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Great Financial Advisors Don’t Need a Marketing Strategy

Financial advisor speaking with an elderly couple at a table.

George Bernard Shaw was famously quoted as saying, “…Eventually, every industry becomes a conspiracy against the public…” Nowhere is this more evident than in the financial services industry. 

For far too long the industry has been measured by great marketing. 

Instead, let’s measure by how much we actually help people.

Let’s measure advisors by client outcomes. 

The Secret to Being a Financial Advisor with Great Client Outcomes

The most successful financial advisors I know have the following three skill sets and characteristics: 

1) Great Technical Skills 

2) Great Communication Skills 

3) Radical Honesty 

It is the unique combination of all three that is required in order to be a financial advisor that can generate positive outcomes for clients. 

Great Technical Skills 

It has become increasingly difficult to acquire and maintain great technical skills. 

Charles Darwin once said, “As things evolve…they either grow more complex in their function… or they cease to exist.” This makes the commitment to our craft and a dedication to lifelong learning an absolute requirement if one is to be relevant and helpful to their clients. 

Advisors who are indispensable to their clients must be consistently studying, reading, and paying attention. 

Great Communication Skills 

Clients face a dizzying array of choices and desperately need financial advisors who can answer their questions—and the questions they don’t know to ask! 

Clients need

  • coaching
  • counseling 
  • wisdom coupled with understanding 

Unfortunately, what they are getting is: 

  • hyperbole 
  • sales pitches
  • marketing stories that are based on incomplete truths
  • products that could never hold up to academic scrutiny and have little or no chance of providing the outcomes that have been promised

But even for the advisor who wants to do the right thing, the complexity can be overwhelming. 

Therefore, I believe the single biggest differentiator you can develop—in an industry where it is extraordinarily hard to differentiate—is great communication skills. 

The problem is that what comprises great communication skills is widely misunderstood. 

With credit to a book read years ago titled Effective Selling Through Psychology, exceptional communication skills involve four things: 

  1. Sizing-Up Skills: Who is the person in front of me and what are they all about? 
  2. Discovery: What are both their tangible and intangible needs? 
  3. Develop a Solution: Create a solution (prescription) that meets both tangible and intangible needs. 
  4. Deliver the Solution: Explain the solution effectively. 

It is interesting that both #1 and #2 involve only listening and asking good questions—two very difficult skills for many advisors. 

#3 requires thinking, experience, and expertise, but still no talking. 

It is only when we get to #4 that speaking/talking/presenting are involved. 

So 75% of great communication does not involve speaking! 

My friend, Joe Sicchitano, uses the following pneumonic: W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking?) to remind him of the importance of listening. 

Radical Honesty 

What may be needed more than great technical or communication skills, however, is what I like to call radical honesty

The term “honesty” seems to be a word that needs no modifier – it stands on its own. But an experience made me think more on what it is to demonstrate radical honesty. 

The lease on my car was coming to an end. I had decided to buy a 1 year old Lexus model with low miles and pay cash for it. 

I spoke with a local Lexus salesperson who told me that they didn’t have any year-old models available, but they had some older and brand new models. 

I went home, searched online, and found what I was looking for—only a 5 hour drive away and they were asking less than the local dealer was asking for his older models. 

So, armed with this information, I went back to the local Lexus store to have another chat with my salesperson. After showing him what I’d found, I asked him, “Given all this information, if you were me, which car would you buy?” 

Without a moment’s hesitation, he said, “If I were you, I would buy the car in Houston.” 

Now, which car do you think I bought? 

The brand new car from him!

Because the minute I knew he was going to tell me the truth—no matter the personal cost—I was going to find a way to do business with him—even if it meant paying more!

That’s radical honesty. 

You Are Your Clients’ Protector  

One of my favorite word distinctions is the difference in definitions between a customer and a client. Merriam-Webster has the following definition for a customer: “Someone who buys goods and services from another.” But when you look up the word Client, it says, “Someone who puts themselves under the protection of another [bold added].”

If we are ever to be truly great financial advisors, it will be because we move from a sales mentality to one that focuses on generating exceptional outcomes for our clients. 

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