Don't Fall Victim to The "I Know What You Said, but I Know Better" Fallacy

Don't Fall Victim to The "I Know What You Said, but I Know Better" Fallacy

An advisor engaged his advisory board recently to deconstruct his firm’s planning process.

He wanted to know what they found valuable, what did not add value, and how it could be improved. One of the items on the agenda was to show the clients a beautiful new system he had found to bind the plans. It would be a significant upgrade to what they had been doing: more durable, more professional, and it would fit better on a bookshelf. Who wouldn’t want that?

The feedback was fast and unanimous. They didn’t like it. It looks too expensive, it is not what we want to be paying for. Would it change your minds, we asked, if you knew it was the same cost as what you’re getting? Nope. They wanted something that could more easily have pages removed and replaced with updates. Did it matter that, in actuality, these could be undone and redone with replacement pages? It did not. The discussion was over in a matter of a few minutes. We got a clearer and faster consensus than many topics.

So, after the meeting I was chatting with the advisor. That was easy, right? I thought the clients would like the new covers, but I guess we won’t be pursuing that idea. “I don’t know” said the advisor. “I have to think about that.”

Wait, what?

One of the challenges of receiving client feedback is being willing to drop an idea you like that your clients don’t. It is easy to fall in love with an idea. Some advisors like high-end presentation. Others love technology. We all have some notion of what is cool, or better. And we don’t like it when others don’t agree – whether they be staff or clients. But you ignore feedback at your own peril.

Let’s take custom internet portals as an example. I know several advisors who invested significant sums to implement custom websites that enable clients to access resources or interact with the firm, only to see adoption rates in the single digits. I believe client pages can be a great tool to facilitate collaboration. But if the clients don’t see the need or the value or find them confusing or difficult to use you will waste your money implementing them. (Often it is not the web pages themselves but the campaign to orient and train clients what they can accomplish by using them, but that’s another story.)

More important, one of the few risks in asking for feedback, like organizing a client advisory board, is the damage that can happen to your relationships if you get advice and fail to take it seriously or act on it. That does NOT mean you will do anything your board suggests – far from it. It means that you will take their recommendations, do whatever homework or research is necessary, consider the benefits and costs, and consider how you can incorporate them into your client experience. There are many occasions we have evaluated feedback from a board, found that the requests were impractical or counterproductive, and reported our findings back to them. Sometimes that was the end of it. Often, we could think of some other way to accomplish what the board was looking for and we could get their feedback on an alternate approach. But we always honor their requests.

And sometimes what that means is letting go of something you think is sexy because the clients have no interest in it.

There is a strong temptation to think you know better.

They say they don’t want it, but once they get to have or experience it, they will realize how awesome it is. That’s a trap.

We are not referring to what kind of advice you give – how a portfolio should be managed or what strategy would work best in a particular situation. You are the expert at that and the financial advice is not up for discussion.

There is also a strong argument that clients are not the best source of determining what innovation might make the biggest improvement in how you deliver advice (or structure your business).  Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban, and Henry Ford have all famously spoken about the worthlessness of client feedback. But that’s not what we are discussing.

We are talking about the client experience. The interaction between you and your client and what they would find most satisfying or rewarding. And your clients are the experts at what they like.

Ask your client’s opinions on what they like about what you do for them and how you can improve it. Don’t fall victim to the “I know what you said, but I know better” fallacy. Will they leave you if they tell you they want soft covers on their plans and you give them hard covers? Of course not. But they will wonder why they come to advisory board meetings and won’t put their best efforts into it. Listen to them, however, and act on their guidance, even if it is not the idea you wanted to pursue, and they will be grateful and will reward you with loyalty and referrals.

Stephen Wershing
Advisor Marketing
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Stephen Wershing, CFP® is President of The Client Driven Practice, a firm that assists financial advisors gather client feedback and develop referral marketing plans. Bob Ver ... Click for full bio

NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work

NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work

Written by: Jon Sabes

When you meet Carl Landry, stand-out college basketball player and nine-year NBA player, you imagine that becoming a professional basketball star was a straight forward run for the 6-foot-nine-inch power forward. 

However, when you go deeper into Carl’s background, becoming a NBA professional was less than certain and little came easily to the 33-year-old from Milwaukee:

  • He was cut from his high school team as a freshman and averaged less than ten points a game when he did play as a senior.
  • He started his college career not at Purdue, but a junior college where it was not clear he would play.
  • When he finally got to Purdue, he tore his ACL in his knee his first year and reinjured it the next year.
  • While his family held a party for him the night of the NBA draft, he slept in the Philadelphia airport after missing a flight following a workout for the 76ers.
  • In the NBA playoffs, Carl had a tooth knocked out, but came back in the same game to make a game-winning blocked shot as the Rockets beat the Utah Jazz 94-92.

Landry, who I interviewed on my podcast, Innovating Life with Jon Sabes (, is a remarkable example of the value of “persistence.” In a time where technology creates the image that anything is possible at the touch of a button, persistence is an under-appreciated trait. When I spoke with Carl, I clearly saw someone for whom success has only come through a force of will that made him a NBA player, but it also made him a better player every year he played. That’s the kind of personality that has produced greatness in business as well as sports.

Carl was, in fact, drafted that night he spent in the airport. The Seattle Supersonics chose him as the 31st overall pick and then traded him to the Houston Rockets where he rode the bench for much of the first half of the season. When All-Star teammate Yao Ming was injured, he stepped in and played a key role in the Rockets astonishing 22-game winning streak (the third longest streak in NBA history). And, that season, after sitting on the bench for 33 of the first 36 games, he was named to the All-Rookie second team.

Carl was the first in his family to go to college. “I told myself that this was my ticket out, so I did everything I possibly could to be the best person in school and also on the court,” he said.

His family life in Milwaukee showed him what he didn’t want to do. “Just being honest with you, seeing some my cousins, peers, they went to work for jobs paying six, seven dollars an hour or they didn’t go to work at all and then living off welfare. I didn’t want that.”

When he was first injured, he had to contemplate the end of a career before it even got started. “When you have an ACL tear, it’s over…no more basketball,” he told me. “I said, God, give me health again and I’ll do everything I can to leave it all out on the line and be a successful individual.”

On my podcast, Carl pointed out another interesting lesson he learned in the NBA: Not doing things just to fit in.

“Fitting in was easy,” he said. “Doing everything that everybody else does was easy. If I stood out in some type of way, I’m going to have different results. I’m going to have stand-out results.”

That’s called the “Law of Contrast” and it produces that exact effect of changing the outcomes that everyone else is experiencing.  Carl is smart, he recognized that differences make a difference, and doing whatever it takes is what is required to make real, meaningful differences.

Every off-season for the last 11 years, he has run a camp for kids in Milwaukee where he tells youth his story of hard work and persistence. “I always tell the kids to apply themselves and always be persistent,” he said. “If you dream, apply yourself and be persistent. With hard work, man, the sky’s the limit.”

When Carl says the sky’s the limit he means it.  He is smart to recognize that it’s important to dream big, because if we don’t – we may be selling ourselves short. “You have to dream bigger than your mind could ever imagine,” he said. “I wanted a nice house. I wanted a nice car. I said, and I got all of that. So, what do I do, do I stop now? Maybe I didn’t dream big enough.” That’s a big statement coming from a kid who grew up to be the first in his family to graduate college and go on to be not only a top NBA basketball start, but a good businessman, father and someone who gives back to the community.

I’m convinced that in whatever he takes on as a basketball player or in his post-hoops career, Carl Landry is not going to stop getting better at whatever he does, and in the process of doing so, make the world a better place.

GWG Holdings, Inc.
Investing in Life
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GWG Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq:GWGH) the parent company of GWG Life, is a financial services company committed to transforming the life insurance industry through disruptive and i ... Click for full bio