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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.