The Expert or The Counselor
It is a question many struggle with, and the ideal position is actually:
“be either depending on what is required”
This choice is not really a question of style or positioning as many believe it to be. It is a matter of knowing what role is required when, and then being adaptable enough to execute the right style at the right time. Having said that, there is a primary role where the adviser should expend the majorityof their effort. It is the primary role if you like.
As an expert you are expected to assume responsibility for having the answers. Being able to execute the professional responsibilities of analysis, comprehending facts, applying logic and sound rationale, and ultimately recommending a path of action that is the most likely to achieve the clients objective.
That is not however all that your client needs, indeed, it is not even what they need most. They need a Consigliere.
A Consigliere, according to Wikipedia, is:
“Consigliere (Italian consigliere “counselor”, pronounced [konsiʎˈʎɛːre], roughly kohn-seel-yehr-eh) is a position within the leadership structure of Sicilian and American Mafia…. a consigliere is an adviser or counselor to the boss, with the additional responsibility of representing the boss in important meetings both within the boss’s crime family and with other crime families. The consigliere is a close, trusted friend and confidant, the mob’s version of an elder statesman. He is devoid of ambition and dispenses disinterested advice”
It is the Consigliere role that the adviser fulfils most of the time and where the greatest value is delivered. This is also the area where the profession has veered away from using some of the essential skills required to do it well. In the bid to be ever more professional there has been a tendency to downplay the importance of the sales skills required to do the job well.
This creates a dilemma for many financial advisers in understanding where selling fits into the realm of professional advice. Thinking of the advisers role as Consiglierre to the Don (your client!) provides the clues as to how it all fits together. The advisers’ role is to:
- be a counselor to the boss (the client)
- be responsible for representing the boss’s interests, and perhaps the boss them self on occasions
- be a close, trusted, confidant
- dispense disinterested (non-conflicted) advice
Understanding this role makes it easy to understand where selling sits in the realm of professional financial advice. As a professional it is your responsibility to be the expert in certain areas affecting the clients life. It is also your responsibility to try and persuade the client to take the path that you, as an expert, have determined to be the most likely to achieve the result they want. While the Godfather (your client; The Don) ultimately makes the decision, the Consigliere role is to persuade the decision maker on the best course of action.
Todays professional adviser most valuable roles is to be Consigliere to their clients.
Just like Tom in The Godfather (an expert lawyer), the task is to represent the client and advise the client. The role is also to try and persuade the client on which way is the right way forward. The role also requires that the Consigliere be ever mindful of who is the Boss, and where the power vests, and to know when it is time to accept the decision of the Boss.
The adaptable and highly skilled financial adviser today is an expert in their area. They also possess and use well developed skills in the art of persuasion. They also know when NOT to use those skills however, and respect the decision of the Boss.
Think of yourself as Consigliere to the Boss and your role description will be complete, and your purpose clear.
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