by Tony Vidler
There is a sale that advisers have to make, before they make a sale. The first sale that has to be made is YOU.
Advisers often tell me they are struggling to get potential clients to engage. The increasing compliance and documentation of advice, and the need to establish professional credentials and spell out all the advice and help and guidance we can provide, seems to have led many advisers away from a basic professional relationship rule: People will not buy what you can do until they trust you, or rather, trust the process.
Before moving onto the things that we have to do professionally when engaging clients – the agenda, scoping, disclosure, the fact-finding and so on – we have to get them to buy into us. One of the all time great thinkers of professional services outlined it brilliantly in “The Trusted Adviser”. Maister’s book is a must read (as are quite a few of his!), and I feel that some of the critical points he makes have been lost in the compliance and professional standards noise.
Effective advice cannot be delivered without the client buying into the process and understanding the purpose of it. They will not do that until they have decided that they can trust your professional competence. Trust at this stage of the engagement is not a question of whether they can trust you with their money or information, but a question of whether they believe that you can help them get where they want to go.
The first sale that must be made is selling potential clients the process. But to sell the process we have to capture their imagination and show them how the process creates desirable outcomes to begin with. In my experience beginning those first meetings with a blank screen, or blank sheet of paper, and then using visuals to explain the value that planning and advice can deliver is the critical step. It creates context for the advice and the compliance process, and relevance for all the boring bits that must follow during the formulation of detailed financial advice.
The sale before the sale of the actual personalised advice is the selling of merits of the advice process. Perhaps because the prospects had already agreed to meet, the advisers assume that the clients have bought into the idea of advice already….most times the prospective clients have not quite bought into the advice process. They have agreed to meet and discuss it because they are open to the possibility that the advice process might help them, but that doesn’t mean they are entirely sure.
Sell the process first to establish trust in the process. The trust in you will be built as you work through the process. Then you can give effective advice.
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