How to be the financial advisor every client wants right now? Try channeling Gregory Peck!

by IdeaTransfer on August 16, 2011

IdeaTransfer is always feeling for the pulse of our culture—particularly the decision mindset of the business owners and affluent families that many of our clients serve.  During the 2008 meltdown they were angry and disappointed by their advisors–obviously.  But it was not as simple as the pain of having their assets ravaged.  It was about advice that they didn’t get. Clients felt let down by advisors who said nothing for fear of being wrong or offered platitudes about confidence and patience or obscured their analysis and opinions with jargon.

Three years later clients may have come to terms with loss and sacrifice, but the consensus of advisor experience says clients are still resisting financial decision-making.  Maybe a better way to say it is that clients are still not getting something they want from their advisors.

A lot of advisors believe rational people make rational decisions.  Serious error.  When clients resist decisions it’s not always because they don’t understand the benefit or the logic behind it.  Decisions are at least as intuitive as rational.  Our conclusion is that intuitively they don’t trust their advisors.  Even you.

For the sake of argument, assume your pre-crisis relationship is gone for good—the refresh button is inoperable.  Assume new clients are no less skeptical.  What do you have to do to become the advisor these clients trust today?

Our advice is to watch some old movies. Not just any old movies.  What classic Hollywood star most epitomized trust, integrity, ethics, honor, strength, capability?

We’re going with Gregory Peck.  You want to be the advisor that every client is looking for right now?  Here are four qualities you need to master and epitomize for your clients.  Gregory Peck shows you how it’s done in four films.

Purposeful Enthusiasm—Check out Gen. Frank Savage in 12 O’clock High.

Gregory Peck takes command of WWII daylight bomber unit where morale is complete shot.  While they distrust him, slowly he shows them how to believe in themselves, how to take responsibility, and how to fight as a team that knows it can win.  For all his toughness his eagerness for their success is clear, and they can’t resist it.

Your clients want to be decisive and take action and feel self-reliant, but they have a morale problem—planning paralysis caused by government disarray, market instability, tax uncertainty.  What they need from their advisors is a calm voice of authority inspiring them to get back into the decision-making war.

How do you do it?  Start a dialogue with private briefings.  You have your own theories of what lies ahead.  Turn them into if-then scenarios—it’s not about predictions but all the possible implications.  Trust isn’t built on certainty but by feeling prepared for anything.

Intelligent Vigilance—Take cues Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

What good does it do to say clients are more prudent or cautious today?  It gives off an odor of resignation.  Why not say clients want their advisors to be smart enough to see problems ahead?  They need to trust their advisors are paying attention to what’s going on in their financial world.  They want advisors who are perceptive, informed, and insightful, because vigilance comes from what you know not what you fear.

Nobody was ever as sagacious, judicious, watchful, and discreet as Atticus Finch.  In court he could hold his fire, knowing the right moment to bring out the truth.  He could face a mob without blinking because he knew its weakness was bluff.  Even though he failed to defeat prejudice in the trial, his vigilance against prejudice at home saved his children.

He couldn’t predict the future for them, but he could prepare them for it.  You have to trust someone who says, “There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ‘em all away from you. That’s never possible.”  Try that line on your clients and find out what is possible.

Mindful Affinity—Follow Joe Bradley in Roman Holiday.

Admittedly, in the beginning of the film, Gregory Peck seems like a slacker.  He has no money, no prospects, lots of fast talk, and a few big lies—typical reporter.  Chance drops a princess in his lap, and he intends to exploit her story to the limit.  Only, he can’t—because he can’t not put her interests first.  People think it’s a love fantasy between reporter and princess.  It’s not—it’s a realistic depiction of empathy.

What clients want from advisors is exactly what Audrey Hepburn gets from Gregory Peck at the end.  Proof that you feel their pain and that you respect them for having gone through it.  Without that what’s the difference between advisors and reporters?  Joe Bradley crosses that river toward the end of the film, literally.  The advisors we know have all crossed it too.  But how to prove it?  There are no footprints in water.

Joe Bradley proved his integrity by asking coded questions in the final interview scene.  Isn’t that the most important fundamental of consultative selling?  Data gathering is not about discovering your planning strategy—it’s how you prove you understand your client’s problem.  This is a time to ask the challenging questions no one else asks—in a non-challenging way that shows affinity.  Every question you ask is an opportunity to build trust, and every answer you get says you are succeeding.

Resourceful Leadership—Learn from Capt. Keith Mallory in The Guns of Navarone.

What do you do when your mission begins to fall apart?  Your commanding officer is critically wounded, your boat founders, your enemy is everywhere they weren’t supposed to be, your explosives are damaged, there’s a traitor in your unit, and one team member has a blood oath to kill you when the mission is done.

That’s Gregory Peck’s situation, but it’s also a fair description of what your clients experienced since the global financial crisis.   What can you do for them?  Gregory Peck comes up with an idea to break apart every obstacle.  He executes those ideas systematically or fortuitously.  He motivates his team any way he can—even a whiner like David Niven and a snake like Anthony Quinn.  All that leadership effort makes sense to him because the mission is worth it.

Clients who get from their advisors innovative, actionable ideas that break through obstacles and achieve results are willing and even happy to be led into action.  But remember it is not just a rational process.  The rational brain values how and what. The intuitive side responds to why.  As a leader you have to frame the why—the mission—so they realize that the effort of making decisions is worth something great.

Indecision isn’t the reality unless we let it be the reality.  Gen. Savage, lawyer Finch, reporter Bradley, and Capt. Mallory teach us that indecision is just a plot twist.  However, they also teach us that the story stays stuck until we do something to move it forward.  That’s the role your clients trust you to play.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: