There is a large, gray flaw in the way some financial professionals approach their work with clients–one we should all work to improve. In many ways, it’s the elephant in the room.

Yes, your role as a financial advisor requires selling products–life insurance, long-term care insurance and annuities. But the mistake many advisors make is focusing only on the sale.

When faced with life’s transitions, clients’ expectations change. Managing investments will cause both excitement and stress. It can be easy to want to provide a quick fix when a client is looking for a solution, but a strictly sales-minded approach may create objections that then must be overcome. If your clients feel uncomfortable, any sound advice or solutions you try to offer will be rejected.

Offer comprehensive solutions: To keep the focus off the sale, offer your clients comprehensive solutions to address their individual needs. Just as the clients you work with are unique, so should your strategy be for advising them. Building a mutually-beneficial client relationship starts with the words we use and how we carry ourselves. Realize your exposure to the personal elements of their lives: their finances, emotions, worries, joys, and everything else that come with life’s progressions. Take time to listen to their needs, and keep in mind this is a private space and an honorable one in which to sit.

Protect clients’ assets: Always remember your role is to protect your clients’ assets. To do that, you can’t rely on a one-size-fits-all solution. A client-centric approach may require more time and effort upfront, but it will ultimately increase client retention and satisfaction and help your business thrive. Have your client’s best interests in mind and help them take the necessary steps to achieve their goals. Turn your sales-minded approach into one that builds long-term relationships based on trust–and keep the elephant out of the room.

*This just in: Vote on 2011′s Best Sales and Marketing Ideas!

For related articles, see:

Are you for real? Seven characteristics of a real salesperson

Sales strategy: Bring real value to your clients

The number one sales key: Listen to your clients

Philip E. Harriman, CLU, CHCF, 2007 MDRT President, is a partner with Lebel and Harriman LLP.