How to create a phenomenal competitive advantage

These days, the only way to truly differentiate yourself is by focusing on the client experience. When you engage with your clients in a way that makes relationships easier and moves clients closer to you, you can truly create a competitive advantage. You create relationships whereby your clients seek your advice.

There are three components, which we call the Legacy Advice Model, that represent the priority of engagement that forward-thinking advisors will implement with clients:

  1. Lead with empathy
  2. Seek to understand
  3. Plan together

All three are required to deliver the highest quality of advice.

Empathy is about leading with a high level of deep responsibility and respect for the clients and the vision they have for their future. This calls for the need to slow down and truly listen with the intent to learn.

Understanding is about gaining awareness and appreciation for the circumstances impacting a client through a truly qualitative discovery process that goes far beyond traditional fact-finding.

Planning is about bringing both quantitative and qualitative analysis, assessments, modeling and forecasting together, and this is where things get interesting. During the empathy and understanding phases of the model is where much of the qualitative knowledge comes from, and this becomes extremely powerful when combined with the quantitative analysis.

By focusing on the clients and what matters to them, you will have the opportunity to solve their needs.

My experience of nearly three decades as both an advisor and a coach to thousands of advisors has highlighted that poor human behavior and decision-making on behalf of clients has less to do with their irrational or emotional self than it does with the quality of the relationship they have with their advisor. When clients don’t trust the advisor, the advice or the plan, the irrational emotional self becomes present, as it probably should.

There is a great quote by Carl W. Buehner that I use frequently in my work: “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

This is a relationship business, but selling is not relational in most cases. So, creating a relational experience around how you sell and serve is the factor that will make you differentiate competitively all day long.

This was excerpted from the 2022 MDRT Annual Meeting presentation “Behavioral planning: How advisor behavior drives client decision-making” [MDRT member exclusive]

Todd Fithian is a speaker, thought leader, published author and lifelong entrepreneur with three decades of experience in the financial services profession.

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