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Working with Clients – Expectations, Motivations, Education, and Responsibilities

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Before his death in 2015, the famous publicist, Forrest Wallace (“Wally”) Cato interviewed me for an article he was writing that included an interview with Tom Hopkins and quotes from the Zig Ziglar, who had passed away a few years earlier.

The following are excerpts from Cato’s interview:

Wally: What do clients expect from a financial planner?

Sandy: When I make the decision to hire a financial planner, my expectations are different than many planners might think. Sure, I want him or her to be an expert in the field. But given the choice of an expert planner who appears to like and care about me or one who doesn’t, I’ll take the one who does every time.

A few of your clients might be watching the performance of their investments relative to the market. Most, however, don’t really know—or care—whether you’ve created the best possible plan, are delivering them the best possible performance on their investments or the best possible insurance and annuity products. They want to know that they’re important to you. Dale Carnegie referred to it as being impressed, rather than being impressive.

As the old cliché goes: Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

Wally: Does an advisor have to motivate his or her clients?

Sandy: Some clients are motivated. They want help with retirement. They know they need insurance. Unfortunately, these are the exceptions. The rest need to be motivated to do what’s right for them. A client who thinks he is prepared for retirement or believes he has enough life insurance is not likely to be motivated to do what you know is best for him.

All of the logical reasons why a client needs to have something won’t motivate a client. Nobody will take your recommendation unless he feels that it something he wants or needs. That gives us at least two motivational jobs:

First, to be passionate about what we’re recommending. Clients will buy your passion long before they buy your solution; and second, ask the questions that need to be asked so that they can see that they need what you’re recommending.

Wally: How much of an advisor’s work is informing and educating his or her clients?

Sandy: Everywhere I speak I hear advisors tell me that their job is educating their prospects and clients.

Informing and educating is one part of the job, but it’s just one part. First, comes establishing rapport and thoroughly understanding the client’s situation. Then, the plan or solution can be prepared and presented. The client certainly should be informed and educated about what went into the analysis and the choices the advisor is making, but what they really want is leadership.

Too many advisors give clients a choice based on the information, when what they want and need is a clear recommendation based on the information.

Invite your clients to learn, but lead them to the right solution.

Wally: In what way do you recommend that an advisor strive to protect his or her clients?

Sandy: There has been a lot of controversies lately over what kind of advisor has what kind of fiduciary responsibility, and what that means.

There has also been a lot of confusion about such concepts as “suitability” and “risk tolerance.” Only when someone’s account has suffered a significant loss does his real risk tolerance surface.

All the Continuing Education in the world won’t do more than asking yourself a simple question: Does what I am recommending best serve my client?

If the client is going to pay a “back end” charge to switch, will she be better off when that cost is considered? Does the small client with a few dollars to invest really need a $5000 plan?

We need to protect a risk-averse client from market volatility, but we also need to protect him from our need to make money. If what we’re proposing best serves the client, it’s right. If not, it’s wrong. The way to protect the client is to ask that question.


Wally brought out the best in people. These were my ideas and my words, but somehow, he made them sing. Like me, many advisors and many of my coaching and training colleagues, still miss him, and in many ways, his work in the financial planning world lives on. Those of us he left behind will work on “cutting a greater figure” and keep REACHING


If you want to rethink your approach to clients, schedule a no-fee consultation with Sandy!


16 Disciplines

I suppose it would have been more fun if I called them 16 “hot tubs” for advisors, or less intimidating if I called them “practices,” but after 17 years of working with and observing how the most successful advisors, it's clear that there are branches of knowledge involved. 


Practice these simple 16 disciplines daily and watch how quickly and easily your practice grows.

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