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How to Look Like the Financial Planning Expert You Are

Here’s a secret: There are only two things your prospects need to become clients.

First, they need a personal relationship. They want to know you truly understand their situation and goals. Second, they need advice they can trust. They need to be assured that you really are an expert. The more confidence they have in your expertise, the more they are willing to pay for your advice.

Generally, financial planners have great people skills, so building a relationship with your prospects is the easy part—at least if you can get in front of them in person. However, proving your advice is trustworthy can be quite the challenge. We’ve all been around the salesy salesman who makes too much of an effort to impress us. He touts his achievements and awards with grandiosity and tells us how our lives are not complete without his product or service. Yet, as he carries on, all we can think is that this fluff is covering for a poor product or service.

So, how do you show your financial aptitude in an authentic, tasteful way without coming across as phony or ostentatious?

Here are a few recommendations on how you can position yourself as the expert you are. But there is a caveat here: To come across authentic, you must be authentic. This doesn’t mean don’t do it if it is uncomfortable. Anything new is going to be uncomfortable at first. It means only move forward with a strategy if it fits you and your business values and goals.

Promote Your Professional Memberships

Make sure to use your FPA membership—and other association memberships—in your marketing plan. Specifically with FPA, take advantage of their brand recognition by using your “FPA member” logo, along with your designations and certifications, on your website and other materials. Stay tuned for my upcoming article, “How to Leverage Your FPA Membership” for more details.

Present at Seminars and Webinars

Present seminars and webinars on hot topics like Social Security. Notice we said present and not host. Hosting a great financial seminar may be an added value to clients, but it won’t do anything for impressing upon prospects that you’re a financial expert. Sorry guys, the one speaking gets the expert credits here. We know that many fund companies will sponsor your event only if they can speak at it. If you must use them, then make sure to split the speaking time with them.

Secondly, notice we said speak on hot topics. Prospects are only going to pay attention during an event if it’s a topic they are interested in. That’s right, you might get them in the door with an incentive, but you’re not going to keep their attention. Look for topics that affect everyone, but don’t go into too many complicated details.

Warning: While presenting on a subject does have the ability to make you look like an expert, we do caution that you should practice your public speaking first and be prepared.

Be a Guest Speaker

Being a guest speaker has two additional benefits beyond the points above. As a guest speaker, you are exposed to a whole slew of new warm prospects you may not have been introduced to on your own who are interested in what you do. You also get the added benefit of having the host vouch for your expertise by asking you to speak or write.

Always be looking for connections that may offer you the opportunity to present to their clients or audience. For instance, professionals that offer complimentary services, like an estate attorney or CPA, make great seminar partners. Of course, it can be the industries that aren’t related to yours at all that provide the best opportunities. You could offer your expertise to your local chamber of commerce, or to companies who want to offer their employees information on saving and retirement.

Be a Media Source or Content Contributor

Just like being a guest speaker, being a media source or a content contributor introduces you to new prospects and validates your qualifications. It can be difficult to get your name in print for respected news outlets, but your FPA membership offers you the chance to be listed as a source with their FPA MediaSource program after you complete the media training.

Lend a helping hand to content creators by offering to contribute to or write your own blogs. Partnering with professionals with complimentary services can work here also. Many times, contributing can lead to guest speaking as well. FPA offers members opportunities to contribute to various areas including Knowledge Circles, the Journal of Financial Planning and this blog right here.

Be in the Know

Stay updated on financial changes. Make sure you’re aware of all the updates and changes to financial legislation and taxation. It never looks good to have your client explaining a new financial change to you. Take advantage of content in the profession’s publications. For instance with a simple “Tax Law” query on the FPA website, I found this great article. If I were a planner, I would know from reading this that when I meet with my client (or produce my own content) that if my client were to convert their IRA to a Roth, they would save on their future investment returns from the Roth IRA “tax-free” asset class as well as enjoy the freedom from RMDs, but they would have to foot an upfront tax bill and it may disqualify them for the lower income QBI deduction for the year in which they convert.

Imagine the difference a prospect would notice when meeting with two different planners—one who was informed of the tax bracket change the conversion may cause, and one who was not. Your being informed sparks confidence in prospects and clients.

Produce Content on Financial Topics

As you learn about the changes in the financial industry with legislation, taxes, etc., use that information in your content to position yourself as an industry expert. For instance, using the example from above, frame your newfound knowledge by telling your audience how you can help them: “You can convert your IRA to a Roth IRA to avoid paying income on your growth, but with the new tax bill, this may force you into a tax bracket you may otherwise not have been in. We can help you figure out how much you would really be saving by converting to a Roth IRA.”

Promote Awards and Recognition

We know it can be awkward to “toot your own horn,” but there are a few ways to promote your recognition in a tasteful way. Add the award logo to your website under your designations. Tell the world why this award has meaning for you. Add the logo to the bottom of your email signature. Put a press release on your website. Have someone else in your office post or send an email about you winning. Remember: Don’t say this is an important award, say why it is important.

Want help implementing these tips? Find us at KalliCollective.com.

Kalli Lipke

With nearly a decade of experience in the financial industry, along with securities licenses 7 & 63, Kalli Lipke not only understands the way your clients think, but how the financial industry operates. She helps financial planners bring their business to the next level through marketing and branding.


5 Things to Know About Financial Empathy for Client Relationships with Michael G. Thomas, Jr.

Michael ThomasToo often, financial professionals find themselves in a position where they’re judging how their clients want to spend. The truth is that not every client is alike, and not every client has the same money mindset. It may take several meetings to dig down to the core of why they feel the way they do about money—and the stories that are driving their decisions. When planners and financial counselors are able to take a step back and listen, they’re better able to understand the culture and background of the client they’re working with.

Michael G. Thomas Jr., an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®) and Ph.D. candidate in financial planning at the University of Georgia, recently joined me on my podcast 2050 TrailBlazers to discuss how financial empathy can improve financial services.  

Thomas is passionate about understanding the story behind money decisions, and how financial counselors and planners can better balance their response to people’s financial goals and decisions.

1.) You’re a lecturer at the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. candidate. You work with students in a way that is called active learning. Tell us about that. How is that different and how are they learning about working with clients in an empathetic way? 

There may be instances where, as a financial counselor and doing financial coaching, we make recommendations, but we’re not always mindful of the barriers. And then we aren’t helping individuals think through the barriers and how to overcome those as they’re working towards their financial goals. So, I’m very barriers focused because it’s easier to create a linear path between do this and get here and it doesn’t always work out that way.

So in my active learning class it never does work out that way. We have learning scenarios in class. For instance, we tell people all the time, you know, just set up a Vanguard account or just set up a Charles Schwab account. And I was like, you know what? I could tell you that yes, that is an optimal strategy to have a diversified portfolio. But one of the things that I’m leaving out is that I know that as soon as you go to that website, you’re going to be absolutely lost. You’re not going to understand the language. And even if you find the different portfolios in which you can invest in, you’re going to be like, what’s a VTFX?

So I want students to see it, to struggle with it. I want you to go through this process. And then I want us to come back and have a conversation about it. Was it as easy as I made it seem? And the vast majority of my students will say, no, it wasn’t. 

2.) You mentioned when we focus on the numbers we miss out on the story that’s driving it. In your TEDxUGA talk, you share the example of a woman who was getting her taxes done by a volunteer, tax prep person and mentioned that she was going to buy a big flat screen TV with her refund. What was the story driving that decision and what can planners learn from that? 

She lived in an urban neighborhood where the crime rates were fairly high, and her children were getting older. Generally, as kids get older they want to leave the nest and do more. For her [the television] was a way to help protect her children. By having the flat screen television, she thought rather than her kids wanting to go out and over to other people’s houses, they could just come over to her house—watch movies and play games. She was trying to protect her children and even her children’s friends from the environment in which they were living. We never place these things in this type of context, but she was purchasing insurance. That [television] was an insurance policy to protect her children. 

When you frame it in that way, any person, I don’t care what background you come from, can say, “Oh, I completely get that.”

3.) What were some personal experiences that sparked your interest in the topic of financial empathy and what can planners learn from them? 

I struggled significantly in school growing up, to the point where my parents were constantly called in by the principal or my teacher. And I would be standing there and the teacher would look dead at me and say, “If he doesn’t get this information, he’s not moving on.” It had gotten so bad to where I would go to class and just put my head down and the teacher would not care.  

I’m the type of person where it takes me a little time to process things. I’ve always been that way. And it’s something that I accept now. It’s not a deficiency, it’s just a part of who I am. 

Now, I always think about myself when I’m working with clients. What if someone got a chance to really know that maybe the way that I’m teaching something doesn’t work with this particular child’s learning style? Let me think of a more creative way to educate this person. To have that type of mindset means that you believe that the person can grow. And what happens a lot of times—especially as professionals—we know so much to where we don’t really hear our clients and we’re just trying to work toward what our objective is.

I always think of the best learning experiences and those who really got me over the hump—the type of people who were always searching for more and to find what could help me get there as opposed to just being incredibly rigid and thinking that there’s only one way to get there. And I’ve benefited from that. I’m here now pursuing a Ph.D. But I also treat my clients with that type of empathy. And even sometimes I’ll feel as if maybe I’m not the right person for a client, but I never feel as if that client can’t grow. 

If you’re a financial planner, you should find what I call the need behind the need because there’s always a reason why someone is doing something. Why is it important that we find out the story behind client behavior? 

If clients don’t do what we’re encouraging them to do, it’s not that they don’t want to grow, they don’t want to do better, to have financial well-being, to retire—but that’s the narrative that we play. In doing that, it takes the responsibility off of us and it puts it on the client. But the client came to see us so that we could help them navigate this process. And in creating and implementing a plan that’s taken these things into consideration and when a client sees it, they’ll say, you know what? I feel heard. 

4.) Empathy does not equal complacency. Listening to clients’ stories doesn’t mean that we’re accepting excuses. Not every client has the same upbringing when it comes to money. Why does that matter? 

What we’re talking about is financial socialization. Financial socialization happens in so many ways. The systems in which you exist impact socialization. I have two boys and we talk about money all the time. We try to have fun with it. Obviously, this is what I do and we have these conversations, but I don’t need to. And until I have established and demonstrated trust with them, how could they ever trust a 401(k) growing into this substantial amount of money into the future? 

If you grew up in a household where promises are consistently broken, where someone says, “I’m going to do this,” and they never do it, or “I’m going to give you this,” and you never get it, or “We’re going to go there,” and we never go. Those become deeply seated and ingrained in such a way where it becomes difficult to trust the financial process. That’s something that takes a lot of time to work through with clients, to get them to stick with something long enough to experience the benefits. But if we don’t establish trust or there’s no trust in a household, I completely understand why somebody won’t be banked or why someone doesn’t trust investing in a market. 

In discovery meetings, really discover not just what a person thinks, but the context around their thinking. 

Rianka Dorsainvil

Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP® professional is the founder and president of Your Greatest Contribution (YGC), a virtual, fee-only comprehensive financial planning firm dedicated to serving entrepreneurs, first-generation wealth builders and thriving professionals in their late 20s, 30s and 40s. She also hosts 2050 TrailBlazers, a podcast aimed to address the lack of diversity in the financial planning profession by engaging industry experts and leaders in conversation.

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3 Steps to Mastering the Art of Excellence for Financial Planners

Obtaining excellence with any endeavor is rarely an overnight occurrence. It typically takes years of tenacity to master a craft. Many planners let outside influences and short-term setbacks detract them from acquiring excellence in many facets of their business. On the journey to becoming your best, you must simply sometimes take things one step at a time.

The key to mastering the art of excellence is to focus on each of those steps, whether that is defined as learning how to cold call, close a sale or ask for referrals. It is important to concentrate on your ability to be more effective on each particular “step” before moving on to another.

Eventually, those steps string together and form a way forward and you realize that you have traveled farther than you ever thought possible. Aristotle said it best when he said, “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.”

In other words, we create excellence by continuously learning and honing the activities we do until they become a habit; thus, excellence is merely a by-product of doing such.

Here are some suggested things to consider as you strive for excellence in whatever areas you seek:

Step 1: Commit to a New Level of Greatness

If you want to excel at anything you must commit to a new level of greatness. It doesn’t matter whether you are a financial planner, insurance agent or professional athlete, every successful person knows that the first step is to decide without a shadow of a doubt that they are fully committed to putting in a best effort.

Rob T., a 20-year veteran financial planner was stalemated as his business had reached a production plateau. When I began coaching him he was absolutely committed to learning how to unclog his pipeline. All he needed was to unearth the clogs, implement the right processes and put those into place to take action.

Step 2: Model the Masters

Success doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen a lot more quickly when you model those who have mastered whatever it is that you would like to succeed at.

In Rob’s case, I had coached many financial planners on a methodology to find specific clogs at every stage of the pipeline, so we quickly found what challenges he actually had. Next, we discussed solutions that have worked for other successful planners/agents. Then he began to apply the activities that were necessary on a daily basis to put those solutions into place. Over time, these activities turned into habits and voilà, his pipeline moved along well and converted for him in many cases.

Step 3: Map out the Milestones

The final step in to track your progress is what I refer to as mapping out the milestones. This helps you see accomplishments (or obstacles) that were made during each leg of the journey. The following is brief description of milestones that Rob experienced.

Initially, I had explained to Rob that my pipeline process had four stages: initial contact, first appointment, second appointment (or closing appointment) and getting referrals.

Rob knew that he had a clog in each stage, but some were bigger than others. So, we began working on stage No. 1, the initial contact, because he was not filling up the pipeline, which was vital. Soon, he was setting more first appointments than he had ever done previously.

Then, we worked on stage No. 3, the first appointment, because he said that many prospects weren’t securing a second appointment with him. I taught him how to help prospects see the value of a second appointment and he was able to make those happen!

Next, we worked on stage No. 3, the closing appointment, because he was not strong at closing prospects. After a number of weeks, he reported that he had closed nine out of 12 prospects!

Lastly, we worked on stage No. 4, getting referrals. Once we role-played what I call “client-centered referral dialogue,” he had a framework for his conversation around getting referrals.

Why Mastering the Art of Excellence Works

The reason why mastering the art of excellence works is because who wants to settle for mediocrity? Being just okay with your business is not okay; finding techniques that work is imperative to getting your business firing on all cylinders.

If you would like a free coaching session with me, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at Advisor Solutions.

Dan Finley

Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.