C2 Planning: Client-Centered Planning
Change is under way in the financial planning and financial services profession. Financial products and strategies, once the focal point of client discussions, are increasingly supporting purpose-driven planningthat is, helping clients plan for and create the life of their dreams.
What does it mean to achieve ones life purpose? First, it means that clients must have the opportunity to define their life vision and purpose and to prioritize goals in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
Advisors can help them in this task by learning to ask profound questions. These questions are: (1) client-centered (not geared to sell); (2) open-ended (neither a “yes” nor “no” is required of the client); and (3) contain an emotional, psychological and spiritual dimension from which the client will thoughtfully share his or her answers.
Here are some examples of profound questions:
o What is the purpose of money in your life?
o Is money an excuse for doing something in your life?
o Is money an excuse for not doing something?
o What are the highest uses of your time or talent?
o What lessons have you learned from having money?
o What lessons have you learned from not having it?
o What are your familys assets?
o Where do you want your family to be in 50 years?
o What are the universal principles that will hold your family together?
Client-centered planning invites us to shift the way we conduct ourselves in our professional life. We make this transition first by understanding where we have been and where we are going.
Now lets compare the processes associated with traditional financial planning and values-based life planning. (See chart 1.)
Now that we understand where we are going, how do we get there? First of all, as the advisor, we need to learn a new set of skills, which include:
o Listening with the third ear (the ear between the h and the t in heart). Listening with heart means listening without an agenda to fix, sell or change something for the client. Your sole purpose is to step into the clients world and to connect with him or her.
o Inviting the entire person into the planning process. We need to reach both hemispheres of the clients brain and to include the 5 dimensions of peoplethe financial, emotional, psychological and spiritual dimensions, in addition to the physicalin our client discussions.
o Conducting a values-based conversation. Consider the language differences in chart 2 and then note the changes in the process in chart 3.
Now lets consider 2 parts of the process clients use when selecting advisors: screening and selecting. The first is rational and analytical; the second is emotional and personal.
During screening, the client asks, “Can the advisor do it?” You address this question primarily through your marketing program: Web sites, brochures, seminars etc.
During selection, the client asks, “Can I work with the advisor?” You typically address this question face to face.
During the selection process, we often fall into an “expertise trap” that overemphasizes our expertise. We do this because we:
o erroneously believe this is what the client wants;
o are very comfortable with the topic; and
o have a vested interest in selling our expertise.