The first step: Decide exactly what you want your clients to perceive you do, and then determine the specific impact you want to make in their lives. Do you want them to sleep better at night, have clarity and understanding, grow their account balances, run faster, or jump higher? What exactly do you want them to tell their friends you did for them? What story do you want them to be sharing?
The second step, once you’re very clear on step one, is to become equally clear-cut on the things that you will not do. This is even more critical than choosing what you will do because not doing certain things is a lot more difficult to define and also stick with.
Here’s an example: you determine that you wish to sell the outcome of ‘peace of mind’ to retirees. Great, we could all use more of that. How do you go about doing that exactly? If you provide income planning services, do you utilize systematic withdrawals as your preferred income strategy? While systematic withdrawals is a fine approach, is it in alignment with your primary objective of your clients’ peace of mind? After all, you may trust markets to be efficient and feel good about a 95% probability of success using less than a 4% safe withdrawal rate with risk-based investments. Does your client agree with you and sleep well at night with those odds? Or would they sleep better with a safety-first income strategy?
When we’re working to align what we think about ourselves with what other people think about us, it pays to be brutally honest. Without a deep level of honesty, we often fool ourselves into thinking that we’re hitting the mark, when in actuality, our clients just don’t see us the same way. When they don’t see us in that way, they are very unlikely to trust us to solve their problem. They’ll likely move on to the advisor who does what she says and says what she does in a very clear and compelling way.
When you invest the time to think through your business in this way, what do you gain? Well, by aligning what we actually do and what our clients and prospects think we do, a congruence forms between message and process that builds trust. As you well know, trust is a currency that is in very short order.
We all strive to build trusting relationships with our clients, but I challenge you to look deeper. Do we really take it seriously? From your clients’ perspective, do you do what you say you do? Does your deliverable really match the perception you present? No, building trust is not complicated, yet it’s not as easy as one would think. The benefits, however, are immeasurable for client and advisor alike. Trust me.
In the pursuit of better understanding how money really works, and probably more importantly, how people interact with and handle money, an advisor eventually comes face-to-face with the study of behavioral finance. That is, the formal study of how we really make decisions and why we make them. It’s fascinating.
How do we perfectly align what we do for our clients with what they say we do for them? If we’re really honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that what we think about ourselves rarely matches what other people think about us. Knowing that, how do we ensure that our value proposition, the core thing that we think about ourselves, is heard by others in the same way we see it?