We all have biases. We all jump to conclusions when words are said. It's a natural trait for most of the people in our industry who have been trained to read into people's words and assume that we are really hearing what others are saying. Yet, very often, after we have been in the business for some time, we end up making conclusions that are flat out incorrect. It's impossible to guess what people are thinking or read into words without the right questions being asked. There are two questions that every adviser should be able to answer:
1. What is the 3:00 a.m. moment for your client? When they wake up in the middle of the night with sweaty palms, what is it they are afraid of? What is it they ultimately want you to protect them from?
2. Are you actually helping to tackle the biggest fear that clients have?
From our experience, most advisers think that their job is to deliver performance for a reasonable fee. Yet most clients actually believe that they have an advocate who is helping them take care of their biggest fears. So here are a couple of tips: At the next meeting you have with one of your important clients, find out what their 3:00 a.m. moment is and figure out what you are able to do to help take care of that moment. If you do that, you will earn your fees many times over.
Many financial planners have their own way of getting to know their clients. At our firm we use a patent-pending process called Honest Conversations® where individuals, or couples, independently have the opportunity to prioritize cards (relating to fears, commitments and happiness) in order of what matters most to them. That allows us to have an open dialogue with each family member on an entirely new and deeper level. We can then better identify if our clients are on course to meeting their goals and if they have the resources necessary to achieve them. If they don't, we can get into a discussion of trade-offs. That is not always the easiest discussion to have, but transparent, interactive conversations like that will forever change the way advisers work with their clients.
Whatever your methodology is, we truly believe it is empowering for a client to be involved in their personal plan. It also allows the adviser to be informed, instead of trying to guess what the client's goals and aspirations are—that is a recipe for disappointment and makes the client move from adviser to adviser.
What are your clients' afraid of? What are you doing on a daily basis to assuage their fears?
Joe Duran is CEO of United Capital, a national partnership of private wealth counseling offices. Today, United Capital and its affiliates provide advice on approximately $17 billion in client assets at 44 offices around the country. Joe is also the author of the best-selling book, “The Money Code.”