How Financial Planners Can Use Guarantees To Build Trust

How Financial Planners Can Use Guarantees To Build Trust

Imagine grabbing a cab.

Picture yourself sitting on the back seat and looking at the taxi meter. Don’t you hate watching the taxi meter going up, knowing that every extra inch of the way is costing you?

Why do you hate this?

It’s because of the pain you are suffering. Not the physical pain of course, but rather an activation of the same brain areas associated with physical pain.

Now, picture your client paying an hourly financial planning fee. Is it any different?

Spending money hurts. Literally.

Your clients are not weighing their current gratification vs. future gratifications. They experience an immediate pang of pain when they think of how much they have to pay.

So what if you could remove your prospect and client’s pain of spending? Do you think it would benefit the number of people you want to serve?

The question is: how?

The Real Reason Why People Don’t Buy Financial Planning

You see, when we experience pain, a certain region of our brain – the insular – lights up under a brain scan. And not only for physical pain. But also a psychological pain.

So, what’s psychological pain?

Well, for example, spending money is.

It’s what social scientists call the “pain of paying”. This is the unpleasantness associated with giving up our hard-earned cash, regardless of the circumstances. It turns out that the pain of paying has two interesting features.

Via Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely:

First, and most obviously, when we pay nothing we don’t feel any pain of paying. Second, and less obviously, the pain of paying is relatively insensitive to the amount that we pay. This means that we feel more pain of paying as the bill increases, but every additional dollar on the bill pains us less! This diminishing sensitivity to the pain of paying means that the first dollar we pay will cause the highest pain, the second dollar will cause us less, and so on, until we feel just a tiny twinge for, say, the forty-seventh dollar.

Let’s take this wisdom back to our financial planning service.

If you’re an ‘hourly-rate financial planner’ or a ‘monthly-fee financial planner’, what do you think happens when people have to pay you several times?


Every time they have to pay you, you let people feel the pain of paying. It doesn’t matter if the price is low, they still feel a psychological pain.

It gets worse.

Because researchers from Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, and MIT were able to show that activity in the insular can PREDICT whether people buy or not …

In the trial, participants first saw a product, then saw its price, and finally decided whether or not to purchase it.

Related: How to Help Clients Think About Debt in a New Way

As soon as participants saw the price, the insular got active… And activation was much greater for the products that people eventually didn’t buy, than for the products they did buy.

So when people don’t buy, it’s not just because they’re evaluating your service and thinking about what else they could do with the money, it’s also because they experience the IMMEDIATE psychological pain of spending!

And that proves it:

How to Make Buying your Financial Planning Service Hurt Less

First things first: why does buying your financial planning service hurt?

Well, the pain of spending stems from the fact that your financial planning service is an intangible service.

It’s not a product, which is tangible. It’s not insurance, which is tangible.

Financial planning, by contrast, is intangible. In fact, financial planning does not even exist when people buy it from you. So, your prospect buys a service with no guarantees – and because of that, he buys uncertainty. 

Such as:

  • The uncertainty that your service doesn’t live up to your prospect’s expectations.
  • The uncertainty that it may be a big waste of time.
  • And even worse, the uncertainty that they just made a wrong decision that cost them a lot of money.

So, what do you need to do?

You have to remove the uncertainty. Because when you remove the uncertainty, you increase the number of people who want to buy your service.

How do you do that?

Well, here’s the secret right off the bat:

Why Ownership Works (Backed by Science)

Why does the seller of a house usually value that property more than the potential buyer? Why does the seller of an automobile envision a higher price than the buyer?

In many transactions why does the owner believe that his possession is worth more money than the potential owner is willing to pay?

There’s an old saying that goes like this: “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor”.

Well, when you’re the owner, you’re at the ceiling; and when you’re the buyer, you’re on the floor. In other words: the ownership of something increases its value in the owner’s eyes.

Ownership pervades our lives and, in a strange way, shapes many of the things we do. And since so much of our lives are dedicated to ownership, wouldn’t it be nice to make the best decisions about this? Wouldn’t it be nice, for instance, to know exactly how much we would enjoy the service of a financial planner?

Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. People are mostly fumbling around in the dark. Here’s Dan Ariely again:

  1. People fall in love with what they already have. Ever sold a house? Then you probably remember the moment when you put the “For-Sale-Sign” in the window. You probably also remember the fine and special moments in that house. A warm glow of memory washes over you and the house. Now, I don’t think it’s very likely that people get a warm glow about their financial advisor, but still, it’s hard to say goodbye to him, because most of the time it feels fine to stay put;
  2. People focus on what they can lose, rather than on what they may gain. When we put a price on our beloved house, we think more about what we lose (the fine memories in the house) than what we will gain (future fine moments in the new house). Likewise, your client focuses on the good moments his current advisor helped him with some difficult money-issues.
  3. People assume others will see the transaction from the same perspective as they do. We somehow expect the buyer of the house to share our feelings, emotions, and memories. Or we expect the buyer of our house to appreciate how the sunlight filters through the kitchen windows. Unfortunately, the buyer of the house is more likely to notice the strip of black mold in the corner. Just like many new financial advisors notice the “gaps” in the previous financial advice, rather than the good parts.

Still, the question remains: how can you let your prospects ‘own’ your service while not letting them feel the ‘pain of paying’?

Here’s the answer: You give them a rock solid guarantee.

And I know what you’re thinking: I can’t give any guarantees about the outcomes of my financial plan!

I understand.

But that’s not what I mean. I mean a type of guarantee that transfers the uncertainty from the prospect to YOU, the financial planner.

Like when you don’t deliver the value as they would expect, they won’t be out of pocket.

Just think about Zappos, FedEx and – for the Dutch readers – Coolblue. These famous companies use the perfect guarantee for their customers. And they’ve built billion dollar businesses…

Related: The 4 Failures Financial Planners Tend to Forget

Here are 4 Types of Guarantees You Can Use

Derek Halpern (founder of once wrote a post about guarantees. And it got me thinking how to use guarantees in our financial planning service.

And what’s the irrational thing you should know about guarantees?

You might think that guarantees with the least conditions are always the best. But that certainly isn’t true.

Research shows that if customers are uncertain about the outcome of using your service until they experience it, conditions actually make your offer more credible.

So, let me walk you through some types of guarantees you can use with your financial planning service.

Guarantee #1: The Standard Money Back Guarantee

Offering a money back guarantee doesn’t seem possible for our financial planning service, right?


I’ll tell you in a minute how to do that, but first remember this:

A simple money back guarantee won’t make your service stand out from your competition unless you’re the only one who is offering it!

When I started as a self-employed financial planner, I’ve implemented this in my own business. Here’s how I did it (sorry about the dutch language):

So, what happens here?

First of all, what I’m doing here is adding a little context.

You see, the most expensive option (the offer I don’t want people to choose) is seen as a price-anchor, making the other two options appear cheaper – and the cheapest option is a real no-brainer. The effect is that people rationalize purchasing the less expensive option by avoiding the most expensive option. You can read psychological evidence here.

But it’s not the only weapon in my psychological armory.

I’ve also added a money back guarantee to my € 195 option. People get a € 195 consultation with me. And if they aren’t satisfied, then they can easily use the money back guarantee. No strings attached.

Pretty powerful.

Guarantee #2: The Extensive Money Back Guarantee

If you want to go crazy, you can do what Zappos does. They offer a 365-day return policy.

There’s a huge benefit for you when using this strategy. Just think about what I told you about ownership a couple of sentences ago and you’ll know.

And by the way, you become really, really remarkable when using this strategy. And if you want to know why being remarkable is rewarding .., just click here.

(One side note: if you offer this type of money back guarantee, please put that money aside …)

Guarantee #3: More than Money Back Guarantee

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes for a moment. When they decide to hire you, they’re not only risking the money they spent. They’re also investing time and passing up other opportunities.

So, in reality, if they don’t like your service, they still suffer a loss, even if they get their money back.

As a clever financial planner, you can adjust the payoff of your guarantee and offer MORE than money-back to solve that problem…

You can say something like this: “If you aren’t satisfied, you get your money back AND we’ll guide you to other financial planners who can better serve you”.


Promoting other financial planners?

Yep. You’re right. Again, try to stand in your customer’s shoes. When you are offering a guarantee like this, you’re actually saying: “We really care about YOU (and not about our Assets under Management).

And by the why, science proves that vulnerability leads to powerful relationships with your prospects.

Related: Is Meaning The New Money For Financial Planners?

Guarantee #4: The Minimum Result Guarantee

Instead of a vague satisfaction guarantee, it’s always better to be clear and specific about the results customers can expect. And that’s what a minimum result guarantee does.

Now, I know that offering this type of guarantees can be scary. I mean, what result are you really delivering after say one year? You can’t say something like: “You’ll reach our lifetime financial goal in one year”.

So, what are the alternatives?

Think smaller. Look at the results you achieved with your previous clients. And ask yourself: what’s the minimum result I can guarantee? Maybe it’s something like:

  • Peace of mind after only one conversation
  • No financial-product-selling
  • A conversation about yourself first, and your finances second

Now, I understand that sometimes it can be really difficult to actually go out and implement these kinds of somewhat unusual guarantees, especially if you haven’t tried it before.

That’s why I’m offering you an extra PROVEN guarantee I’ve successfully implemented in my own service.

Copy and paste this guarantee, and you’ll ease the pain of paying.  I’ve created a FREE pdf with The Simple, Yet Rock Solid Guarantee that Makes Your (Hourly) Fee Feel Less Painful To Clients

The only thing you have to do is to answer this question: What guarantee do you (want to) use in your financial planning service?

Ronald Sier
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My name is Ronald Sier, CFP® and I’m the founder of Smart Financial Planner. I help financial planners to boost their performance skills by offering bite-sized online cours ... Click for full bio

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week: Feb 19-23

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week: Feb 19-23

Here’s a look at the Top 11 Most Viewed Articles of the Week on, Feb 19-23, 2018

Click the headline to read the full article.  Enjoy!

1. Don’t Get Pinged by the Social Security Earnings Limit

I’d like to introduce you to Peggy. Born in 1956, Peggy will be 62 in 2018. She has worked in retail her whole life, the past twenty-five years spent in management. Peggy divorced from her husband 14 years ago, is still single and has no children. — Dana Anspach

2. We're Back to “Bad News is Good News” and “Good News is Great News”

This week the markets shrugged off last week’s fears and went back to the slow and steady melt up, despite economic news that looked likely to once again rock the boat. — Lenore Elle Hawkins

3. Q1 2018 Factor Views

Themes established in 2017 across a wide range of markets and factors continued to resonate through the fourth quarter. Economic growth was strong and supportive of equity markets across the globe, a range of volatility measures reached all-time lows, and business and consumer sentiment remained elevated. — Yazann Romahi and Garrett Norman

4. A Beneficial Basket of Commodities

Advisors and investors that feel they are hearing more and more about commodities and the corresponding exchange traded products in recent months are right. That is a natural result of dollar weakness and yes, the greenback is floundering again in 2018. — Tom Lydon

5. 3 Trends Shaping the Future of Asset Management

As the industry works to cope with new regulation, wades through an outpouring of new products, learns to satisfy investors’ shifting priorities and manages the active-passive debate, the viability of business units will be questioned, and at times radical measures will be taken. Peter Hopkins

6. 5 Ways Advisors Leave Money on the Table, and What to Do About It

My hope is that this article points out some opportunities for you to make more money and serve your clients at a higher level and that you decide to do something about it. — Bill Bachrach

7. The Market Has Gone Wild! Is It Time to Change Your Investment Strategy?

Whether the market is flying high or taunting your emotions with new lows and some bumpy volatility, here are four things every investor should keep in mind ... — Lauren Klein

8. How to Deepen Client Relations and Capture New Business Using Engaging Content

Why financial advisors NEED to understand much more clearly the power of good digital market. With tools like AdvisorStream, it’s easier than ever to get the content you need to drive leads and referrals today! — Kirk Lowe and Matt Halloran

9. Three Ways The Most Successful Gain Big Attention

How do some firms and ideas go from nowhere to everywhere in a few short months? All of a sudden a restaurant becomes popular, a gas station gains a cult following, or a Broadway show becomes too popular to get a ticket for years. — Maribeth Kuzmeski

10. Who Are the Hottest FinTech Firms and Influencers Around the World?

"Worldwide, $27.4 billion poured into fintech startups in 2017, Accenture reports, up 18% from 2016. With so much in play, it’s not surprising that 22 companies are new on this, the third edition of our list."  — Chris Skinner

11. The New Stock Market Normal Is Not What You Think!

Many sensational headlines have been written the past few weeks about market declines, but two things have increased for sure: the viewership and the ad revenues of financial media organizations — Preston McSwain​​​​​​​

Douglas Heikkinen
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IRIS Co-Founder and Producer of Perspective—a personal look at the industry, and notables who share what they’ve learned, regretted, won, lost and what continues ... Click for full bio