Financial Planning > Charitable Giving

How Advisors Can Lure Wealthy Prospects Away From Rivals

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

In the “red ocean” of fierce competition, it’s “the great white shark who rules.” So says sales guru Anthony Iannarino, who, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor, reveals how to be “a dangerous competitor.” Financial advisors must always keep that mindset, he argues.

Author of the bestseller “The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need,” Iannarino’s new book title tells it all: “Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition” (Portfolio/Penguin Random House-Nov. 2018).

The advisor who creates a “strategic level of value” — becoming their clients’ “second brain” — and who makes a compelling case for prospects to take different action, is “very dangerous.” That FA will generally win clients away from competitors, Iannarino says.

In “Eat Their Lunch,” the sales-team leader-consultant-coach-trainer, whose daily blog, The Sales Blog, draws more than 50,000 visitors monthly, provides strategies to displace the competition — “Become your client’s second brain” — and protect one’s own lunch from being devoured: “Build an impenetrable wall of fire” around your best clients.

His approach to competitor displacement is neither nasty nor cutthroat. In fact, he advises telling prospects nice things about competitors as a way to start describing how your approach to managing assets differs.

ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Iannarino, on the phone from his Columbus, Ohio, office.  Among other topics, the international speaker who presents to a variety of industries, including financial services, shed light on “integral theory,” a discovery process that, in part, assigns colors to folks based on their values. Most FAs’ high-net-worth clients are likely to be in the deep-orange group, though be mindful, he says, that a definite attitudinal shift is underway to green.

Here are excerpts from our interview:

THINKADVISOR: What would make a financial advisor a “dangerous competitor”?

ANTHONY IANNARINO: Not the product, the service or their company. What the client needs are strategic outcomes. And whoever can create that strategic level of value and make a compelling case for change is very dangerous — and generally will win clients away from their competition.

Is trying to win clients away from the competition an attitude advisors should have all the time?

All the people advisors want as clients who have a high net worth belong to somebody else. If you think competitors aren’t trying to steal your clients away from you, you may be delusional or confused. You have to face that reality.

So should an advisor be ruthless in trying to win other FAs’ clients?

Most of us live in the “red ocean” [as written in “Blue Ocean Strategy” books by Kim and Mauborgne], which is signified by ferocious competition and a lot of blood in the water. That’s opposed to the “blue ocean,” where you have no competitors. In the “red ocean,” you don’t have to be unfair or behave badly; but you do have to go out and get clients who aren’t being served well enough by your competitors.

Why is it wrong to bad-mouth your competition to prospects, as you write?

It makes them think you’re weak, that you can’t create greater value, that you’re trying to shrink your competitors instead of creating value. When you point the bony finger of indignation at them and say, “Their model is wrong” or “They don’t do this or that,” you’re causing the prospect to believe you’re not creating value — that you’re just trying to take down your competitor.

What should advisors say about their competitors, if anything?

The right thing to do is compliment them and say, for instance, “JPMorgan Chase [or whatever firm] does really good work. In some areas, we have wildly different ideas about how you should be investing right now and thinking about longer term goals. I’d love to share with you some of the things that make us different.” That lets you start differentiating your offering.

Why are advisors sometimes their own worst enemies?

One thing is that they’re in a rush. They skip the process that allows the buyer to come to good decisions. The advisor is thinking: “I can give you a proposal so I can ask you for your business so you can transfer the money.” But prospects need more time. When they speed up, they disconnect from the prospect. [Advisors and others in sales] worry too much about making the sale and not enough about helping clients get to the point where it’s easy for them to say yes.

Please discuss the concept that the client is buying you — that you are in fact the value proposition.

The point is not that you work for JPMorgan, say, or that your business has been around for a long time or that you have this or that investment vehicle. When you talk about those things, you’re deflecting the client from deciding whether you’re the best person to do the work — the one they trust to help make decisions about their future. That makes you the value proposition because you are the trusted advisor.

Just what constitutes being a trusted advisor?

That you have clients’ best interest at heart: You’re going to tell them the truth even if they don’t like it. You may have to say: “Your goals are out of line with the financial decisions you’re making today. So we need to either change the goals or change the decisions.” The trust comes from being other-oriented, not being self-oriented.

What does being truly consultative entail?

You tell clients what they need to do, what they need to change, how they need to change, what’s coming in the future. You’re helping them make decisions to create a better future. Many financial advisors leave too much for their clients to decide, when instead, they’re supposed to be giving them the best advice and helping to push them in the right direction.

Why is it important to develop a theme or a strong point of view?

You need people to understand, “Wait — there’s something coming that I need to get my mind around so I can start making changes to do better in the future.” It could be a theme like, “Preparing for an Uncertain Future With Greater Health Care Costs.”

You are your “dream client’s” second brain, you write. How does that idea play out concerning FAs?

Everybody who has to acquire and serve clients needs to do their thinking for them — to tell them what comes next and see into the future. As a financial planner, you have to be way ahead of them in knowledge and show them the choices. When somebody depends on you to be their second brain, you have really high “mindshare,” which allows you to produce the best results for that individual.

What’s “mindshare”?

It’s changing the lens through which the client views their problem. The person who controls the lens controls the way the client perceives the problem and is the best one to answer the question, “Why do I have to change and do something different right now?”

How do FAs prevent their “dream clients” from contemplating competitors’ big ideas and displacing them as the advisor?

That’s the tough part for a lot of us. It means that you have to continually come up with new ideas — keep coming back with greater and greater value over time. For instance, you can’t let a competitor tell your client that you’re not up on the latest trends that will impact them. So you have to protect [yourself] by always being a value creator.

Is that what you mean by “building an impenetrable wall of fire around your dream clients”?

Yes. Deepen the relationship and continue to create new value.

Asking prospects to tell you about their pain doesn’t work well nowadays, you write. Why not?

For 40 years, when you asked people, “What’s keeping you up at night”? they were supposed to disclose their dissatisfaction or pain. But now, they’re put off by your showing up without anything to say except to ask, “What’s keeping you up at night?”

But how do you get prospects to disclose what’s troubling them so you can recommend a solution?

What’s changed most in the world of sales is that now you have to say, “This is what should be keeping you up at night. And if you haven’t started to make these adjustments and think more about what health care is going to cost you [for example], you’re going to have pain in the future.” You, the advisor, are supposed to be the expert and know why clients need to change.

Please talk about “integral theory,” a new form of discovery developed by psychology writer Ken Wilber. In your book, you explain, for example, that different colors describe people’s values.

Most advisors are probably working with people who are deeply orange — self-empowered, growth-oriented. They’re achievement-oriented and concerned with how to grow a business. But a lot of people have now moved into green, especially those with financial means. They’re sensitive egalitarians, all about caring and community. They’re concerned with the legacy they leave as it pertains to the environment and social causes.

How does knowing all that help FAs?

The [green] group will want to invest in companies that are carbon-neutral and don’t demonstrate racial or gender bias. Integral theory gives you a clearer lens to look at people’s value systems and what they’re most interested in — and how you can help them get those things.

Why is it important for advisors to develop empathy?

Empathy means you can walk a mile in my shoes. But I like [to suggest] the concept of compassion even more. It means you recognize that my shoes are two sizes two small — and can you get me some shoes that fit?

Why do you prefer that notion? It’s a more action-oriented endeavor. For advisors, when you see people doing things that hurt them, you’re obligated to try to help them do something different so they don’t hurt themselves again.

The competitive advantage will go not to those whose business pivots on technology but to people who invest in human relationships to serve others, you write. Please elaborate.

When everybody zigs, you should zag. Right now, everybody is trying to figure out how to make everything an electronic transaction with no human interaction. is super-transactional. The more things become transactional, the more that relationships need to be special — someone there to care about you and serve you.

But employing computers is efficient and cost-cutting for companies.

When people want the best advice they can get, they might look at a computer to try to get data. But wisdom doesn’t come from information. Wisdom is based on experience and knowing how to make tradeoffs. That only comes from human beings.

— Related on ThinkAdvisor: