Updated Friday, July 25, 2014 as of 2:25 PM ET
Blogs - The Referral Doctor
Advisors: Nobody Cares About Your Process
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
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If you want to attract new clients, spend time talking about the benefits that people will have by working with you. Too many advisors talk mostly about their process. The problem with that is people don't care about your process.

Clients come to you for your expertise, because they don't have the skills necessary to design and execute a financial strategy that will give them the life they want. And they assume you have the right skills so they don't really want to hear about them, they want to hear about the outcome you will help them create.

I like to cook. But I don't cook like a chef. When I go out to eat, I want the experience of a meal it takes a chef to provide me. If I have heard from friends and read reviews that the kitchen at a particular restaurant produces amazing meals, I am not that interested in getting a step by step description of what they will do to create what I order. I'm interested in what's going to be on my plate. I have no desire to hear the waiter tell me that the chef will first sear the meat then deglaze the pan then reduce it to make the pan sauce, etc. I want to know what he's going to cook for me and then I just want to enjoy it.

Even if you are in the habit of describing your process and clients respond at the conclusion "wow, that's a great process" it is probably because you ended with "and so, we can deliver more income and more consistency by using this strategy." It is the last sentence they will be focusing on. They may be impressed with your description but when they compliment you on the obvious genius of your method they are most likely responding to the promised outcome not to the process itself.

That's why investment product sales literature almost invariably includes performance statistics. Not that I think that's what you should be doing.  But those ads and brochures are put together by professional marketers who have at least a superficial understanding of what their customers want. I am not recommending that you should advertise investment performance.  The lesson here is to talk about what you will deliver in terms of an outcome rather than a description of what you do to produce it.

It is natural that advisors want to talk about their processes. You spend a lot of time and energy learning your craft and performing due diligence and consistently fine tuning it. Many advisors believe it is what separates them from other advisors in the minds of their clients - although it almost certainly is not. When advisors start talking technical with their clients, they probably sounds pretty much the same. What gets the clients attention is the results.

When developing your communication strategy, then, stress what it will do for the clients. It is Marketing 101 - talk about the benefits.

What a prospect asks "why should I hire you?" Tell them about the solutions you bring to the challenges they have. Tell them about how you deliver an outcome they are looking for. Describe how their lives can be better because they work with you. Talk about what matters to them (the good things that will happen) rather than the steps you have to follow to do your job. You will find that people are a lot more interested in what you have to say.

What have you found that you say that gets people engaged and want to talk to you? Do you have a particularly effective way to describe your service offering that inspires conversation? Contribute a comment and let's see how many great ideas we can share.

(9) Comments
Good points Steve. While I mostly agree, I think there is a time and a place for describing HOW advisors achieve the benefits they deliver. If they are delivering great returns but their process involves taking risky bets, that is something most clients will want to know (or at least SHOULD want to know). By allowing some space to describe their methodology, advisors can also make sure that potential new clients are on board with their approach and not likely to jump ship the first time things get rocky. I don't think advisors should lead with this information, but it should be a part of the mix.

Neil Rhein Bull's-eye Financial Communications

Posted by neil r | Thursday, September 27 2012 at 9:09AM ET
Hi Steve -

I agree with your point in principle, but do you have any research or surveys that back up your argument?

Posted by mike m | Thursday, September 27 2012 at 9:12AM ET
I certainly don't want clients hiring me because of performance. This author states what a prospect wants is to be shown is results. (And yes our firm outperforms), those prospects are the first to leave at any sign of underperformance.

If I tell a prospect 'why they should hire us' and only say: because we are independent, fee only, use stocks and etf's, use a 3rd party custodian; we have experience, available for meetings, return calls promptly, look at my beautiful shingles on the wall; member fpa, cfa and we will reduce your stress = how does this differentiate me from the competition?

I think you have to explain your process. I don't think you need to go into every detail of the chef's preparation (slaughter house to the plate), but I think it is ok to discuss the highlights. This way the prospect will have an understanding of what you are doing and how you are different. They can understand some of the risk in your strategy. Part of why a prospect hires you is for your strategy. For a stereotypical 90 year old widow, keep it brief, for a pitch to a CFO, this person may want more detail.

Posted by bryan s | Thursday, September 27 2012 at 9:29AM ET
I agree with your point if generating new business without considering whether the prospect will be a good fit for our services is my objective. But no advisor can be all things to all people. Over time, as a practice grows, advisors discover they work very well with certain types of clients irrespective of net worth. In my experience, my brightest and best clients ask me about our process, our security checks, our privacy policies, and many other hard questions that go to substance rather than form. I find that people who desire bottom line outcomes, solutions, and a better life typically lack staying power during downturns and indulge in magic thinking rather than jumping in to do the hard work they need to do to change their process so they can maximize their resources. Discussing process can be an effective way to uncover behavior characteristics in a prospect that will ultimately eat up staff time and result eventualy firing the client. I would rather disqualify a prospect rather than terminate a client.
Posted by Bedda D | Thursday, September 27 2012 at 9:37AM ET
Steve , may be I have not correctly understood your thought....but I PARTIALLY agree with your opinion ...and I have one question for you: you say "I want to know what he(the advisor) is going to cook for me "..but me , as an advisor , do not know what I will cook for you, simply because I do not know what you need, what you want and what you like ...I have not already ready "dishes" in my mind/pockets.....if I will cook anything I will begin to cook only after I (and , often, the Client) will have discovered what the client prefers and known what can hit his "stomach" . I totally agree when you say : no technical discussions . So, what to promise? I have not a solution good for all . I do not make miracles , I only can try to know you and to help you to know what you want before buying any "dish"...as usual this is a personal opinion.
Posted by Giorgio C | Thursday, September 27 2012 at 10:28AM ET
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