Recently I had the misfortune of cracking a tooth, requiring my first (and hopefully last) root canal procedure. In considerable pain, I drove to the endodontist’s office (seriously, I didn’t know there was such a thing as an “endodontist”) and in less than 20 minutes the pain was gone. I then walked to the receptionist’s desk and wrote a check for $1,000. 

Walking out, I realized I never gave the doctor’s fee a second thought. It never even occurred to me to ask what it would cost before he got started.

Heck, I would have paid five times that amount without blinking. I was in serious pain and wanted someone to alleviate it. I had no desire to ask any questions or even seek a second opinion. I just wanted the pain to end.

For most doctors, this is the typical patient-client experience. The patient has discomfort and wants to alleviate it … as fast as possible. 

It may seem obvious, but doctors work only with people who have problems. With the exception of the annual wellness visit, few people see a doctor unless they really need to. Can you imagine what would go through a doctor’s mind if a new patient said, “Doc, I feel great, and my regular doctor, who I love, just gave me a client bill of health. But I’d like a second opinion. I’m interested in seeing what you do and would like to get some of your ideas.”

Absurd, and yet, that’s the world of so many financial advisors. In fact, some even market the idea of getting a second opinion.

Patients need doctors for the products and services they provide. There is no other way to obtain them. But for us, those days have passed. We are not needed for people to acquire any financial products. Whether you want to accept it or not, your clients can obtain any product or service you offer through their smartphone. It is not in their best interest to engage a financial advisor simply to buy product. 

There must a stronger reason — a higher purpose. 

Like a doctor’s patient, your ideal prospect is in pain. And you should offer your services only to ideal prospects.

Accepting a client based on products features and portfolio returns alone puts the advisor in an incredibly vulnerable position. The products better perform immediately and consistently, otherwise the client will quickly shop around and leave.

Think back to the last client you lost. Remember the first meeting with them? Why did they engage you? Was it because you had a great idea, or because they expressed anxiety about their money and wanted you to alleviate it? Most of the time, clients who leave never had strong anxiety about their money. Or if they did, the advisor did a very poor job alleviating it. 

I often hear advisors blame the client. “They just don’t get it. They don’t come to my workshops. They don’t understand markets can’t be timed.”

Sadly, the opposite is true. It’s the advisor who doesn’t get it. Like a bad doctor, he prescribed a solution to someone who had no illness. 

Your best clients rarely leave because the market is down. In fact, they find comfort in your advice when their net worth is declining. They see you as the one who will get them through it. They aren’t into details. They simply want reassurance. Just like a patient in pain. Think back to the first meeting you had with your best clients. What did they tell you?

Here’s what I hear from my best clients at their first meeting:

  • I’m worried I could outlive my money.
  • I don’t sleep well at night because I worry the market might crash again.
  • I don’t want to be a Walmart greeter when I’m 80.
  • My finances cause me occasional worry.
  • I have little confidence in my financial decisions.
  • I have a tendency to procrastinate important financial decisions.

Think like a doctor. Accept only clients with real, emotion-based issues like these. Ask questions that reveal them. If someone comes to you for a second opinion, be dubious. If they like their current advisor, they probably aren’t seriously thinking of hiring you. Sure, they’ll pick your brain if you let them. Especially if you let them for free. But more likely than not, the meeting will end with those dreaded words, “I’ll get back to you.” 

Doctors don’t hear those words. Neither should you.