Unconscious bias – as well as your own beliefs and emotions – can test your ability to put clients’ best interests first. Even though my practice is guided by the saying, “keep a quiet mind and an open heart,” each day we remind ourselves our intentions must stay rooted in removing biases and putting personal opinions aside in all interactions. This begins in the prospecting stage and remains in consideration through every meeting where we drive plans by each individual’s core values.
Prospecting for prosperity
Don’t wait until a prospect is converted to a client to identify their core values. Aligning on values from the onset allows you to find ideal prospects and achieve higher conversion rates. Consider incorporating this sentiment in the way you ask for referrals. When requesting a name from an existing client, I may say something like, “I can tell you care about the people who depend on you and take action to support them. When you think of the people in your life you respect, who comes to mind?” This gives you a natural lead in when meeting with the prospect for the first time as you already are aware of a similarity in values compared to your existing client.
A client’s personal beliefs should be evaluated during the discovery process. This is your opportunity to ask questions to get to the core of who they are as a person. Then by the end of discovery, you’ll hopefully know what is really driving their financial planning. You don’t have to agree with what they reveal to you, but should convey you are there to get them on track to what they – not what you – believe is a fulfilled life.
Delegating fact finding
Most advisors tend to conduct the fact finding themselves, whereas I delegate this stage to my staff. Fact finding is typically where bias comes into play as you often focus on the products before you even get to know the pure heart and soul of the person in front of you. When you’re dealing in facts, it’s difficult to put aside opinions you already formed in the discovery phase and can sometimes get ahead of yourself in offering solutions. To truly understand and appreciate the individual for who they are, your staff can solely focus on gathering the facts for you to then evaluate on paper without the interference of my subjective opinions. While still a vital phase to the process, entrust your staff to communicate this information and prioritize discovery to ensure working with facts in the beginning does not lead to judgement.
Identifying alternatives, not solutions
The words you use in your practice can influence how you operate. For instance, your clients don’t have problems to solve; they have goals and you identify alternatives to their former actions to help them live a more fulfilled life. While their goals may not align with your own, remain professional and focus on what’s meaningful for them. The Golden Rule many follow may be, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but I live by The Platinum Rule, “Do unto others as they would want done to them.”
When presenting yourself as a partner in a client’s financial stability, you talk about the what, how and why, which includes what you can help them achieve and how you will accomplish their goals. In discussing the why, present it as the client’s why, not your own. I have the honor to work across varying countries and cultures, and I must tailor the why when presenting my value to each individual client. If you find you cannot work with an individual due to conflicting values, consider redirecting to another source. Overall, if you use core values to guide every interaction, you will find more success in advising and creating advocates out of clients.