From the September 2003 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Second That Emotion

All the graphs in the world will never be as powerful as an emotional connection with a client. Offering to help clients achieve their dreams is a great first link

In his new book, Authentic Happiness, Dr. Martin Seligman, past president of the American Psychological Association, notes that happiness is the only human endeavor that is an end in itself. Once human beings meet their survival needs, they turn their energies to the pursuit of happiness. Everything they strive for has only one goal--to put them in the positive emotional states of happiness, contentment, and fulfillment.

Behavioral psychologists have discovered that to get people to take action, you must connect with the right side of their brain, where dreams, intuition, and emotions--such as happiness--reside. The left side of the brain, where logic and linear thinking reside, is actually the brake on human behavior. If you have ever heard a prospect say, "You've given me a lot of great information. Now I need to go home and think about it," you already know the typical results of connecting with the left side of the brain. That's why traditional, information-based marketing and sales techniques require so much effort. But there is an easier way to attract great clients.

A Currency More Valuable Than Money

Some clients believe that happiness is a much more valuable currency than money. So, instead of providing left-brain information in your marketing and sales processes, you need a way to help people discover what they really want from their money and their lives, and then give them processes to help them achieve it.

With this approach, instead of resisting you, prospects will actually help you. They will want to become your clients because you will have the key to what they want more of. And once these prospects become satisfied clients, they will be inspired to introduce you to their family friends and associates so you can help them as well.

Waddaya Want?

The challenge is that most people (including most financial advisors) don't know what will make them feel happy and fulfilled. So, they chase money instead, hoping that if they get enough of it, they will magically become happy. Unfortunately, that strategy never works.

That's where the exciting new science of happiness, called positive psychology, can play a major role in the success of your business. Researchers have discovered that getting rich will not make you happy. However, getting in touch with your authentic self and your vision of an ideal future, and then aligning your life with your vision, will make you happy.

The tragedy of September 11th and the general economic slowdown have stirred many baby boomers to re-evaluate their financial advisors, their priorities, and their lives. Prudent investors are no longer responding to the old, product-centered, performance-promising marketing and sales techniques that worked in the roaring bull market. Many wealthy clients are wary of traditional financial advisors, and they want something more than just money management and financial advice. They are looking for something that is centered around their goals and dreams, not around financial products.

To serve these clients, you must transform your business from selling products and services to helping people define and achieve their dreams and aspirations. This business model derives its attracting power from the motivations of your clients rather than from the persuasiveness of your arguments. Our industry is starting to refer to this new service as life planning. It's a holistic way to help investors get what they want from their money and their lives.

The great thing about life planning is it shifts the focus from just investment performance to overall life satisfaction. And don't worry: Life planning is not about deep psychoanalysis or spiritual counseling. It actually has much more in common with career counseling. It's based on asking good questions and providing empathetic listening, not on presenting or persuading the client to do one thing or another.

Building Blocks

You can start by helping your investors define and then integrate three key elements of their lives. These elements are:

o Their purpose. This includes their values and empowering beliefs.

o Their passions. These are the things that they are vitally interested and that make them feel fully engaged with life.

o Their personal strengths. These include their natural talents, learned skills, and the attitudes that make them successful.

To define their values, simply ask your clients to select four or five values from a list of values. To define their empowering beliefs, ask them, "What are some of the key tenets that you live by?" And finally, to find out what they want to be known for when they are no longer here, ask them, "What do you want your epitaph to say?"

To define their passions and interests, show them a list of activities and hobbies. Then ask them to rate each one on a scale of 1 to 5. I like to ask this question, "What lights you up and makes you feel excited about life?" Athletes call this "the zone." The scientific word for this state where you feel totally engaged with life is called "flow."

Another powerful question is, "If you only had six months to live, what would you probably do with your time?" Also, ask them what ideas or causes light them up.

Finally, you must define their personal strengths. These are the things that they do easily and well. Positive attitudes and learned skills are also strengths. The best way to define strengths is to ask them to list 10 activities or responsibilities that fit the following criteria: (1) they enjoyed doing it, (2) they were good at it, and (3) they feel good about it now. You may have them complete this assignment as homework. You can discus their answers with them during your next meeting.

Picture This

Once you clarify the three key elements of each investor's lives, the next step is to identify their ideal scenario for the future. Simply say, "Please share with me your ideal scene in each of these key areas. Don't think about what's possible right now. But rather what would be ideal at some point in the future."

1. Family, friends, other relationships

2. Career or business

3. Health fitness and sports

4. Hobbies and creative interests

5. Home, community and surroundings

6. Learning and personal growth

7. Philanthropy and volunteer work

8. Leisure and entertainment

9. Spirituality and religion

10. Travel and adventure

Ask open questions, and probe to discover suppressed dreams and aspirations. Then, armed with these images, help each investor or couple to define a positive vision of the future. This is a well-defined picture, in their mind's eye, of all these elements integrated into their life in balance and harmony. Ask them this question, "What would it look like and feel like, if you were able to live in alignment with your passions, purpose, and personal strengths, and to make your ideal scenes become real?"

Once you and your investors are clear about what they truly want from their money and their lives, tell them: "I cannot guarantee that I will beat the markets. And I cannot guarantee that I will help you make all of your dreams come true. But I can promise you that I will develop a written plan and that has the highest probability of making your dreams real. Then I will help you implement the plan over time.

"I can guarantee you that I will use my expertise and my resources to help you make smart choices and take appropriate actions to turn your dreams into reality. When you take action that is alignment with your vision of the ideal future, you will make progress towards meaningful goals, and you will surely enjoy the journey."

As you meet with your clients on a periodic basis, remind them of their passions, their purpose, their strengths, and their vision of their ideal future. Help them make appropriate financial and life choices that will empower them to integrate these three critical elements harmoniously into their lives. An example of this is a financial advisor whose clients told them that their relationship with their son was very important to them. When he asked them when they had last seen their son, the wife answered, "About four years ago." The advisor made a note of that in the clients' contact management record. Then every time he met with them, he asked, "Have you visited your son yet?"

After several meetings, the clients finally bought airline tickets and visited their son in Florida. The next time they met with their advisor, they said, "Thanks to your coaching, we finally spent the time and money to visit our son. It was one of the happiest times of our lives. Thank you so much."

It really can be that simple.

The Payoff

There are three wonderful things about this new way of interacting with clients.

First: In general, the more resources people have, the more interested they are in "self-actualization," or the fulfillment of their highest potential. This means that this service will be most effective for attracting wealthy clients.

Second: Life planning is only attractive to prudent investors, and prudent investors are the most appreciative and lowest-maintenance clients.

Third: You don't have to learn new skills or do much extra work to provide this highly valued service. You just shift the focus of the conversation from products and processes to people and payoffs.

A basic premise of marketing is that when your clients shift their thinking, you must shift your marketing and sales strategies. You can either continue beating your head against the wall selling products, services, and performance, or you can use the new science of positive psychology to transform your business and your life.

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