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The Flip Side of Foolish: Reverse the Dialogue

In a recent coaching session, I gave Sammy, a financial adviser with more than 30 years of experience, a little homework to do before our next session. She had been concerned about prospects not seeing the value in getting her opinion on their portfolios and she wanted to know how to convince them that they should.

We had just mapped out a process that I refer to as Reversing the Dialogue, which works back from the conclusion you’d ultimately like your prospect to come to and the questions to ask to most get them to realize that conclusion most effectively. In Sammy’s situation the desired conclusion was that getting an opinion from her was in their best interest.

“I will work on it and let you know how it goes,” she said with excitement in her voice.

“Actually, why don’t you type it out and email it to me then in our next session we can role play with it,” I replied.

One of two things typically happen when I mention role play to a coaching client: either they look forward to practicing and can’t wait to start, or they have anxiety and can’t wait to explain why they don’t want to do it.

“I hate role play,” she admitted. “I’d rather just go out and practice this on prospects and tell you how it went.”

“Why?” I inquired, curiously.

“Well, it’s because I don’t want to sound foolish in front of you,” she replied cautiously.

“Ah-ha, you need to understand the flip side of foolish then,” I responded with a laugh.

After a significant pause on her end, I continued on with my explanation. Feeling foolish is like looking at only one side of the proverbial coin, I told her. There is the negative side, which for her was feeling embarrassed or inadequate; however on the flip side there are multiple positive reasons why role playing was a smart best practice.

“When it comes to role play, the flip side of feeling foolish is the fact that you WILL learn from practicing with me,” I’d told her confidently. “You WILL get better at asking questions, moving people down the pipeline and accomplishing your goals. Aren’t all of those outcomes worth a few minutes of feeling foolish?”

“When you state it that way, I’d much rather feel foolish and learn how to do it right BEFORE meeting with clients/prospects,” she said sheepishly.

In our next session I reassured her that there were no incorrect questions and that role play was merely a method that she would learn from. After two or three role play conversations she became more comfortable and relaxed with the technique of applying (and adjusting) the questions she had mapped out.

Nice job! You took me down a path of questions to help me understand why I should get an opinion from you. I absolutely felt connected and engaged while you were doing it,” I told her. I could feel her smile over the phone as she replied, “I didn’t feel foolish doing the role play with you at all. I’d like to do it more often!”

Often in order to grow our business, we have to be open to leaving our comfort zone to strengthen our weaknesses. Being willing to stretch beyond what you already know and feel comfortable with allows for you to find what your “flip side of foolish” might be.

If you read this article and find yourself wanting to learn more about how to incorporate role play into your best practices, email me at dan@advisorsolutionsinc.com for a complimentary consultation. I can help you get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Dan FinleyDaniel C. Finley
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.

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Selling Diligence

A client’s anxiety is a stew pot of emotional, historical, contemporary, economic and global ingredients, and it’s all focused on the future. Add to this the sheer complexity that exists with thousands of investment, insurance and trust products, and the client seeks an advisory relationship to take the sting of uncertainty away. This is no different than someone who is ill gaining comfort from a doctor who ably implements a treatment plan.

Yet, in this uncertainty, clients still yearn to know “What’s going to happen?” Few advisers position themselves as market forecasters (i.e., if all the brain power, computing power and self-interest can’t predict even six months out where the price of oil is headed, what does it say about predicting anything in the market?), but this anxiety gnaws at clients with the wounds from 2008 still fresh.

With a question so important yet so unknowable, what is under your control that can be a salve to your clients’ anxiety? In a word: diligence.

Diligence as a Tactical Tool

In my blog “Wealth Protection as a Practice Strategy,” I promote wealth protection—minimizing the loss of dollars to investment performance, taxes, fees and unprotected risks—as an operating strategy largely under an adviser’s direct control, and one that has the best path to wealth creation (i.e., you can’t create wealth unless you protect it first).

Wealth protection is like a fortress, but it is only a first-line defense against an enemy’s incursions. A fortress requires watchmen in towers looking beyond the walls, ready to spring into action should any threat be seen. Think of diligence as watchful eyes.

As there are a number of wealth protection tactics, so too does diligence offer an array of defined and concrete actions.

Diligence Categories

1. Planning diligence. A comprehensive financial plan is detailed itself, but once the plan is implemented, diligence keeps it responsive to a client’s evolving needs and circumstances.

Positioning statement: “We diligently maintain the wealth plan as a dynamic guide for your long-term security by ensuring that it is up to date with the current state of your needs, anxieties and aspirations.”

2. Investment diligence. The various portfolio solutions, insurance products and trusts are the plan’s execution implements. Although an investment plan may liberally use passive ETFs or mutual funds, doesn’t mean that the execution is passive. Here, diligence shows itself through validation that the underlying investment products adhere to their stated diversification, efficiency, income and liquidity purposes.

Positioning statement: “We select investments, insurance products and trusts on the basis that their characteristics and qualities fit with what your plan requires, and, most important, we review each of these products and their providers to ensure that nothing has deviated from what we expected.”

3. Monitoring diligence. As markets move, a client’s investment and property wealth also change. Rebalancing is known for resetting portfolios to the target allocation and, in the process, enforcing “buying low and selling high.” However, rebalancing has a higher purpose in adjusting all wealth sources to the plan’s requirements, with special emphasis on the plan to create liquidity from property wealth as needed.

Positioning statement: “We track your plan’s execution to make sure that the portfolio design, investment products, insurance, trusts and your property fulfill their intended purposes in delivering the plan’s liquidity, stability, growth and income requirements.”

4. Communication diligence. According to a Financial Advisor magazine study of 1,375 advisers, 72 percent of advisers identified “failure to communicate on a timely basis” as one of the top three termination reasons. To an adviser’s essential services, maintaining diligent communications is a vital treatment for a client’s anxiety, particularly during market volatility.

Positioning statement: “We hold regular meetings in which your plan sets the agenda in discussing how the plan’s execution is unfolding. In addition, we give you frequent updates as market, regulatory, tax, planning and risk issues arise.”

Tangible Diligence

A challenge exists because “diligence” lacks tangibility and much of the actual work occurs behind the scenes. In client meetings (and always annually), produce a tangible, written summary of activities from the different diligence categories.

This summary does for your diligence services what the performance report does for the investing solution (see “Performance Reporting: The Plan’s Tangible Evidence”). Furthermore, for prospects, giving an example of the “Summary of our Diligence” gives evidence that your firm’s day-to-day actions go beyond mere words.

An adviser’s diligence releases a client’s anxiety, and, in so doing, the client base is solidified.  Both outcomes represent meaningful rewards.

Kirk LouryKirk Loury
Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey