When Jim Tewalt submitted his top sales idea to the first-annual Retirement Advisor survey, he provided a strikingly simple response: “Here’s a novel idea: think. Don’t just follow the herd, trying to find ways to make another sale. Think about how to point out and help solve problems for your clients.”
While the top financial advisors are typically judged by the amount of assets they have under management, Tewalt, CFP®, co-owner of Estate Planning Services, Inc. in Glendale, Ariz., holds himself to a different standard: He judges success by the quality of his work and doing what’s truly best for the client, even if it requires doing extra work or is not necessarily the best for his own financial gain. “Stradivarius didn’t produce a lot of violins,” Tewalt points out, “but the ones he did produce are in high demand today, because of the quality.”
“Handling a difficult appointment is a lot like riding a horse,” says Tewalt, who spends his spare time participating in western reenactments and riding his horse in parades. “Although I definitely have my own fears, the horse could easily panic and get us both hurt. I must control my fears and stay steady and focused.”
What really ropes in the referrals for Tewalt is word-of-mouth about his genuine respect for clients’ wishes. “It’s our job to bring up the problem to the client and say, ‘OK, how do you want to solve it? What’s your comfort zone here?’ And then,” and this is what Tewalt stresses is the most important part, “we help them make a good decision without putting any pressure on them.”
If he can bring his clients to their own epiphanies about a certain product, then he feels he has done his job. Here are just a handful of case studies displaying his sales idea in action.
Case study No. 1: A court case brings in more business
Several years ago, Tewalt was asked to work on a structured settlement case in which the lawyer assumed a single premium immediate annuity would be used. “As long as the insurance company gives us about 4 percent, I’m happy,” Tewalt recalls the attorney saying.
“I told the attorney I would at least look at doing a managed portfolio where you are invested for income,” Tewalt says. “We could generate 4 percent out of that without touching the principle. If we did the SPIA, the client would not get any money to speak of in terms of interest. And if they needed the cash at any point, they would have to go out on the market and fill that stream of income — and you know they’re going to take a hit if they try and do that.”
Tewalt explained to the attorney that if they used stocks that have paid dividends for long periods of time and built a portfolio with income-generating securities, then they could keep the principle while still generating about 4 percent. “That way we’ve got money coming in,” adds Tewalt, “not as much as if we were paying out the principle every month, but we would have the principle available if the client needed it.”
The attorney asked Tewalt if he would be willing to explain this advice to the judge over the phone during the court meeting. “I said I’d do even better than that,” Tewalt says. “I told him I would come with him. He put me on stand, and I told the judge everything I suggested.”
The judge approved, and after the meeting, the attorney pulled Tewalt aside to compliment him on his testimony. “’Most of the time, when I put [financial planners] on the stand, you’re all charts and graphs, and I can’t get you to shut up,’” Tewalt recalls the attorney saying. “’This was just really simple. I get about two or three cases like this on average every month. Would you like to do more?’ To which I said, ‘Heck yes.’”
“It’s just doing what’s right for the client,” Tewalt says. “I thought of it from a standpoint of ‘What would I want?’ I would want more income and I would want access to my principle. So why not do it that way?”