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The Practice Doctor is IN

The Advisor's Geniuses

by Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH
Practice Management Consultant

Al Depman photoIn your role as a financial advisor, you bring four gifts to your clientele. These gifts—what I describe as "geniuses"—include the following:

  1. Relationship Building
  2. Relationship Maintenance and Growth
  3. Inspiring People to Action
  4. Creative Problem-Solving and Interpretation of Information

Let's take a closer look at each one.

Advisor Genius #1: Relationship Building

We've all heard the phrase "Oh, he's a natural salesman" in response to an encounter with a particularly persuasive person. It's the recognition of an intangible talent possessed by certain individuals. They seem to know the right thing to say, are able to engage you in a conversation, and can often have you revealing information to them that your spouse and best friends don't even know. Such people find it easy to engender trust from others while not raising any red flags.

This is the genius of relationship building. It is shared by honorable advisors, scam artists, politicians, and my barber. It's the "like-ability" factor—a confident and friendly demeanor that attracts attention and engenders a predisposition to believe what they say.

Over the course of an advisor's career there will be many relationships started in hopes of having them develop into fruitful clients and friendships. But a small percentage of these relationship grafts will flower into long-lasting associations, either by the advisor's choice, their client's choice, or mutual choice.

This is played out daily in the financial services world. An advisor will typically start out her career trying to develop as many relationships as possible as quickly as possible. Everyone's an "A" prospect because the advisor is optimistic that they will all turn out to have unlimited funds and crave financial advice.

Reality sets in soon enough and these burgeoning relationships settle into segments to be managed.

Advisor Genius #2: Relationship Maintenance and Growth

The advisor begins to segment all these various client relationships over time. She will actively court those who share her philosophy on the holistic role of money in their lives. These are relationships that need to be maintained and nurtured for they are long-range "keepers" that eventually form the core of the advisor's practice and life.

Keeping key client relationships healthy and growing requires the development of a series of "touches" that are both informative and caring. Informative touches include financial facts, performance reports, and market updates. Caring touches are more feeling-oriented: taking the client on a golf outing, a birthday lunch or sending a note congratulating them on receiving an award. These touches are less about the client's financial worth to the advisor than about how the advisor values the person and their family or business.

There is an art to knowing the balance between too many touches (smothering the client) and not enough (the client feeling orphaned). Each top tier client will have a unique contact preference. The advisor's genius is in setting up a scheduled sequence of client touches with flexibility for more intimate, proactive contacts.

Advisor Genius #3: Inspiring People to Action

At a most fundamental level, this genius has the advisor asking for the business and the client agreeing to his request. This is also known as the transaction, getting the check, closing the deal, collecting the fee, producing new business, and/or bringing home an income.

Certainly, it's your income stream we're talking about here. Early in one's financial services career, every transaction is vital to survival. But our relationship-based advisor seeks to transcend the cycle of product transactions by building a network of A-level clients who provide a steady flow of revenue from existing business, provide referrals on a regular basis, and are willing to commit additional assets to the advisor over time. These are the 20 percent who will produce 80 percent of the practice's revenue.

The inspirational advisor knows that "the money will come" if they take a proactive approach with their top clients.

The systematic approach to inspiring clients to take action is the Sales Process. It starts with the initial contact with the prospective client and proceeds through a sequence of discovery meetings. The discovery meetings lead logically to a presentation and the point of inspiration-to-action, traditionally known as the "close." Finally, there is a transition as the new client enters the ongoing service cycle.

The "inspiration to take action" relies to a great degree on how the advisor has developed the plan, structured the presentation, and selected the right product or service for the client. That takes us to:

Advisor Genius #4: Creative Problem-Solving and Interpretation of Information

The fourth area of advisor genius is that of creative problem-solving and interpreting of information. There are a number of best practices underlying this gift. Primary among them is the advisor's ability to listen effectively. To solve a problem is to truly understand the problem. Stephen Covey's principle of "seek first to understand, then to be understood" captures the essence of this "listening" best practice.

The advisor understands the real issues of the client and restates them for clarity before offering solutions. The solutions will be derived from the advisor's education, training, life experience, background, and wisdom.

Many times in response to my question, "Why are you in this business?" the first words out of the advisor's mouth are, "I love to help people." My belief is that the Creative Problem-Solving genius is the "help" part of that statement, just as "love" and "people" are reflected in the first two genius areas of Relationship Building and Relationship Maintenance and Growth. "I love to help people" may sound like a cliché but is, at its deepest levels, a necessary belief for an advisor to develop a prime practice.

To summarize: you are a genius! In four different (but related) ways. Keep these strengths sharp and your practice will not only thrive but prosper.

The Doctor is OUT

© 2015 Al Depman

Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH, a.k.a. "The Practice Doctor", is's Business Practice Consultant, and contributor to "The Wall Street Journal." He is the creator of "The Practice Management Assessment" tool, the key component of The Business Practice Check-Up™, has authored numerous articles in professional publications on practice management, and is the author of the book, How to Build Your Financial Advisory Business and Sell It at a Profit, available from McGraw Hill. Al combined his Liberal Arts studies with 10 years of management experience with McDonald's Corporation to enter the financial services world 25 years ago. Since then, Al has evolved from an MDRT-level sales rep into a full-time consultant specializing in helping others engineer their business practices to the next level. Contact him at

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