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The Practice Doctor is IN

What You Can Learn by Listening to Your Difficult Clients

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

Al Depman photoLet's face it: some clients are difficult. In fact, many advisors I consult with will not work with a certain type-A personality, but there are lessons we can learn from them. Here's a primer on these folks.

He's busy. His schedule is full, and he always seems to be moving from one activity to another. Once he's got all the information presented to him, he tends to make fast decisions—whether it's deciding which item to select on the restaurant menu, or which car to buy in the dealer's showroom. At the same time, he has no time to waste on someone else's agenda.

She suspects a need to update her life insurance and review other long-term financial goals and strategies. She needs someone who is going to work with her, help her understand her needs, and address them appropriately.

Keeping that in mind, here's what they want from their advisor:

  • "Don't try to sell me anything. Explain your recommendations to me, give me all the information I need, and then let me make my own decision."
  • "Please respect my time. If we agree to an hour, don't make me have to check my watch after 65 minutes and begin clearing my throat."
  • "Use our time together to get to know me. Please do not assume anything about me. Find out who I am, what I want, and what concerns me."
  • "Let me get to know you. Tell me a little about yourself, your training, your experience, your background, and your credentials."
  • "Tell me about your company and its reputation for reliability, service, and quality of products."
  • "Educate me. I'm not stupid, but I am also not an expert in life insurance or retirement funding. For example, don't just tell me I need more life insurance. Explain to me why. Then tell me how it will benefit my family or business and me. Finally, tell me why you believe that the particular policy or strategy you recommend is the best choice for my situation."
  • "Please don't tell me what I can afford. That's my decision. I will tell you whether or not something you recommend is affordable. Then I'll trust you to find something that fits my budget."
  • "If we do business together, I expect to hear from you again. Don't just take the money and run. I want follow-up service."
  • "I want a go-to person—someone I can count on for the long term, so I don't have to shop around for a new advisor a year or two from now. That means I need someone I can trust to look after my needs in this area, so I don't have to worry about them."

Do these things, and there is a good chance he or she will be your loyal customer for a long time. Come to think of it, this is good advice for dealing with all clients, not just those with a Type-A personality!

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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