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.