When Flying Blind Works: How to Succinctly Define How You Can Help Clients

Joel Pierce was an experienced flight instructor, having been on countless outings with student pilots. But this trip was different. This pilot, Jim Platzer, was a life-long flying enthusiast who had first earned his pilot’s license at age 21, but he had not seen the inside of a plane in over a decade. He was enjoying flying again, controlling the plane, doing everything flawlessly. As they approached the landing, Joel began providing Jim more direct feedback, letting him know exactly what he thought and commenting on Jim’s responses. The landing was perfect, just as Jim had pictured it. Climbing out of the plane, Jim was thrilled and thanked Joel for his guidance. When Jim got out of the plane, he was reunited with his great friend, Mica. What made this flight different is that Jim is blind and Mica is his seeing-eye dog.

Having lost his sight over a decade ago due to a degenerative eye disease, Jim is determined to live enjoying what he can do rather than focusing on his limitations. Jim knew how to fly, but he understood he had to trust Joel’s expertise. Joel’s role was to see, interpret, and navigate what Jim could not perceive on his own, and Jim understood he needed to closely follow Joel’s instructions to successfully achieve his objective.

As financial advisors we may long for clients who trust us as much as Joel’s pilot, Jim, trusted him. What are you doing to help your clients understand your role and their need to trust you and closely follow your instructions so they can successfully achieve their financial goals?

When it comes to their money, many clients are understandably very protective. They want to feel in control. From the beginning of your relationship with clients, you need to be comfortable clearly articulating that while you are on this journey to protect and grow their assets together, your position means you can see all kinds of conditions, from potential economic headwinds, to market turbulence, to changing political landscapes, which they may be blind to, but which could impact their portfolio returns.

Your role in becoming their trusted advisor, means they need to be willing to listen to, respect, and follow your advice. Your conversation might go something like this:

“When it comes to your personal plans and family finances, I take them seriously. It’s an honor and huge responsibility to be permitted to have influence in people’s lives. I work with clients who, 99% of the time, do exactly what I advise.

“Often I meet people who are concerned about reaching their financial goals, such as funding college expenses or having enough to retire comfortably. Ultimately you’ll have the wheel in our relationship, but I’ll be doing the majority of the navigating. Often people want to know if they’re on the correct path to reach their objectives, and if not, how to get on it as soon as possible. We head toward that final destination together, and I try and make your landing as smooth as possible.”

If a prospect wants a broker to simply take their orders, rather than a trusted advisor, consider that an online brokerage account is likely a better fit, no matter what the value of their assets.

When prospects ask who is your ideal client, don’t be afraid to communicate that you work with people who listen to you.

  • Be clear and honest about who you want to build relationships with: “While I often work with people who have in excess of $___ (fill in the blank for assets), more importantly, I work with people who follow my advice so they can continue doing what matters most to them.”
  • Be clear and provide examples about who fits your business: “While I work with select people who have smaller balances, I do so because we really connect and they’re a great fit with the way I work. They’re clear about their goals and follow my advice. Likewise, I’ve had some larger clients whom I stopped working with because they consistently wouldn’t take my advice, yet expected to absorb a lot of my time. In situations like that, the relationship just is not a great fit for either of us.”
  • Be clear and finish strongly, clearly laying out expectations and next steps: “From the concerns and priorities you’ve mentioned, and from the questions you’ve asked, I’m certain I’d enjoy working with you and helping you achieve your objectives. You need to decide if you’re comfortable working with me. From what you’ve mentioned, it seems like you are. If you’d like to move forward with me, I can walk you through the next steps. How does that sound?”
  • Most people are overwhelmingly busy these days. Do yourself and your prospects a favor by not hesitating to clearly and succinctly define who and how you help. The sooner you do, the sooner you can begin a new, profitable relationship – either with that person, or the next ideal client who comes your way.