Having transitioned from life as a captive agent (representing one company) to that of an independent advisor, I was looking forward to things becoming easier. After all, with more companies and products from which to choose, I would have something for everyone. I hung out my shingle, ditched the tie and opened the doors wide for the onslaught of new clients.

And then…crickets.

It quickly became apparent that having more choices wasn’t what prospective clients valued most. In fact, industry studies have revealed that product choice isn’t even in the top five things prospects desire. If not product choice, then what do they look for? What do those seeking financial security really want? More than anything, people seek clarity in their relationships with their financial advisors.

You may ask yourself “What does it mean to have clarity in a relationship?” It’s interesting to note that the majority of surveys and studies cite the reason most people leave their advisors is a lack of communication. Fair enough. The natural response would be to call or write more often, right? Not necessarily. Without clarity of purpose, what is actually happening during all this added communication?

“Hey, Mary, how are you?”

“Great, thanks.”

“Super, I was just calling to check in. Uh…talk to you soon. Bye.”

You may say this is an absurd example, but is it really? Without specific communication objectives, aren’t we really just going through the motions to generate touches for touches’ sake? Consider what making a connection with clarity might look like.

“Hey, Mary, how are you?”

“Great, thanks.”

“Mary, is this a good time to discuss the performance of the discretionary portion of your essential-versus-discretionary retirement income plan?”

This is not mere “checking in” but a valuable discussion of a clearly defined planning strategy. It’s a conversation made valuable to (and appreciated by) the client because it’s built on a real plan. And it’s the plan that’s so often missing in advisor-client communications. Too often, advisors are simply selling products rather than implementing planning strategies with predetermined and verifiable results.

The more clearly we communicate, the more our communications are appreciated. Your clients can get their financial products from anywhere. True clarity, however, is something of real value, that, when achieved, can change clients’ lives in profound ways. That’s the ultimate sustainable competitive advantage for advisors and something worth talking about.

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Adam Cufr, RICP®, is a founding principal of Fourth Dimension Financial Group, LLC. He is an advisor, a sought-after financial commentator, and the author of “Off the Record – Secrets to Building a Successful Retirement and a Lasting Legacy.” To learn more, go to www.OfftheRecordRetirement.com.