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Relationships Trump Everything

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Today’s wealth adviser is faced with a difficult job – creating generational wealth, gaining trust, running an effective practice and balancing it all.  For the professional who can do all of those things, there is no end to the good you can do and the wealth you can create. I’ve long believed that this business is a relationship business. 

I fully agree that your understanding of complex investment products, tax laws, insurance opportunities and estate challenges are of critical importance.  There are, however, many wealth professionals that are technically proficient.  I know, some of you are saying that your technical proficiency is what separates you from your competition.  I’m sure you are smart and I’m sure you understand your product offerings.  My point is, shouldn’t every wealth adviser have a high level of technical expertise?  I’m not sure it’s enough to separate you from the thousands of other advisers out there.  And of course, for those who simply are not technically proficient, do us all a favor – go sell cars! You have an obligation to be technically proficient.

My point is knowledge and information are commodities. Your clients and prospects can get “information” from all sorts of sources today – some better than others and most are quicker than you. What they can’t get is advice and intimacy.

So again, I feel relationships trump everything and your ability to build trust comes from a simple formula – people need to like you and to trust you, and when they trust you, they will give you what you ask of them. You don’t build trust by knowing the latest and greatest innovative investment solution, tax law or estate law change only.  You do it by taking away a client’s pain. You get it by building intimacy, which at its essence is trust.

So as you continue to build your trusted brand, grow your practice and balance it all, consider these five critical questions to help you be the noble, dynamic trusted adviser that you are:

1.  Do you have a plan to become a million dollar producer, or once again, remain one? One thing I’ve noticed that all top producers have in common is a plan and their commitment to that plan. You must remain open-minded but committed to your purpose and plan.

2.  Will you be able to work less 10 years from now while earning more income, and potentially generating greater generational wealth for your clients?  My point here is, is your practice efficient?  Not just for your sake, but for your client’s sake.  Are you able to serve them well, build generational wealth for them and yourself and balance it all?  If so, you are a better partner and adviser for them and you will be rewarded for your value proposition.

3.  How do you add value in your current client relationships?  (Or, what business are you in today: transaction, fee or service?) This question is all about adding value to build relationships in your book of business. I’ve seen top producers wrestle with this questions for years now and have found that all three aspects are important. Are you setting up your value proposition as an adviser today to address these topics? If your business is geared on transactions, it may not withstand tough times and an aging, smarter client base.  If your business is fee only, are you in a position to best serve your clients and yourself? I believe we are all in the service business – we must serve others to bring value, live out our purpose and grow our business. Semantics?  I’m not sure today.

4.  Are you (and subsequently, your clients) aware of the risk to which your book (their portfolio) is exposed? This again is a question that causes you to consider both your technical proficiency and your bedside manner.  Both are critical.  If you don’t have a service model and a solution offering that is transparent and easy to understand, you will be exposed in tough times and by enlightened clients and prospects.

5.  Do you have a system in place to limit the number of positions you have in your practice, to a number that you can be held accountable to? The average $300,000 U.S. producer had 1100 individual securities in his/her book.  That’s ineffective.  Again, have a simple, transparent plan, purpose and offerings.

My goal is to help us re-think the success metrics in this business today and create a better sense of intimacy with our clients.  By asking ourselves questions like this occasionally we can gain a new perspective, create a greater purpose and grow our influence and business accordingly. And when did a little self-assessment ever hurt us?

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