Why Lawyers sell more than Financial Planners
Sales & Marketing for Professional Services & Strategic Issues

Why Lawyers sell more than Financial Planners

July 18, 2014

by Tony Vidler

Why is it that everyone tells jokes about lawyers and begrudges their work, yet lawyers tend to do pretty well in business?

How is it that lawyers who tend to be pretty awful at marketing their services get so much business?

Why is it that so many financial advisers actually have their work valued by the client, yet the clients expect it for free (or as close to it as they can get)?

How is it that financial advisers who tend to be pretty good salespeople and better than average marketers of their services struggle to get business in the door?

The answer lies in who services the immediate need, and who focusses on future needs.

The nature of the engagements that lawyers deal with is driven by an immediate need. Litigation, conveyancing, asset protection, a run-in with the law….whatever the issue is that drives the engagement, there is a tendency for the client to have an immediate need.  And they pay well to have immediate gratification.

The nature of the engagement with the financial planner is to defer immediate gratification for the promise of a better long term future.

There is the Dilemma of Future Planning:  we have to put the brakes on Now thinking.

“…and you want me to pay how much to not get something now?”

Clients might not express it so bluntly, and may not even think about the difference at any rational level, but instinctively this is what they are feeling.  Therein lies the problem for the financial planner:  How to do the right thing for the client when the client doesn’t necessarily enjoy having the right thing done.

That’s why smart advisers focus their marketing on outcomes that provide gratification of an immediate need.  Delivering convenience, or saving clients time, or restructuring debt to head off disaster….these are examples of immediate needs for clients that advisers can promise and deliver upon which clients will pay for.

Lawyers deliver on short term, time bound needs, and get paid well for doing so.  Financial Planners deliver long term, behaviour changing, lifetime needs, and will over time get paid well for doing so.  In the short term though, clients will tend to pay more for things that deliver results now.

Financial planners aren’t in the now business.

That’s why lawyers sell more billable hours.  They are in the immediate-need business.

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Comments (3)

  • Great article Tony.
    Agree, not easy selling in the “instant gratification” world, further complicated by the lack of trust we experience with the various scandals in the industry.

    • all too true! It is not easy at all for planners and financial advisers who have to by definition work for the longer term good generally, meaning they are perpetually fighting the “I want it all now” mindset. It is a tough business that requires rare combinations of personality, ego, intelligence and empathy to get things moving in the right direction for clients.

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