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The Advice Formula

This pandemic has created a window of opportunity for financial advisors to become the “go-to” person among their clients, prospects, COI and everyone in their orbit. Here's how.

Who do you go to most frequently when you need real advice?

What are the qualities this individual manifests that have positioned him/her above all others as your “go-to” person for serious issues? I’ll bet it’s a combination of qualities blended into character.

My “go-to” person was my mother (she passed 11 years ago). Regardless of how ridiculous my issue might have seemed, she always listened rather than interrupt with her advice. She would always engage me in thoughtful dialogue by asking me questions that required me to think. It wasn’t until I was a mature adult that I was able to understand she was guiding me into making a thoughtful decision. It was my decision. Her role was to subtly guide me in the process. In effect, she partnered with me in the process of making a good decision. Like most “go-to” dispensers of advice, my mother had a serious depth and breadth of knowledge, oozed empathy, and always had my best interest at heart. It wasn’t about her showcasing her knowledge, it was about me.

I’ve been fortunate to find a couple of replacements—a doctor and a financial advisor, both first-class professionals and friends. I consider myself fortunate as the “go-to” people don’t grow on trees—they’re a rare commodity. Wouldn’t it be nice if your clients, COIs, and prospects, everyone in your orbit, viewed you as their “go-to” person for “real” advice—guidance on serious issues?

Amidst all the trauma and dissension in our upside-down world of today, this pandemic has created a window of opportunity for financial advisors to become this “go-to” person within their orbits. After all, a professional financial advisor is an expert regarding the world of finances, one of the two primary issues everyone is concerned about—health and the economy. A constant topic within your affluent clients' spheres-of-influence is investments. These discussions go down various paths, usually revolving around family circumstances, which can lead to lots of questions. Many of these questions represent real issues of concern, hence the need for a “go-to” person who can provide “real” advice.

So how does one go about becoming the “go-to” person for advice? It’s one of those classic cases of simple but not easy.

I’m going to assume that you are viewed by your clients as a first-class professional and that you’ve expanded your client relationship beyond the professional world of finances to include an emotional connection. With that foundation, the following Advice Formula should help position you far ahead of most people who offer advice.

  1. Take an interest in the feelings of others—It’s easy to assume that you possess this quality and it’s on constant display. However, most people are primarily focused on themselves, their wants and needs. In coaching advisors to this quality, I’ve simply suggested they sincerely exaggerate their interest in the feelings of others: spouse, children, siblings, friends, colleagues, clients, etc. By exaggerating, I’m not suggesting that you be insincere—rather be genuinely interested!
  2. Listen closely—This is an essential quality in taking a real interest in the feelings of others. Yet, many financial advisors have developed the habit of talking too much. It’s very difficult for a person to listen while talking. As a counselor of emotionally disturbed youth early in my career, I was forced to develop this quality. And I’m continually amazed at the prescient power listening provides. Proactive listening is a discipline that can be learned, it simply requires practice. A perfect forum is when you start sincerely exaggerating your interest in the feelings of others—you practice proactive listening.
  3. Ask relevant questions—This is the secret sauce of listening closely. A relevant question signals that not only you’ve been listening, but that you're interested and want to hear more. Additional relevant follow-up questions become magical as they reinforce your sincere interest, lead to topical specific discussions, and provide more insight for the advice you might be able to offer.
  4. Share relevant stories (experiences of others with similar issues)—Stories of other people in a similar circumstance will resonate—if—you don’t attempt to sell them on the resulting solution. Instead, share the options that were discussed in the decision-making process. In this manner, you will be creating a model for finding a viable solution to their issue. Which leads you into the next step …
  5. Discuss possible options—At this stage, you’re able to build on the options discussed in your relevant story (step 4). You’re listening, asking questions, assessing in your mind which option you think is best suited for their situation, and the option they’re leaning towards.
  6. Guide them to their decision—Now your primary role as the “go-to” advisor is to prevent a bad decision. This can be a delicate process. However, in most “real” advice issues, there’s usually more than one viable option, which means that it’s not necessarily just the option you think is best suited. Rather than pushing the decision you think is best, you ask questions regarding their thoughts about all the viable options. If it’s obvious one is preferred, it’s time to guide them into making a decision. If there is uncertainty, you can subtly guide them to your favored option. If it appears they’re heading toward making a bad decision, continue asking questions. Ultimately it’s their decision, your role is to listen, and hopefully help guide them in making a good decision.

You’re probably already doing a version of this “Advice Formula”—however becoming the “go-to” person for advice is a responsibility that shouldn’t be assumed and not taken lightly. It requires time, attention to detail, an open mind, and a broad base of knowledge. That said, it’s an accelerator of positive word-of-mouth-influence and serves as a magnetic force that also accelerates client acquisition.

Matt Oechsli is author of How to Build a 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing, and Retaining Affluent

TAGS: Prospecting
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