesses are facing a future where machines are highly likely to replace the routine work. For example, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne in their widely read paper ‘The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?’ put the role of a financial adviser at medium risk.

This may have little impact in the short-term but an important question to reflect upon is…

How do you currently define the value that your business delivers, and will this definition serve you, your business and your clients in the future?

I would imagine that every adviser wants their clients to experience genuine and high value but only a few seem to know the secret of really delivering on the promise of it.

What you think is of value to your clients means nothing. You can tell your clients what you think until you are blue in the face, but value can only ever only exist in their mind, not yours.

To create exceptional value, you, first and foremost, must get into the mind of your client and understand their world.

What does their world look like, to them?

What really matters, to them?

What are their most important outcomes?

What are their worries and concerns about the future?

Some advisers ask loaded questions that are intended to push the client towards purchasing products or investments and shorten the sales process.

However, this approach often creates discomfort for both the client and the adviser. It is a very ‘adviser centred’ approach and it results in distrust. Nobody wants to feel they are being pushed, no matter how gently.

The path to value creation begins through being curious, listening and having a deep respect for a client’s capacity for insight, new thinking and their potential to see their world differently.

Clarity is everything.

How is a client going to make wise and intelligent decisions if they are not clear about their own outcomes?

As the adviser, how can you provide highly compelling advice if you are not clear about what really matters to your clients?

Providing financial products, investments and setting up a client’s finances in the right way are simply the means to an end. Doing this expertly and properly is what clients rightly expect from you. It doesn’t go above and beyond in any way.

To differentiate yourself in an increasingly undifferentiated world you must go above and beyond.

What I have observed, time and time again, is that going above and beyond is firmly centred in your own sense of well-being.

How so?

Being in our well-being means we can focus 100% on our client and their needs without being weighed down with the burden our own perceived needs. It means that you create an environment where a client feels you are trustworthy, knows that you are listening and have no hidden agenda.

When you know that your sense well-being is not dependant on an outcome (like making a sale) you naturally create deeper, more collaborative and ultimately, more productive, relationships.

 

Giving financial advice – 3 important steps

You no doubt put a great deal of time and effort into creating precisely the right advice for your clients but this alone does not guarantee it will be accepted and followed.

After working with a number of advisers on this subject we helped them implement three easy but important steps that significantly increased the buy-in from clients – a very positive result for everyone.

I am sure you have seen or heard the KISS acronym. There are a number definitions but they all mean the same thing – keep it short and simple. The idea is to avoid unnecessarily complicating something by having too much detail or too many parts.

For instance, finances can be complex and well out of many peoples’ comfort zone. If a client is already feeling tense or apprehensive then failing to settle your client’s mind before proceeding to give advice is inviting problems – a bit like starting a car journey with a flat tyre.

Why people can switch off

The delivery of advice is equally as important as the content but it is something that is easy to fall down on, if you do not take into account state of mind.

Let me share an example.

An adviser firm I worked with gives specialist financial advice to SME business clients.

When they met a new client they often found that the client’s finances were poorly organised and the client often felt varying degrees of stress, worry and tension around this area.

The advisers process was to look at the current situation, help the client get clear on their outcomes and then take away their findings with an agreement to return with a detailed plan of their recommendations. So far, so good and all pretty straight-forward stuff, you would think.

However, at the presentation stage, the advisers were often experiencing far more resistance and defensiveness from the clients than they were expecting or indeed wanted. Despite their work being done diligently, accurately and with integrity some people would push back with lots of questions and reasons not to implement the changes and the advisers couldn’t understand why.

The essential key to high-quality meetings

The solution turned out to be in something that most people wouldn’t consider and yet it is highly relevant to anyone who gives professional advice.

High-quality meetings are about the tone, not just the content.

The tone, meaning the feeling in a meeting, is absolutely critical to conducting meetings of the highest quality. In essence, when people are present, in a clear mind, calm and relaxed you can be pretty sure that the meeting will be successful. If, on the other hand, people feel tense, intimidated, insecure, discouraged or fearful you can be pretty sure that it will be a poor meeting.

What transpired was that the large, detailed report they were taking to their meetings and, consequently, all the thinking they were asking people to do was lowering the tone.

Without realising it, they were over-complicating things, people felt even more intimidated and this was why there was push-back and resistance.
There was nothing wrong with the work at all. It was the way it was being presented that was the problem. With three very simple adjustments, the problem was eradicated and they got increased buy-in to their recommendations.

1. The advisers realised that is was essential for clients to be in a calm, clear and present state of mind. To accomplish this they made absolutely sure that they felt this way during their meetings. As the professional person, you have to go there first because people will often pick up on how you feel.

2. They paid close attention to the clients and did what was necessary to make sure they felt comfortable and ready to receive their recommendations. Also, throughout the presentation, they were sensitive to the level of engagement of the client and did what was necessary to keep the energy in the right place. For instance, sometimes the way things are said can lower the tone. If this happened they counteracted it by re-stating it in a more positive way.

3. They cut down their report to just one page with a small number of key suggestions. This made it manageable for the client and allowed them to roll out their recommendations at the right pace.

The human factor is the key to successful meetings

Whilst numbers, data and analytical ability are, of course, important it is easy to forget that hard results are achieved through the level of trust, rapport, and the quality of the relationships you create.

Some advisers may think that paying attention to their own and their clients state of mind and how they feel is ‘soft’ or ‘touchy-feely’. However, state of mind, both ours and our clients, is involved in absolutely everything that we do.

When we appreciate the difference between healthy thinking and unhealthy thinking then we can factor in what is necessary to create an environment that produces great results with ease.

The Impact Factor

“What can I change or add to my product or service that will make this even more attractive, and compelling and irresistible?” 100 ways to create wealth by Steve Chandler and Sam Beckford

Dan, is a financial planner who has been in business 7 years and very much wants to build his practice and increase the number of clients he serves. However, he has been finding the process of finding and bringing on new clients far slower than he would like.

One of the ways his dissatisfaction was showing up is that he was suffering from what I would call ‘shiny object syndrome’. He seemed to be changing what he is doing every week. One week he was all enthusiastic about networking. Then it was writing blogs. Then it was doing a seminar. And so on…

Shiny object syndrome is when you get all fired-up and enthusiastic about a new idea, you might start taking action but as soon as the going gets a little tougher it gets abandoned in favour of the next ‘shiny object’ that catches your attention.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with new ideas but there is a factor that people rarely take into account that, over time, often makes a huge difference to results and it is was there all the time right under our nose…

The impact factor

We all know that referrals are the very best source of new clients. Someone who has heard a glowing report about the impact you have made and wants a similar experience is just about as good as it gets – they are open to what you do, often keen to engage immediately and are also the best source for more referrals in future. At least, this has been my experience.

So, I suggested to Dan that, first and foremost, we look at the level of impact he is having with people and see how he can leverage this.

The logic is simple. The greater the impact you and your work has for people, the bigger the difference it makes, the more referable you become. People will talk about you and others will want a similar experience.

Self-orientation kills connection and trust

Dan was great, technically speaking, but in truth he discovered that he could do a lot more when it came to understanding his clients. He was very quick to jump upon opportunities to solve his client’s financial problems without first really getting to know them. Consequently, his relationships were very transactional and lacked the kind of warmth, human connection and depth that defines far more effective engagement.

Self-orientation can take many forms but includes only being willing to talk about what you feel comfortable with. For practitioners this can show up as only talking about products, investments and financial matters and avoiding what all this means in the context of the clients life (which, after all, is the whole point).
What self-orientation always stems from are feelings of insecurity, a lack of confidence, being afraid of how people might react, trying something new or fear of losing control.

A new understanding

Feelings of insecurity have absolutely nothing to do with our circumstances. It is insecure thoughts that produce insecure feelings, just as secure thoughts produce secure feelings.

People often hold back because of their insecure thoughts, forgetting that they were the ones who made them up in the first place!

When we see the truth of this we do not allow our insecure, ego based thinking to dominate our minds and this alone will effortlessly transform the quality of our communication.

When you experience a meeting of minds with a client, a genuine connection and understanding, then it builds a level of trust that could never be achieved all the time that our own agenda is part of the picture.

Dan found that when meeting people and having no intention, other than to listen, get a sense of where they were coming from and understand them, it created the relationship very differently. It made a far bigger impact with people because it was all about them.

This was highly significant for Dan because he realised that it is the degree of impact you have with people correlates with how many referrals you receive. He also found that the jumping around from idea to idea was also a product of his insecure thinking.

Ultimately, what really made the difference was his understanding of how his mind works because he naturally spent more time in effective states of mind rather than being a victim of his own insecure thinking.

Sell the experience, not the concept

Several years ago I learned from master coach Steve Chandler his ‘Eighteen fearless disciplines’ for creating clients. He calls them disciplines because you actually have to practice them rather than just know the idea.

The first of these disciplines is ‘Sell the experience, not the concept’ and it can transform the way you conduct the process of engaging with new potential clients.

At the core of this discipline is that when you have a conversation with a new potential client you want their decision to be whether to continue working with you or not, rather than whether to start working with you. The more substance that the conversation has, the more value it delivers, then the more it will make sense to the potential client to continue and want more.

Understanding how to create value is underpinned by understanding what people are really buying, so let’s use some examples to illustrate this:

* People do not buy a drill because they want a drill. They want a hole that then leads to something else they want to accomplish.

* People do not go to the dentist because they enjoy having someone poke around inside their mouth. They go because they want to be pain free, have nice teeth and good health.

* People do not buy financial planning because they want a financial plan. They want peace of mind, security, freedom and so on (each client will have their own version of this).

A drill, dental treatment and financial planning are all a means to the end. They are not the end in itself. Powerful, value creating client conversations do not focus upon the means. Why would they?

Find out what the end is – what do they really want to achieve? What makes it important? Ultimately, what people buy are feelings. Imagine you wanted to purchase a new car. Would you want the dealer describing to you what it is like to drive the one you are interested in or would you want him or her to give you the key and let you actually drive it?

There is no feeling in the concept of something. Describing what it is like to drive a car has no feeling for the customer. But actually driving it does. The same applies to selling financial planning.

Powerful financial planners understand the value of creating an experience. They focus their attention upon finding out what someone really wants and they go deep into the clients world. They connect. They ask lots of questions and they listen.

You do not have to wait until someone is paying you before you serve them. You can begin from the very first moment. Just as motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

What can we learn from doctors who get sued?

Would you like to build even stronger, more productive relationships with your clients and deliver more value than ever before?

Although technical knowledge seems to have taken precedence over everything else for advisers in recent years, what use is it if an adviser is not able to combine what they know with the ability to build strong relationships, positively influence their clients and help them get more of the life they really want?

To make a powerful, life-changing impact with clients you have to bring more to the table than just knowing about products, investments and how to structure a financial plan.

In the medical profession they call it a bedside manner, which means helping a patient feel at ease, showing empathy, listening, involving them in decisions and putting them first at all times. A poor bedside manner, as we shall see shortly, can have highly undesirable consequences for some doctors.

Our state of mind, although often invisible to us, has a far bigger impact upon people than we may imagine.

Why doctors get sued

In the US they found that the risk of a doctor being sued for malpractice has little to do with the mistakes they make. What they found was that in malpractice cases it was because of poor medical care and the fact that the patient did not like the way they had been treated by the doctor. In the book ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell it quotes Alice Burkin, a leading medical malpractice lawyer as saying “In all the years I’ve been in this business, I’ve never had a potential client walk in and say, ‘I really like this doctor, and I feel terrible about doing it, but I want to sue him’.

A remarkable finding

A research project was conducted by psychologist Nalini Ambady to try to ascertain the differences between doctors that got sued and those that had never been sued. Using recordings of doctor/patient conversations they found that it could be predicted which doctors got sued and those that did not based entirely upon the doctors tone of voice.

The surgeons who got sued used a dominant tone of voice. They talked down to their patients. The surgeons who did not get sued used a tone of voice that was respectful, showed more concern and was less dominant. In other words, the feeling state of the doctor, rather than the content of what was being said, was the critical factor.

Your bedside manner as a financial professional

For doctors a bedside manner is clearly very important. But talking about finances and what the future might hold are also subjects that can bring up a lot of apprehension, unease and insecure thinking in people. Therefore, to help your clients in the highest and best way possible you need to be able to guide them into a healthy state of mind, clear thinking and feeling at ease.

The emotional environment that you create in your client interactions is the most significant factor in determining the quality of the relationships you build and how much influence you can have with your clients. Although clearly a vital aspect of the advice you give your technical ability bears no correlation whatsoever with the emotional environment you create. In fact, advisers who lead with their technical ability will often be contaminating the emotional environment for the same reasons that patients do not like doctors that talk down to them.

Your state of mind can be your greatest asset or your biggest liability

The purpose of using the example of doctors who get sued is not to convey the message ‘be nice to people and you are unlikely to get sued’. It is to demonstrate how a practitioner’s state of mind can negatively impact a patient. More importantly, the polarity is also true. Doctors who are in a healthy, present and caring state of mind have a powerful, positive impact with their patients because they are deeply trusted and, therefore, have more influence.

As a financial professional the quality of the relationship you build is the ‘lubricant’ to doing high-impact financial planning.

To this end, it is your level of mental clarity that sets the tone of your client interactions. When you have a high level of mental clarity then deep rapport, trust and credibility are a natural by-product rather than something that requires any effort on your part. You will easily build warm, strong and meaningful relationships when you bring a healthy state of mind to them. Simply knowing what you are talking about from a technical viewpoint is not sufficient. What clients respond to most is how responsive you are to them and where they are at. When clients feel a genuine human connection with you then they will listen to you and treat you and your advice with deep respect.

Qualified financial planner – but holding back?

broken-chain

Just recently I had lunch with an adviser friend of mine and he revealed to me that despite becoming a certified financial planner five years ago, regularly attending meetings and events for planners and wanting to only offer a financial planning service he is not actually doing it. He said that he was still only doing product based transactional business the same way he always had for fifteen plus years.

Of course, this is his choice but it seems a shame that he has invested a great deal in making the change but is letting it to go to waste. After all, no one is actually benefiting from his inertia, not least his clients.

The reason for this article is that I suspect that he is not alone. My guess is that although there are obviously are many practitioners doing financial planning there are also many, like my friend, who have all the qualifications but are holding back and staying with what they know.

Our desire to stay with what is familiar is often a powerful force and the primary reason that we avoid change; even changes we want to make. We make up thinking about the future – about failure, looking bad, negative reactions from clients or even success and we then take the resultant insecure feelings as a sign to stop.

However, if making a shift to having deeper conversations with your clients is something you would like to do then the following points may help.

1. Enjoy the unknown; don’t be afraid of it.

Many clients won’t have clearly defined goals or a life planned out before they speak to you and if you expect them to have all the answers ready and waiting for you then you are already on the wrong foot.

Therefore, you have to be willing to explore the unknown along with your client and go on the journey of discovery together.

This is not an intellectual process and to treat it as such will only yield poor results. A client must be emotionally engaged, in a clear state of mind and reflective. All this requires is for you to be present, curious and willing to listen.

2. Commit to finding out what really matters to your clients

Why do some advisers seem to believe that clients are more interested in pensions, investments or insurance than they are in what really matters to them in life?

A while back I wrote a book called ‘The client-centred financial adviser’. It was a very time consuming project and I had to intensely focus on this for a few months to get it done. During this time I had friends and people I know ask what I was up to and I usually said something along the lines of “I’m writing a book for financial advisers about how to really engage their clients, find out what really matters to them and help them plan their finances to achieve it.” Pretty much every time the reply was some version of “Isn’t that what they are supposed to do?”

3. Listen with nothing on your mind

Imagine being in a meeting with someone and every few seconds they leave the room only to return a few seconds later and this goes in constantly throughout the meeting. What would you think? Bizarre behaviour, right?

This is how most people listen. They pay attention to someone but then they (metaphorically) leave the room because they start to pay attention to their own thinking about what someone is saying. They may be judging, evaluating, seeing what they agree or disagree with or jumping to premature conclusions.

If you listen through the filters of your own personal thinking you relinquish the opportunity to really understand and connect with someone at a level that can really impact them (and you). It also means that your communication can easily become misaligned because you were in two conversations at once – the one with the client and the one in your own mind.

4. You do not need to convince clients

A financial planning firm I work with are excellent at emotionally engaging new clients in the discovery process but had also noticed that some clients seemed to switch off.

There was one particular part of their process that was at the root of the problem. It was when they took clients through a Power Point presentation about themselves, their process and what financial planning can do.

Imagine that you were in a very clear, reflective and insightful state of mind and then were suddenly forced to take in lots of information, speed up your thinking and make evaluations of data. This is very disengaging for a lot of people and does not make them feel good.

As soon as they stopped doing the presentation they immediately found that their engagement rate went up and this also gave them the confidence to significantly increase their financial planning fee.

5. Insecure feelings are a sign to continue, not stop

If there is something you want to do but feel uncertain about it, this is not a sign to stop. It is completely the opposite. It is a sign to stay in the game.

When faced with uncertainty we can often find our minds revving up with lots of extra thinking, but this is a temporary condition of the mind that has nothing whatsoever to do with the situation. If we keep stopping because we feel insecure our goals just keep getting pushed further and further out into the future.

Being is the new doing

being-is-the-new-doing

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Albert Einstein

In this wonderful age of information, gadgetry and technology you might imagine that we would all be exceptionally productive and, importantly, happy and satisfied with what we get done.

But is this really the case? There is no doubt that we seem to value busyness but this is far from the same as being productive in the sense of doing what really matters and constitutes real progress.

So, if we are not as productive as we would like to be then why would this be?

Thought leader Linda Stone coined a term ‘Continuous partial attention’ for a condition that seems endemic in society these days. She points out that rather than multi-tasking in an effective way many of us are driven by an underlying bit it often results in overwhelm, under-performance and a lack of fulfilment.

A good example is the way we use social media. Instead of a tool we consciously use to make our lives better we become slaves to our gadgets. A recent survey (by Android app, Locket) revealed that the average user checks their phone 110 times per day and 25% of users actively use their handsets between 3am and 5am each day!

The quality of our attention is everything

Author Timothy Gallwey (in the ‘The Inner game of work’) used a useful formula in relation to realising our full potential, which is as follows:

Performance = Potential – Interference

Your performance and, therefore, your results will always be defined by your pure potential minus interference. Interference can be defined as unhelpful thinking that results in states such as stress, tension, partial attention, procrastination and preoccupation.

In the business world the most common approach to performance improvement is that people try to change their behaviour – a strategy that is often doomed to failure for one very important reason. Behavioural change does not eliminate interference. In fact, interference gets in the way of sustainable behavioural change because trying to do anything successfully will always be compromised by unhelpful thinking.

Do you take into account the quality of attention that you bring to what you do during your working day? 

How useful would it be useful to operate from a feeling of complete presence with what you are doing? 

I think the truth is that we rarely consider and are often unaware of the state of mind in which we bring to something – instead we focus on just doing, doing, doing in the belief that pushing harder and harder is the best path to better results. I find that a surprising number of people believe having a busy mind is actually an asset rather than a liability! So, one of the challenges that we might face is even recognising that our state of mind is a relevant factor in our performance.

Life does not work the way we think it does

The reason that so many people have too much on their minds is because they are in the misunderstanding that their feelings are caused by their circumstances. If we think that something outside of us has the power to determine how we feel then it creates an enormous amount of insecurity in people.

The fact is that we cannot feel our circumstances directly. We feel our thinking about our circumstances – in other words we live in the feeling of our thinking, not our circumstances.

This may not sound much but it is probably the most important thing that we will ever realise. I have found that both for myself and my clients that understanding that circumstances have no power over us whatsoever is life-changing because it takes an enormous amount of unnecessary thinking off people’s minds. The result of this is that our mind is clear to bring our very best to whatever we are doing.

Where would you like to make significant improvement?

Now imagine an area where you would like to experience better results. This could be in client meetings, engaging new clients or making faster progress with developing your business. Now ask yourself:

How much difference would it make if I had a completely clear mind?

A clear mind is the foundation of upping our game, whatever we are doing. The problem is that it is a far less obvious factor than what we can see – like our behaviour. However, after coaching behaviour changes for a number of years I could not help but notice that changes did not always stick and people regressed. When I began to factor in people’s thinking and share the understanding of state of mind I noticed a significant improvement in results. Over time the difference between these two approaches has proved to be incomparable and left me to conclude that our way of being (our quality of mind in the moment) is, by far, our ultimate leverage point for better results.

The real problem with fee charging (and it is never about the money)

i-am-not-for-sale-2

Fees and fee charging are now a fact of life for financial professionals and yet it seems to be an area that creates far more challenges than is necessary.

Common questions that come up for advisers are:

What to charge for?
What to actually charge?
How to charge?
When to ask for the money?
How to ask for the money?
How to raise fees?

Have any of these questions ever seemed like a challenge to you? I think for all of us who charge fees they have at some time or another, so you are definitely not alone.

Arriving at your fee

There are all sorts of solutions around from experts in this area. One example is the formulaic approach, which I am sure many people are familiar with. The idea is to work out how much you want to earn, how much time you want to work, what your costs are, and factor in whatever else seems relevant. The result is some kind of rate that then becomes your fee. All very logical.

Probably the most common way of all that advisers set fees is simply to look at the market and see what others are doing. From here they either charge less (for a ‘competitive’ fee), the same (because it seems to be the going rate) or more (because they offer a ‘premium service’).

However, these kind of logic based approaches often do not help people because if an adviser experiences uncertainty, self-doubt or insecurity around fees and fee charging then it will continue to be an area that seems full of difficulties.

Look inside, not outside

When we feel uncertain the solution is not in looking outside of ourselves at what others are doing because this tends to create even more insecurity because, inadvertently, we are reinforcing the idea that we are not able to come up with our own answers.

The fact is that every adviser and firm has a fee level that is uniquely right for them, their business and their clients. But it has to come from you, not someone else. This is not to say that applying a formula or any other system is wrong but it all has to do with the feeling you are coming from. Decisions made from a place of fear and uncertainly are rarely the right ones.

Asking for your fee

The reason it seems difficult for people to ask for their fee is because they have a ton of unnecessary thinking around it. For example, they feel uncomfortable asking for money, they don’t see the value in what they do, they worry about how the client will react, whether they will go ahead, they fear rejection, they feel needy… and so on.

The problem with this is that clients will often pick up on this and it invites problems. Wouldn’t it raise your suspicions if you could sense that someone was uncomfortable with the fee they are asking for their services?

Being comfortable with your fee means that when you communicate it, it is no different than if you were sharing any other piece of factual information, such as your name, e-mail address or phone number.

It is important to note that even if you are completely comfortable with your fee this does not mean to say the client will be! They may have expectations that are totally misaligned with the reality. However, if this is the case then the last thing you want is for their insecurity around money to cause you to get defensive because the only way from here is down.

Raising your fee

Only this week I asked someone why they did not charge a higher fee and she replied that other local practitioners are charging a certain amount and she wanted to be in line with this.

This is fine if you are happy to reduce what you do to a commodity and take on clients who are shopping around based on fees and charges. But, as you may have already discovered, clients who choose an adviser based primarily of fees often make poor clients because they have a transactional mentality.

In Alan Weiss’s book ‘Million dollar consulting’ he wrote: The secrets of receiving high fees are:

Base fees on the client’s perceived value of your assistance
Ask for them

Asking for more money for the same service is hardly an enticing proposition for a client, is it? So, the key to successfully raising your fees is to make a bigger difference. When you deeply invest in finding out what really matters to your client, help them live a better life, open up possibilities where before there were none, dissolve their fears and constantly exceed their expectations, then people are usually happy and willing to pay more.

Finally, be prepared to walk away from business that does not fit your criteria and clients that cause negative issues. Taking on or keeping business just for the money is soul destroying; it is sending yourself the message that you live in a world of lack and must grab every opportunity. You do not need any one person’s business and it will work wonders for you and your business to only take on clients who love you, love what you do and who do not quibble about fees.