The Client-centred adviser blog shares materials on the ultimate source of potential, performance and what is at the very core of being Client-centred.
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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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.