I was annoyed this past weekend when I ate at one of our customary spots for dinner. Our customary waiter took our customary order and at the end of the meal, he brings the bill and, as is his custom, asks me to go online to take their survey (which asks about the décor and location, but fails to ask about the things I really value). I figure, “What’s the point?”
By contrast at the very best restaurant in my area, as I’m leaving, the maître d’ never fails to ask me the key questions which isolate the two key things I value most in a restaurant. He leans forward and intently asks me, 1. “How was the food?” And then he asks, 2. “How was the service?” Now there’s a man who knows how his value is measured by his best customers.
In the financial services industry it’s easy to miss the simple things which Ideal Clients value the most. One of the hardest things for financial advisors to do is to make the mental shift from a perception of what the client values most to what clients actually value the most. Let’s examine this in a bit of detail, using my own “mental shift,” a decade ago, as an example.
Most financial advisors come from some narrow part of the financial services industry and believe the client places value around that experience. Rather than the financial planning, tax planning, estate planning, or the insurance “sides” of our business, I came from the “investment side” of the business. For twelve years, I was paid commissions to select, implement and watch-over investments for my clients. As I was contemplating moving my business to a more comprehensive financial services business model, I struggled with my perceptions about what my clients valued most in our relationship.
Back then I believed, “My clients hire me to pick and then allocate investments; that’s what they value most. If I delegate those tasks, my clients will have no reason to remain with me.”
Somehow I knew this was wrong, but it was a perception which I had well-honed and treasured for over a dozen years; therefore a perception which was hard to bend. I started with what I knew. From experience I had seen that those advisors who offered the most comprehensive financial services were 1. The most highly-compensated; and 2. Were the most indispensible to their clients.
To offer fully comprehensive financial services, I knew intuitively that no single advisor had full mastery of the “five sides” of our financial services industry. Therefore, I decided, successful comprehensive financial advisors must have outside experts somewhere. My observations of comprehensive financial advisor’s clients led me to the belief that before selecting a Trusted Advisor, a client must be convinced that the advisor is highly-competent and “worthy of trust.” With those beliefs I began my own distressing “mental shift” about what my Ideal Clients truly valued most in our relationship. I met with my best clients and conducted very candid conversations about my greatest value in their lives.
The hardest thing for me to grasp was the same thing I have seen advisors struggle most with over the years. The simple truth, which seems to be the most arduous mental shift for advisors, is that clients value your leadership most; it creates time for them.
Once I embraced this truth, my value proposition changed from “picking suitable investments for a commission” to,
“For a $_____ (flat fee), you get comprehensive financial services. That means that I will hold a team of best-in-class subject matter experts accountable to make sure you get the best advice to get your entire financial house in order and keep it that way… forever. There are ten financial areas we have identified as “comprehensive financial services” and 139 check-boxes underneath those ten which our team “checks-off annually” at our three progress meetings, to ensure you are on-track.”
Think about it, most of your Ideal Clients already had tax people, insurance people, estate planning lawyers, and investment people in their lives long before they met you. My own clients conveyed clearly to me, and our subsequent research has proven-out, that what is most valued is an advisor who is identified as “competent and worthy of trust” stepping-up, with an organized process in-place” to lead a team of Best-in-Class Subject Matter Experts. This saves time for your Ideal Clients; a gift.
Light Bulb Moment: the fact that you actually have a process and will orchestrate all the people in your Ideal Client’s financial life is the greatest value.