by Tony Vidler
Professional financial advisers know way too much to be used in any given client meeting or engagement. Yet too many think that how much you know is what matters. One of the great skills of the super successful professionals in fact is figuring out what stuff they know which is not useful to any particular client, and then not using it.
That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, especially as we’ve all had the misfortune to be stuck somewhere – perhaps a party, perhaps a conference, perhaps a long haul flight (heaven help us) – with that person who knows a lot and wants you to know everything that they know.
Tiresome, isn’t it?
It shouldn’t be surprising to any of us either, especially if we compared it to another (more graphic and potentially more painful) visit to another professional such as a surgeon. Nobody goes to see the surgeon and wants them to start engaging in every procedure and use every sharp thing they have to poke holes and whatnot. We just want them to use a specific piece of knowledge (and as few sharp tools as possible) that helps us get the outcome we were looking for.
In professional services where we are frequently dealing in expertise I would venture to suggest that most consumers don’t really care how much you know. It really isn’t that important to them. They care that you know enough of course, but what is most important most of the time to them is that you know what they want you to know. Not what they want to know…but what they want you to know.
Most consumers today who are prospective clients for professional services are over-loaded with information and choices, and they are time-poor. Accessing knowledge or answers or technical expertise is not really their issue. Time is their challenge. What most consumers want therefore is a professional who can zero in quickly on what it is they want resolved, and who uses just the knowledge base that is required to achieve it. Most consumers don’t see meetings with their advisers as an opportunity for a free educational lecture.
They usually are not interested in everything you know or can do at the outset of an engagement or professional relationship, they only care about using some of it.
Of course I am not suggesting that professionals should not know a lot. What I am suggesting is that professionals need to be as cautious as the surgeon that they don’t start inflicting unnecessary pain by doing things that didn’t need to be done. The greater any professionals expertise, both in breadth and depth, the greater their ability to help clients. The more they know, the more they can deal with and find creative solutions. Professional expertise matters more than ever before, and it is placed under greater scrutiny than ever before too.
Just don’t wheel it all out at every opportunity.
What I am suggesting however is that there has been a trend for professional advisers to over-complicate engagements by wheeling out expertise in areas which the clients simply do not want. Compliance is blamed for it of course. “The regulator made me do it” seems to be the usual rationale.
From my local perspective the regulator here doesn’t ask or expect professionals to force comprehensive advice processes across all financial disciplines upon every consumer they meet. There is zero expectation as far as I can tell that consumers are to be forced to access and utilise the exhaustive knowledge set of a professional on every occasion.
Yet, more and more advisers seem to be seeing that as their role, and are employing engagement and advice processes that force consumers to listen to a knowledge-download. Perhaps co-incidentally, I also usually hear that they are struggling to get enough consumers to engage their services….a coincidence perhaps.
One should not confuse compliant or professional processes with an expertise-download. One can give perfectly sensible advice which is meaningful and beneficial to the consumer, and which is also delivered to world-class best practice standards, on a single pain point. Or a single issue or need.
How much you know is not that important most of the time. The ability to find the overlap between what you know and what the consumer needs is where success lies. Just using what you have to in order to do the job well for the client, and give them what they want is the goal really isn’t it?.
The bottom line is they are paying the bills, so giving them what they want is actually the most important thing, and we shouldn’t forget that.