What Matters Most to Your Clients and It’s Not Your Fee, Your Advice, Your Service, Your Knowledge or Your Experience

“I believe that financial planners will be more successful when using their right brain potential”. Actually it’s strange for me to say. I’ve always been a typical left brainer for years. Good at maths, very rational and successful with study. And always focussing on building knowledge. Because when I finished a study I could say that I achieved something. And that’s very tangible. That’s great, because left-brainers love it when it’s tangible.

I also thought that with this knowledge I could help my clients the most. But after reading Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start with Why’ about three years ago, my perspective changed. The book gave me the urge to search my WHY. And I discovered something I never knew before. Since ‘Start with Why’ I’ve read many, many other business books  and found out that almost every successful and innovative influencers (like Seth Godin, Robert Cialdini, Anthony Robbins & Daniel Pink) wrote about the power of the right brain. Since then I can’t stop reading and researching about it. And more important: I’ve applied it in my financial planning profession.

Now, my goal is to inspire other financial planners to believe in their right brain potential. I believe in the importance of the financial planner. Financial planners are by definition highly educated. They have the ambition to reach for the best. And more important: they truly want to help people. Not by selling products. But to give real advice based on what their clients really want. Because financial planners have these strong ambition and are almost always smart people I know financial planners have this right brain potential. When using it right, it’s going to build more profitable and enduring relationships.

To prove it to you I’m not going to tell you a story, influence you with a metaphor or let you see the big picture. In other words, I’m not appealing to your right brain. To show you that what I believe is true, I’m going to appeal to your left brain in this article. Because I know your left brain asks you to rationalize your choice to work on your right brain potential. And therefore it needs facts and numbers. So please take a look at the picture below.



The picture shows the answer to the following question: “What are the qualities of your advisor that are most important to you? ” It’s part of a client experience survey (white paper) which is powered by Beddoes Institute’s Leading Practices Program (Australia) during 2012. The picture triggered me because of the huge dissimilarity. But after looking at the circumscription, it became clear to me why there was such a huge difference in outcome: the green bar (interpersonal skills) is fully attributable to right brain influence. So let’s take a closer look at what I think can be related to the differente interpersonal skills in the picture:

Communication skills

  • Storytelling: the best way to connect to your client is by telling stories. People love good stories and they love it told well. When you say: “Let me tell you a story…” the right side of the brain (as well as the left side of the brain) is at full alert and makes your client sit breathless at the end of his seat to hear your story
  • Metaphors: Even Albert Einstein said: “If I can’t see it, I don’t understand it”. Creating metaphors is by definition client centered, since it’s starting point is the client’s current perception. Metaphors help clients see possibilities he didn’t see before and they help him make the best decision. By packaging an idea in highly vivid language, they help him pitch it internally. They help a client feel good about an idea or decision. And that keeps a client coming back

Building rapport

  • Feeling of importance: Everybody wants to feel important. Actually, it’s one of the greatest of human needs, up there with food, sleep and sex. While the need for food, sleep and sex are (mostly) easily satisfied, the need to feel important is not.  According to Dale Carnegie, writer of the best selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People there are six steps to win friends and make your clients feel important:
  1. Become genuinly interested in other people
  2. Smile
  3. Remember that a person’s name is, to him or her, the sweetest and most important sound in any language
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves
  5. Talk in the terms of the other’s person’s interest
  6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely

Caring about clients/empathy

  • Emotional affirmation: No question is as important as: How do you feel about this? That question is more incisive than: What do you think about this? Why? Because emotion precedes logic when we hear others’ ideas. The choices we make are based on about 80% emotion and 20% logic

Understanding needs/listening

  • Ask your clients: do you really know the most valuable things you bring to the relationship with your client? Do you really know why they choose you and why you are meaningful for them? The most simple (but oh so scary) way to understand your clients needs is: ASK THEM. Not only they’ll be surprised – which makes you more referable – but your clients also feel acknowledged
  • Context: if context is not clearly established up front, the client will start questioning (internally) the relevance of the various products and ideas you’re talking about. Establish the context at the beginning clearly and continue to refer back to it at key points in your presentation. The right side of the brain wants to know how each peace of text fits into context. If it does not recognize the context, the right side of the brain ignores the information

In the white paper is argued that developing the interpersonal skills provides a clear pathway to becoming a trusted advisor with great client relationships. It also says that technical skills are typically easy to observe, quantify and measure and are the primary target of most training organisations. In contrast, interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence are harder to train but can also be effectively learned and developed with the appropriate training. Importantly, while some advisors are naturally gifted with good interpersonal skills and high levels of emotional intelligence, even the most trusted advisors have, at times, had to work hard to acquire new skills in this area that have not come naturally.

I believe this conclusion is true, but it goes further than that. Financial planners are mostly highly technical people because of their highly (left-brain) education. What I believe is that although financial planners have the highest technical skills in the financial services industry,  it doesn’t mean planners can build a profitable business on these skills in the new age. For years a financial planner was highly paid because of their skills and their knowledge.  Financial planners were so called knowledge workers because they had information that most people didn’t have. Therefore they could ask for high prices to solve their client’s problem with their information. But with the rise and the role of the internet, this advantage is much less valuable. Knowledge has become a commodity and information is everywhere. Despite of the fact that the knowledge worker has brought the world much wealth, the role of the knowledge worker in the new age will be much less important. Unless the knowledge worker is not going to focus on only knowledge (left brain) but also on emotion (right brain), success will come. As the picture shows, people want to ‘feel’ connected to the financial planner. Your job is to work on those skills to make this connection with your client.

I believe that when you are able to truly connect with your clients by using your right brain potential and continue using your left brain qualities, you’re not only going to be successful. But you are even innovating our business.

What do YOU think is necessary to innovate the financial services industry?

Please, leave your answer here below in the comment field. With your comment you’ll help me and other readers of this blog with insights. So that we can inspire each other and think together to improve and innovate our financial planning business.

To your success,

Ronald Sier

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Leave a Reply 10 comments

Dino Violante Reply

I liked it when you pointed out that the financial planner needs to make the client feel like they are important because it is also one of the basic needs of a person. I guess I can agree with that because I trust a person who makes me feel important by devoting their time to my needs. The same thing applies to a financial planner. And I do not disclose any info to a person I do not trust.

Eric B. Soiland Reply

Learn what personality \”type\” a client is so you can better relate to them they way THEY want.

Nita Menezes Reply

Hi Ronald,

Thanks for sharing such a wonderful article…..every thought is apt….and very practical.
You are absolutely right when you say that as financial planners you need to use the right side of your brain effectively….I have seen a lot of professional financial planners going wrong when they are so involved with number crunching and product information…that they end up neglecting the emotional connect and rapport that needs to be developed by connecting to the right side of the brain of the client…I agree when you say the internet has played a major role to get a world of information at your finger tips…so actually clients are not interested in what is easily available on the net…but are looking for more personalised information and someone who can listen to them,understand them and connect well…That\’s what we at \”My Financial Advisor\” believe in and focus on.
Thanks for sharing the names of the books….
I have read 2 books \”Story Selling by Financial Advisors \” and \”Questions that Financial Advisors ask?\”They are amazing and a must read by all financial planners as well.
Once again I would like to thank you for sharing the wealth of knowledge through this blog.



Financial planning Reply

You made some decent points there. I looked on the web for additional information about
the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.

Matt Sherman Reply

This was an excellent article, and a sober reminder that soft skills are critical in being able to set yourself apart. What would you suggest as an authoritative resource on training ourselves to be better at these interpersonal skills?

    Ronald Sier Reply

    Hi Matt, thanks for your nice words. That really inspires me. Some years ago I\’ve had my first \’soft skills training\’ from a coaching company. It opened my eyes because I never realized how meaningful this could be. And you must know, I\’ve done a whole lot of financial planning studies (including a Master of Science in financial planning) and there was not a single semester on this subject. Unbelievable actually. Therefore I began to studying myself by reading books. So what I can do to help you is to summarize some of the best books that helped me to move forward:

    – Start with why – Simon Sinek, a brilliant book and my inspiration to search my why. The book got me inspired to start this blog;
    – A Whole New Mind – Daniel Pink, a visionary book about how right brain thinkers will rule the world;
    – Whoever tells the best story wins – Annette Simmons, if you want to learn how to tell stories, this is a must have;
    – How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie, a real classic
    – Influence – Robert Cialdini, a scientifical book about social psychology and how to persuade people, fantastic book with great stories
    – Metaphorically Selling – Anne Miller, not only very good examples but also a guide to create wonderful metaphors

    What I\’ve did with all these books is that I\’ve put all this information into practice in my financial planning business. So that I could \’check\’ if the things I learned also worked in the real world. So, if you don\’t want to read all this (which I can imagine), I guess you can read this blog…:-).

    Hope this helps you Matt.

      Shane O\'grady Reply

      Thanks Ronald. Excellent read and I could not agree more. A successful planner can articulate the complex by making it simple and thus make the overall experience more enjoyable. I know all of my stronger client relationships are more emotionally connected.

        Ronald Sier Reply

        Thank you Shane. I\’m glad you like it. You address a key point here. You\’re ideal clients are the ones who are emotionally connected to you. Because I always want to learn, can you give me some insights on how you think why they are emotionally connected to you?

Rutvij Reply

Thanks! Mr. Ronald for your valuable thoughts. I read 3rd paragraph thrice, it keeps me motivating. And I believe rest of the financial planners too believe in it.

    Ronald Sier Reply

    Thank you Rutvij. My goal is to inspire other financial planners. Because I believe in the importance of the financial planner. Can you imagine how much people would be far more happier if they had control over their financial issues. That\’s what a financial planner can give to the world. And what I will advance in any way.

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