For many years there an idea has persisted that advisors need to find ways to add value to their relationships with clients to differentiate themselves from the competition. In this post, we'll approach the subject from a slightly different perspective and examine what an advisor really needs to do to increase their worth in the eyes of clients.
I recently met with a wonderful woman who was referred to me by one of my clients. Many years ago I would have given a great deal of thought on what to bring to my initial meeting with her, which questions to ask, what information I would share. All of this would be for the express purpose of getting the prospective client to hire me.
This time I decided to take a different approach; all I brought to the meeting was a legal pad and a pen.
My premise was simply to ask questions and listen. In other words, I would let the conversation take its natural course and see where it led. Neither desperate nor passive, I did not want to give the impression that I was too eager but neither did I want her to feel I was uninterested.
The meeting went extremely well.
Here's my point. As an investment advisor with my own RIA firm, I am in the advice business. I am not in the business of trying to sell a product. Since I am in the business of rendering advice and solving problems, there is a clear process which must be followed.
The process is to ask questions, listen closely to the answers, then determine the best course of action to help the client.
Even though this may sound simple, it is actually quite complex. To clarify, I think one of the biggest mistakes an advisor can make is to try and impress the prospective client. In other words, we often begin touting our intelligence in the areas of portfolio management, financial planning, etc. Of course the client needs to understand our level of competence, but that's not the primary goal, which should be to listen, understand and demonstrate that we care and are able to help. We must first understand the client's problem which cannot be accomplished by trying to impress them with how much we know.
As the Dale Carnegie course teaches, the sweetest sound to a person's ear is the sound of their name, and the most important topic of discussion is them and the issues they face. Therefore, we must align ourselves with the client and view ourselves as a problem solver not as someone trying to sell a product. Therefore, by showing more empathy, we convey to our clients that they are not a transaction. Rather, they are individuals who deserve to be treated with respect by an advisor who will truly put their interests first.
Thanks for reading and have a great week!