When most consumers purchase an item or service, they do comparative shopping. If it’s a house, you go online and search for comparable properties. The same can be said when shopping for a car or a household appliance.
When I speak in front of a group of financial advisors, I’ll often ask them, “How many of you are bothered by a local competitor who claims to do exactly what you do but doesn’t do it nearly as well?” Almost every hand goes up. I follow that question with this: “And whose problem is that? If you don’t want to be compared to other advisors, stop sounding like them.”
Stop commoditizing yourself.
A key to developing a value proposition that will only appreciate over time and not be subjected to the forces of depreciation is to deliver on value that is felt but not measurable. Here’s an analogy that, while not perfect, illustrates what I mean. It was given to me by a professional scout when asked what the scout was looking for in prospective players: “The same thing everyone else is looking for: speed, strength, and agility. But there is one other component they must have, or we will not risk millions of dollars and a first-round draft choice on them––they must have coachability.”
Coachability is important, but it is also a value that is observable and felt—there’s no objective way to measure it. Because speed, strength, and agility are easy to measure, they are seen as commodities (in the scouting community) that lack value without the underlying intangible values.
Intangible value is what will ensure you stand out and stay ahead of other advisors. Prospects and clients look for certain values to be present in their financial lives and are willing to pay a premium to see those values implemented.
If any of the following statements describe you, you are in trouble:
- You need to constantly (quarterly/annually) prove your worth.
- You are blamed for events and forces beyond your control.
- You are perpetually compared to competitors and indexes.
- You are wrong in your predictions.
- You have to cope with clients who hold back information and assets.
- You have too many clients.
- You do not have enough time in your day to balance personal and professional commitments.
What this list demonstrates is the inevitable failure of poorly founded and formulated value propositions. When beginning with the wrong hub in your proposition, you should not be surprised when the entire wheel becomes unbalanced. Making promises you can’t keep is a surefire way to end up in a ditch once that wheel becomes unhinged.
If your goal is to bring value that cannot be commoditized, you need to understand the intangible values your clients want and need in their financial lives that only life-centered financial advisors can deliver. The six core values of the advisor/client relationship in the life-centered financial planning model are:
#1 – Organization: We will help bring order to your financial life.
#2 – Accountability: We will help you follow through on your financial commitments.
#3 – Objectivity: We will provide insight from the outside to help you avoid emotionally-driven decisions in important money matters.
#4 – Proactivity: We will help you anticipate the key transitions in your life so that you will be financially prepared for them.
#5 – Education: We will explore the specific knowledge you will need to succeed in your situation.
#6 – Partnership: We will work with you to help you achieve the best life possible.
All of these are observable and felt by your clients but are not measurable and therefore cannot be commoditized. You know you’re delivering immeasurable value when your client uses superlatives to describe the impact of these values: incredible, invaluable, and priceless are examples of what you want to hear.
Conversely, you have every right to let clients know what your expectations are of them. Preface your investment policy statements with an investment philosophy statement. Define what clients should expect from you and what you expect from them. Whether personal or professional, partnerships work when you know what to expect from each other.
Clients are looking for professionals who will keep the promises they make. Their decisions are no longer based on predicting the markets, guaranteeing returns, or outpacing competing asset managers, but rather on building a financial practice focused on the life and well-being of the client. Helping them organize, holding them accountable, telling the truth, helping them to be proactive, educating them on positive financial behaviors, and being their partner––are all promises you can keep, year in and year out—and are values that will guarantee clients for life.
Adapted from Life Centered Financial Planning by Mitch Anthony and Paul Armson. ©2021 Mitch Anthony and Paul Armson. Available at online and local bookstores, or from mitchanthony.com.
Mitch Anthony advises financial services organizations throughout the world. An industry pioneer, he is a popular speaker and consultant, and the developer of MyFLPTools, a subscription-based service that provides a suite of discovery tools for financial services professionals. He and Steve Sanduski have developed the Retirement Coaching Program and ROL Advisor to help advisors build a Life-Centered Planning™ practice. A regular contributor to Financial Advisor magazine, Mitch is the author of 17 books including the industry bestseller, StorySelling for Financial Advisors and The New Retirementality, now in its fifth edition. His newest book, Life-Centered Financial Planning (co-authored with Paul Armson and published by John Wiley & Sons) is available online and at local bookstores. Contact Mitch at [email protected] or visit www.mitchanthony.com.