Elevate yourself from salesperson to steward

As a financial advisor, you’re in the knowledge-for-profit business. You think for a living. You’re not selling things; you are promoting the promise of the future. Think about commoditization and all the forces at work, such as fee compression, which can render you into looking like any other advisor. What you do can become very abstract.

How do you defend against that so that you can differentiate and elevate? The answer isn’t marketing, it’s branding. Marketing is what you say. Branding is what the listeners hear and internalize and can then socialize to someone else. It’s their interpretation of your value, but it’s not driven by your qualities, skills and intentions. All that is an important component to what you do, but remember your knowledge and service is bought, not sold. I’m not asking you to sell yourself. I want someone to interpret your value quickly and resonate with them.

How to resonate with clients

Remember, you are not just managing money. You are not just managing your business. You are managing people. We manage people by how you communicate with them and how you service them. “How many things could you do for a client over the lifetime of the relationship?” I’ll often ask an advisor we’re collaborating with “Ok, assuming they’re a client for life, and then the business continues into the next generation, how many things could you deliver for them?”

For many advisors, they’ve got to get that out of their head and document that list. Turn those steps and services into intellectual properties. When they do, it’s not uncommon for advisors to call us back and say, “I do 85 things for a client over the lifetime of the relationship.” That’s powerful.

Some do more, some do less. But that’s not the point. It’s the level of service that makes you valuable. Keep in mind that your client will never remember 85 things and none of those individual things are proprietary to you, either. They’re commoditized. But if you promote a promise for the future, you’re decommoditized, and the more they see your value the more you will be indispensable.

What are clients really buying?

Do your clients buy into a process or are they buying individual things? Consider this. It’s not the 85 things we want them to focus on. It’s the one thing that you’ve developed and refined into a process that puts every piece of that puzzle together as their life unfolds and their needs evolve. They can’t outgrow your process. They’ll grow into it as critical life events occur and their life progresses. This is how you become their personal CFO.

When your clients shift from a transactional relationship to buying into a fluid and dynamic process, that is what competitor-proofs clients and turns them into advocates. An advocate is the dream client. They empower you fully, are a joy to work with and endorse you to anyone who will listen. They aren’t referring someone to you so that you can build your business. They feel they are doing a friend a disservice by not making the introduction. In essence, they are advocates for both you and their friend. 

Duncan MacPherson, CEO of Pareto Systems, in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, is a branding and client acquisition expert and author of “The Blue Square Method.” This article was excerpted from the September/October 2022 Round the Table article, “How to become more referable.” He also presented at the 2022 MDRT Annual Meeting.

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