This is a guest post from our good friend and absolute gun adviser Ronald Sier. You can find out more about Ronald and his work by visiting his site smartfinancialplanner.com
This blog is an expanded reproduction of the original, which you can see here.
I’ve had the pleasure of shooting the breeze with Ronald 1:1. And what a crisp, clear breeze it always is.
If you haven’t, it may be useful to know Ronald as one of clearest thinkers I know on the topic of modern advice practices. His new online courses are well worth checking out.
I want to start by sharing one of his most recent blogs.
Many advisers I speak to have conflicting views on robo advice. Some see it as a real threat, others as something they can’t wait to get into their business.
However, the common view is it will and has had an impact on business models.
Ronald has a view too, but what I love about the way he sees it is that he makes some important observations about the problems that technology won‘t solve for your business.
In doing so, he makes some points about the decline of soft skills training that every adviser should pay very careful attention to.
I’ll let Ronald tell the rest.
What are you afraid of?
Are you afraid of the digital revolution? Are you afraid of the ongoing innovations in our financial planning business? Are you afraid you can’t keep up? Are you afraid your client doesn’t recognize the value you deliver? Are you afraid you will not have a reason to exist?
There’s no need to.
Let’s face it.
The financial planning business is changing. Rapidly. There are so many new developments every day, it sometimes feels that we’re sitting still while the whole world is moving. Not knowing what’s going to happen next.
And while the world is changing, you’re doing the same stuff that worked yesterday, 5 years ago, maybe even 10 years ago.
You’re doing “the usual”.
And sometimes it feels like most of the time you’re stumbling around in the dark.
Because you don’t know if the work you are doing now, will also work tomorrow.
It feels like a never-ending guessing game.
And it gets even worse.
Because there are new players who DO seem to know. Here are some examples:
Nutmeg. In 10 minutes you can have an online portfolio. Professional, fast, cheap and flexible.
Etoro. A social investment network. Just copy the investment of highly successful traders and use the wisdom of crowds. Pretty brilliant.
Betterment. A goal-based investment tool without the hassle. Fast, cheap, and accessible.
Mint. Also fast and cheap. Puts all your financial accounts into one place.
Now, this can be pretty overwhelming.
And there are lots of reasons why people move towards these new players:
It’s fast, it’s cheap, it’s new, it’s online, it’s do-it-yourself, it’s design, it’s wow, it’s two swipes away.
STEWART NOTE: There are two points here well worth noting.
It feels scary to be the target of Silicon Valley, and it can be if you let it.
However, put it in context.
Most advice firms aren’t aiming for the millions of clients that these startups are. They’re only a threat if they cause you to take your eyes of the small game of finding people who want YOUR help.
The second is about the value proposition.
The truth is they can do it faster, often cheaper and probably sexier.
Which makes it vitally important you can understand your value to the people you help.
But does this really ‘move’ people?
The new age of free left-brain digital innovations doesn’t decrease your client’s need to feel special. Or to flee into safety in the face of things that scare him.
It doesn’t diminish his need to feel important or to feel acknowledged. That’s why it’s the right-brain emotional experience that ‘moves’ your client.
Still, the question remains: “What exactly does move people towards you and your financial planning service?”
(and what doesn’t move them in the direction of the online revolutionaries?)
Here are some answers:
It’s the feeling of importance, it’s the feeling of acknowledgment, it’s the feeling of peace of mind, it’s the feeling of hope, it’s the feeling of recognition, it’s the feeling of trust, etc.
“I’m not sure there’s any number of Facebook likes that can replace a hug” ~ Seth Godin
And I hear you think … feeling … ok …., but what should I do next? What’s the secret sauce, the magic ingredient, the proverbial golden elixir that ignites that feeling?
Well, not if you read this:
STEWART NOTE: This is a golden rule of marketing.
Marketing is about moving people to act.
A logical argument doesn’t move the client to act.
Only emotion can do that.
Hence, all marketing is about emotion.
The Most Disastrous Assumption Anyone Can Make about Financial Planning
Empathy isn’t always held in high regard amongst financial planners. It’s often considered a soft-hearted nicety in an industry that demands hard-headed detachment. Most of us believe we:
- Need to think rationally and logically.
- Need to strategize, not empathize.
- Need to prize emotional distance and cool reason.
And it’s not our fault. We are trained to have the ability to step back, assess the situation, and give solid advice, unimpeded by emotion.
And because of this training, we fall victim to the most disastrous assumption anyone can make about financial planning. It’s an assumption made by all left-brain-planners who want to matter to their clients by helping them with their knowledge.
The fatal assumption is: if you understand the left-brain part of financial planning, you understand what matters most to your clients.
The reason that this is fatal, is that it just isn’t true. In fact, I believe it’s the reason why some financial planners are struggling these days.
If you are still under the fatal assumption that you engage your clients just because of your knowledge, experience or your financial plan, you are just wrong.
Because if you understand the left-brain part of your financial planning service, you understand how the technical part of financial planning is done.
That’s the part computers and software can do better than you.
STEWART NOTE: This is where Ronald really comes into his own.
It’s not about the service. It’s not about your expertise. It’s not about the relationship.
It’s about connecting with what someone wants and helping them creating a transformation.
Software cannot create that experience.
What Developing Empathy Can Do for Your Financial Planning Service
Empathy isn’t new in our profession.
It’s as old as mankind. But because empathy deals with the right-brain-part of our profession where emotions and “soft skills” are leading, it tends to be shoved into a corner and pulled out only when needed.
Just think about our financial planning education programs and how much of our CFP program contains the behavioral part of financial planning.
Need I say more?
It’s almost as if they say: “It’s not important”.
But here’s the thing: empathy is an everyday-ritual. Because if you listen, you’ll notice our daily language is filled with references to feeling what other people are feeling. References like:
- Walk a mile in another man’s shoes.
- See the world through my eyes.
- Now you know what it feels like.
- Welcome to my world.
Empathy is the ability to ride in another person’s skin.
Which is something robots, computers, and your digital competitors CAN NOT do.
STEWART NOTE: If your first appointment is about factfinding and presenting your value propositon, you’ve missed the mark.
You want a process that enables you to clearly understand what that person wants to be, where they feel they are now and all the things that are stopping it from happening.
Then you can step into the role of helping them bridge the gap.
What Empathy is NOT
Take three minutes and watch this video on the difference between empathy and sympathy by Brené Brown, an American scholar, author and public speaker who is currently a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.
It should be clear that empathy isn’t sympathy. Empathy isn’t about “I” or “me”.
You might think that when you talk vividly about financial planning, people automatically feel what you feel about your beautiful profession. That person actually care about financial planning.
That’s YOU thinking.
But any other living creature?
I’m sorry, they don’t care. In fact, they couldn’t care less.
That’s why, before you can even talk about financial planning, you need people’s permission. You see, people are naturally cautious about opening their minds – the most precious thing they own – to anyone in the financial services industry.
You need to find a way to overcome that caution.
And the way you do that is to make visible the human being cowering inside you.
And that’s your #1 advantage over any other digital competitor:
Clicking a website is often a transfer of information. Meeting a financial planner face to face is often a transfer of emotion.
It’s not just the words you say. Not at all.
It’s the person delivering the words.
To make an impact, there has to be a human connection. You can give the most brilliant pitch, with crystal-clear financial explanations and laser-sharp logic, but if you don’t first connect with your audience, it just won’t land.
The Simplest Way to Empathize with Anyone about Financial Planning
It’s not about how smart you are. It’s not about the professionalism of your financial planning service. And it’s not even about giving clients financial tips about earning more money or saving taxes.
Empathy is the way you make your clients feel.
This doesn’t mean you want them to cry. Or to make them laugh out loud.
The easiest way to empathize with your clients is to let them think about themselves.
Because thinking about themselves makes them feel alive.
STEWART NOTE: And imagining an ideal future, biologically speaking, creates exactly the same chemical chain of events in the body as if it were actually happening… as long as they can feel it, instead of just intellectualising it.
You’ve probably felt it, right? You’ve had a conversation with a friend, about something important to you, and your friend asks: “Why is that important to you?”
It gets you to think about your WHY, your inner drive, your reason for doing things. And thinking about what’s important to you makes you feel a little bit different. It makes you feel a little bit ‘special’. It makes you feel a little bit more awake.
Well, great financial planning does that too. It gets people to think about the most important thing in life:
Do you realize how incredibly precious that is?
Because it means you’re not just here to inform. It means you’re not just here to analyze. It means you’re not just here to persuade.
It means that you’re making an impact. Because those conversations with real people can change somebody’s life.
After creating a financial plan for one of my clients, he gave me one of the best ways to define the value of financial planning. This is what he said to me:
I already knew how many assets I have, but now I know how much it’s worth.
I started the financial planning experience by asking him one simple question. I asked him:
What’s important about your assets to you, besides return, risk and costs?
And do you know what happened?
I got him to think. I got him to think about something he never thought of before.
And honestly, I feel better about this type of conversation than any analytical solution I present. I set out to make my client think about their own future, and he did, maybe in the biggest way possible.
It’s Time to Start Taking Empathy in Your Financial Planning Service SeriouslyWhen you talk with people about their finances, don’t give them just another tip.
Don’t tell them just another cute story.
Get them to think about themselves.
questions they’ve never been asked before. Ask questions that get them thinking, even at night.
You’ll bring them back to life. Maybe not forever, maybe not even for a day, but for an hour or two. Give them something to think about so that they feel ALIVE.
Do that, and they won’t just move on to another website, an online wealth manager, an online financial planning service.
They’ll go to YOU. They’ll happily pay YOU for your service. They’ll even share YOUR phone number with their friends.
And when they come to you, you’ll show them what you’re capable of by providing your financial planning service in a way no other online service can do.
You’ll ask real, meaningful questions again and again and again until they find their spark for good.
From then on, you’ll be their hero. They’ll think about YOU when they think about money and finance. You’ll be, quite literally, their friend in finances.
But the best part?
You’ll Know You Made a Difference
I don’t know about you, but when I pass into the great beyond, I won’t be thinking about the number of financial plans, the assets under management or the money I earned.
I’ll be thinking about people I had great conversations with. People who said nice things about me. People I consider as friends.
Those are the things that matter. Those are the things we are working for. Those are the things we need to build our entire businesses around.
That’s why we’re here. That’s why we matter.
So get to work.
People are waiting for you.
Let’s make financial planning matter,
Ronald Sier is a Certified Financial Planner from the Netherlands and he lives in the most beautiful fishing village ever existed (Volendam, and no, he’s not exaggerating. It’s stunning). He has been a financial planner for about 18 years now and he’s married to his loving wife Denny and he has three beautiful children: Frenk, Sanne and Julia. He has a passion for making sure the empathetic side of advice gets the attention needed to propel our profession forward. He created his first blog See Beyond Numbers out of thin air, building an audience of over 2,500 financial planners worldwide in 2 years. His latest blog smartfinancialplanner.com offers an array of great online courses well worth checking out.