The Four-Letter Word that Kills a Financial Planner’s Hope of Earning an Honest Buck

You’re in conflict. I know, because I’ve been there myself.

You love financial planning and you see how your service helps people solve their problems, get closer to their dreams and live a happier and meaningful life.

But at the same time, you have a sneaking suspicion you’re not giving your service the best possible chance of success.

Because in our world, we have to be busy with “more important” things. Things like regulatory issues, compliance and AUM-targets.

So you end up doing what any planner would do, and you make the best of the time available. You seek out tips, tricks and other shortcuts (the tactics) to serve more people, while being busy with the “more important” things.

But deep down you know that only focusing on the tactics is not enough. That would be like getting on an airplane without destination. Or like investing money without a financial plan …

You don’t find the answers when you keep focusing on the tactics. All the how-to-tips in the world won’t get you more clients.

The problem is strategy. Or more precisely, lack of it.

If you want to help more people with your experience and extensive knowledge, you need to have a plan. You need to have a system. You need strategy.

So, What’s the Strategy?

The simple truth – financial planners who make a real difference in the long term, are those who’ve found a way to turn advice into a real business, making it their main focus.

Those who don’t, or don’t have a concrete plan to do so one day, are effectively condemning their financial planning service to insignificance, and leaving most of the people they could have helped to struggle alone.

But if that’s the case, why don’t more planners transition from product selling financial planners (PSFP’s) to meaningful financial planners (MFP’s)?

It turns out that most meaningful financial planners have a strong negative reaction to one small four-letter word:

That’s right.

The idea that we – as meaningful financial planners – are selling or might even be seen as sellers, is deeply offensive. Strangely enough, most MFP’s often don’t have a problem with the idea of making some money from their service. But the idea of selling anything breaks them out in a cold sweat.

But that’s a little crazy, right?

That’s like saying you want to travel 60 miles in under an hour, but you’re fundamentally opposed to burning fossil fuels.

However, a generalized aversion to selling is completely understandable because of the tsunami of negative selling-stereotypes we’ve experienced over the years in the financial services industry.

Here’s what most people have been saying about us:

  • Financial planners are fast-talkers who don’t mind lying to make a buck
  • Financial planners are aggressive and pushy
  • Financial planners always want to win. Guess who’s the loser?
  • Financial planners are ponzi-schemers

No wonder we don’t want to be seen as sellers, right?

On the other hand, let’s say you know how to sell your financial planning service, and it turns out you can deliver on your promises and people do begin to rely on your valuable advice. Do you believe that your client eventually won’t see you as a salesperson, but as his trusted advisor?

If that’s the case, do you think it could be helpful to know how to sell?

Because if you don’t, the skills to sell your advice take a back seat because it becomes a peripheral activity.

The effect is the quality drops and your schedule slides. The people who relied on you for help are left high and dry. When you notice that people aren’t buying your advice, but instead the online financial product, you’re too late. By that time, half your audience has disappeared and the other half has lost trust.

So, contradictory as it might sound, having something to sell is sometimes the only ethical approach to building, and sustaining, a true and meaningful financial planning service.

So if all of this makes perfect sense to you, but the idea of selling your advice (and only your advice) still gives you the heebie jeebies, I’ve got some good news.

It’s actually not a problem.

How to Make an Honest Buck Without Selling a Financial Product

Think about the last time you bought something you truly wanted or needed. Something that honestly made your life easier or more enjoyable. Do you remember being pushed, coerced, or bullied? I would guess not. Odds are the buying experience was actually enjoyable.

In fact, you probably didn’t notice any selling going on at all.


Because nothing fishy was going on.

And it’s the same with selling your advice. Your customer only notices it when it’s done badly or when it involves a financial product or service she doesn’t want or need.

So up until now you’ve only noticed the bad planners of the selling world, not the good ones. The good planners are hard to spot, because they’re busy quietly doing the right thing and helping more people.

Those good planners know that their clients won’t be angry for presenting them with a reasonable invoice after a meaningful financial planning process.

Is that hard to imagine? Then consider the following example:

Your television dies a horrible death right before the Super Bowl (or the Oscars, or whatever trips your trigger) and you call a repairman to fix it at the last minute.

Can you imagine being angry at the repairman for presenting you with a reasonable invoice after saving your bacon?

Of course not.

You don’t mind because you had a real problem that stressed you out – and the repairman chose to help you solve that problem. He took time out of his day to provide a service – partially to earn a buck, and partially because he recognized your predicament and his heart bled for you just a little bit.

And as buyers, when someone solves a problem for us, we’re often all too happy to pay them for their help. Because it’s only right. It’s a fair trade. And helping people via your financial planning service is no different.

Even if they need a little persuading at first.

Why People Sometimes Need Persuading. And Why It’s Your Job to Do It

If you can earn money from your advice by helping people without ever actively pushing anything, does that mean people will line up around the block to pay for your help?

Not exactly.  A degree of persuasion is involved.

Now, I know persuasion is a word that many MFP’s get upset about. However, you may not realize it, but many times in your life it’s been your job as a decent human being to persuade others to do things. If you’ve ever talked a child into sitting still so a doctor could poke a needle into their arm, coaxed them out of the car even though they were terrified on the first day of school, or convinced them to finally go to sleep even though they were crying, “But I’m not tired!” over and over like a broken record, you already possess some incredible persuasive skills.

Do we do those things because we think tricking our children into doing what we want them to do is funny?

Of course not. We just love them and want them to learn how to make good, healthy decisions. And just like the child on the first day of school, sometimes your financial planning service needs a bit of gentle persuasion too.

Because your prospects need help. But even if you’re the perfect person to help them, that’s no use if they don’t believe in you. So, yes, of course they must believe you. Trust you. But is it so bad to use a little persuasion?

No, it’s actually the most ethical thing you can do.

What does ethical persuasion look like?

I believe you must ask yourself one basic question before selling your financial planning service, if you want to serve your audience ethically and avoid any hint of sleaziness.

Here’s the question:

Do you truly understand your audience’s wants, needs and desires?

Why this question?

Because persuasion feels sleazy when your offer is off-base and doesn’t seem relevant to your client’s own situation. But offers that are aligned with the client’s needs and values are welcomed with open minds and open arms.

So are you making an offer you know is right for your audience, because you understand them as well as you understand yourself? Or are you offering the kind of help that suits or interests you without a deep understanding of what your audience truly wants and needs?

I believe if you truly understand your audience, your financial planning service can extend its lifespan, allowing you to help more people over longer periods of time.

So ask yourself: where does your financial expertise and your audience’s pain points intersect? When you find that intersection, ask what is the best way to solve this problem? Is it a recommendation, a one-on-one session or a plan? Or something else?

Think how you can best meet your audience’s wants and needs and you’re well on your way to creating a valuable, ethical (and successful) financial planning service.

Are You Ready to Get Serious and Earn an Honest Buck from Your Financial Planning Service?

You owe it to the world to teach people how to achieve their (financial) goals and dreams if you have the ability to do so. To do anything else is almost stealing. You have the knowledge that can help others. You owe it to those people to stick around long enough to keep helping them – and to help the people who come afterwards.

So you may need to reassess your attitude toward selling and persuading others. Because when these happen naturally and ethically, you’re simply helping someone and getting a fair reward in return.

And a great financial planning service for a reasonable price helps you, helps your audience, and it helps to make financial planning matter.

So what could you offer of value to your audience? What problems are they having right at this moment that your service can help fix?

There’s always something. It’s eating at them as we speak. And they’re thinking to themselves, “If only someone could show me how to…”

Fill in the blank. Step up, find that problem and offer a solution.

They deserve it… and so do you.

Let’s make financial planning matter.



Leave a Reply 6 comments

Kunal Reply

I must say this is an amazing guide for many new individuals in this field like me. Thanks for sharing such a helpful stuff with us.

Gary Watts Reply

Great article. Thank you very much. I wish I\’d had this article when I first start in the industry.

Kathy @Your Net Worth Manager , fee only planner in SK Reply

To agree with Eric this is what we have done. I gave up my sales licences as I have 25 years experience with thousands of clients and do the financial / retirement planning. My son who is a math / technical whiz does the investment management. When we do need insurance / mortgage / tax advice we outsource but are recruiting partners for this as well. Our goal is to be \”fee only\”. I charge a flat fee, investments are flat fee according to amount of work required not % AUM

Eric Walters Reply

For the sake of consistency, I just add that the industry should divide: professional financial planners to provide value-adding strategic wealth management advice; and investment advisers to sell the product to implement that advice. No more need for FoFA! No more need for \’conflicted remuneration\’ regulation! Improved conditions all round really.

Paul Fevens Reply

I\’m on this journey. There is nothing to diagree with except I don\’t mind the idea of selling but I assure my clients I am 1st a planner not a salesman. This gives me some latitude to present products without pitching them.

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