Bill Pope takes a long-term approach to planning that addresses not just the needs of his own clients, but also the needs of his clients’ families. It’s a strategy that requires great attention to detail and a solid sense of prioritization. And, with the growing number of baby boomers nearing retirement, his services are in high demand.

 “The baby boomers are really the ‘sandwich generation,’” Bill explains. “Their parents are living longer and usually need help with care or finances. The young adult children are many times needing assistance with tuition, or help in getting launched into their careers as well. I try to assist the boomer with prioritizing the long list of needs — they have to help themselves first, then their parents and finally their offspring.”

Read on for Bill’s five keys to identifying how to best help clients — and why gaining their trust is an important part of the process.

See also: Bill Pope on Selling LTCI

1. Ask the right questions.

You can’t be a good listener without first asking good questions. Pope finds the Q&A process essential to developing the right plan for each client. This time spent getting to know the client also builds a relationship that has deep roots.

“An advisor seeks first to understand the goals of the client,” he says. “I ask a lot of questions upfront and collect the information in order to formulate a plan. Each time a recommendation is made it refers back to the plan and is presented in the context of a helping relationship rather than a transaction.”

2. Help set sustainable goals.

Identifying achievable goals that can last for the long haul is how an advisor really demonstrates value. When Pope set out to become a planner, his mission was simple: Study each client’s overall financial plan and map that against their retirement goals to find something sustainable. It’s worked for him time and time again. Setting realistic, tailored targets helps clients realize that he is dedicated to helping them achieve their dreams.

3. Speak the client’s language.

Before he was an advisor, Pope was a pastor, and he always recognized in himself an ability to study and present a message in clear language. This skill has proven essential for connecting with clients and making them feel comfortable, particularly when he’s faced with “trying to unravel the complexities of communicating some of the features of life insurance or disability, or long-term care. There are so many moving parts to some of these products that people just get confused.”

From his early days as an advisor, Pope was determined that he would find a clear message for his clients. “I was not going to use financial words or terms that people didn’t know about; I was going to talk in plain English when I was discussing these products with the clients.”

4. Be holistic in your approach.

Pope has always believed the big picture to be important. As a pastor, his parishioners would come in and talk to him about family or marriage, or issues of faith, but eventually they would get around to all facets of their life, including finances. Now, he says, the entry point of the conversation begins with finances, but they end up talking about their faith and family. “It’s just a different starting point but we get to the same place.”

 

5. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

From the start of his financial career, Pope saw a niche that fit his unique skill set, something that would set him apart from other advisors. He saw that many of the advisors he spoke to were not comfortable talking about long-term care. He found that people were a little intimidated or uncomfortable with the topic because eventually the conversation led to nursing homes.

“Because of my experience as a pastor, of being in nursing homes on a regular basis and visiting them, I didn’t have that resistance.” Soon, Pope became the go-to guy when a long-term care case surfaced. Other agents would call him into an existing account and have Pope come in to close the health aspect of the deal and they would split the commissions.

Regarding long-term care planning, Pope says: “I try to guide clients into choices with maximum flexibility. They need to secure the health plans now that have the most advantages. They can always scale down.”

For sales & marketing tips from other top advisors, see SMA’s 2012 Advisor of the Year Finalists.