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Behind the mask: Professional or phony?

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It’s October and my thoughts have been forced to turn to masks, identity and truth — pretty heavy stuff. But I’ve also been thinking about what Rodney Dangerfield, the comic philosopher, once said about the holiday: “On Halloween, parents send their kids out looking like me.”

Even scarier is the fact that parents don Halloween attire that on any other day would get them arrested, at best, or committed to a mental institution, at worst. Or the fact that parents let their kids go out at night cloaked as witches, demons or zombies from “Night of the Living Dead.” And give them permission to extort treats with threats of mayhem.

OK, I know I’m being a spoilsport. But, honestly, everything about “All Hallow’s Eve” is just plain wrong — a quick Google search reinforces my claim. But all this leads me to think on another level: I wonder what Halloween says about the human desire to assume fake identities. Do people expect allowances from others if they’re masquerading as someone else? Do they get more “treats” if they do things that normally lead to “tricks”?

People wear masks in our business, too. Advisors dress a certain way in order to impress prospects. They furnish their offices just so to make a certain point. They put certain letters after their names and put up certain types of websites that convey the right message. (“I’m competent AND trustworthy!”)

I don’t begrudge advisors their masks. But I want them to understand success doesn’t only hinge on making impressions. It depends on advisors doing the hard work of becoming a true professional.

It saddens me when I see them earning sham credentials or putting their names on a ghostwritten book when they could be taking legitimate steps to improve themselves and promote their business.

So here’s the deal: Masks that purport to convey professionalism only communicate phoniness. A 350-pound lumberjack in a Tinker Bell costume is still a lumberjack. Better approach: Lose the mask and become a true professional instead. Here are a few timeless pointers.

  1. Study hard. You really need to know your stuff in this business.
  2. Serve your clients’ best interest. Always sit on the same side of the table with your clients.
  3. Uncover their true needs and risk profile. This helps you make suitable recommendations.
  4. Treat clients as people. If you follow the Golden Rule, you never go wrong.

Because, at the end of the day, you don’t want clients thinking you’re Rodney Dangerfield. You’ll get no respect. You want them to recognize the hard-working professional — you — behind the mask.


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