Focus on people over products

If you truly understand your client's goals, you won't need to sell.

Nobody cares which wrenches their mechanic uses when they’re fixing their car. As long as the tires are installed properly and safely, do I care which wrench or any other tools he uses, let alone the brand of tool used? Will a lug wrench from ABC Company accomplish the same thing as a lug wrench from XYZ Company? Of course! So why would I care which one he uses?

Clients feel the exact same way about the products we offer in the financial services industry. Most often, the products we are selling are a promise on a piece of paper that our clients hope they never have to collect on. They are a means to an end. And people only care about the end.

So our job is not to sell products, but rather to help clients determine the problems that our products are going to solve. Clients aren’t concerned with which investment products are best but rather how to achieve the future they want.

This means that great financial advisors should always start with the end. They have a clear understanding of their clients’ vision. When you stop working with products and start working with vision, you will never have to sell or ask for a referral again.

People want outcomes, not benchmarks and confusing financial data. They want to retire at the cottage. They don’t care if the investment style is bottom-up, top-down, value style or growth style any more than we care about which type of wrench our mechanic uses to change our tires. What they care about is whether or not they can retire at the cottage. Yet how much time do we spend talking about the markets and product features in relation to the time we spend talking about their goals and how that makes them feel?

When you have a deep understanding of a client’s goals and vision, there is practically zero selling involved. When you work hard to extract what is truly important to clients, help them and get specific about their goals, they will fall in love with you.

Next, you need to keep the vision alive. Provide your clients with a road map of what the next two years of the relationship will look like. Imagine how powerful it is for the clients to see that you have thought enough about them and their situation to plan out your next eight meetings. Each quarter, review the vision to make sure that you are still tuned in to their true goals. Review the road map to make sure that you are on track and to remind them of all of the things you have accomplished together.

This is all clients really care about when they are reviewing their financial planning progress. It could show them a line graph of where they need to be in terms of their retirement plan, for example, and each quarter their investment balances are updated on a bar graph. If the bar graph is touching or above the line, they are on track or ahead of schedule. As long as this is the case, clients don’t really tend to care about much else.

For example, you could say to a client, “You have $3 million of life insurance.” To the client, that’s like saying, “I used a four-way lug wrench to install your winter tires.” It doesn’t mean much, and it doesn’t make you special as their advisor. But if you said, “We have put sufficient insurance in place so that if anything were to happen to you, your mortgage would be paid off in full at 123 Any St., your wife would see your income continue until what would have been your retirement age, and your children will have their educations paid for, money for their weddings, and $50,000 each toward the down payment on their first homes.” How might that make your client feel?

The bottom line is that we need to work with people and not products. Products are simply a means to an end. When I learned this and made it a core philosophy of my business, I gained a real sense of pride as I evolved from salesperson to trusted professional in my clients’ eyes. It was and still is the best thing I have experienced in my tenure as a financial advisor.

Jedediah Harrison Levene, CFP, CLU, is an MDRT member from Orillia, Ontario, Canada.