Steven R. McCarty
Several decades ago, a good friend of mine came down with a mysterious illness. It began as the flu, with brain-splitting headaches, dagger-like low-back
pain, and scorchingly high fevers. Within
several weeks, those symptoms got better, but
chronic ailments persisted: lack of appetite,
unusual bruising, no energy, nausea.
After being out of work for weeks, my friend
decided to see an infectious-disease specialist.
After an initial visit, the doctor said he had a
hunch, but needed to do a full physical and lab
workup before confirming a diagnosis. While
my friend was at the front desk, the doctor
sternly warned him not to miss the appointment. Reason? It was a big block of time he
couldn’t fill at the last moment.
In that instant, he realized the doctor
wasn’t in medicine to serve others; he was in
it to serve himself financially.
As it happens, the doctor made the right
diagnosis and with the right medications, my
friend eventually recovered. But he never went
back to that office or referred others to the doctor. He didn’t like his attitude … or his heart.
This is a common scenario in financial services. Advisors bring ulterior agendas to their
initial prospect meetings. They push to close
sales without really understanding a prospect’s
needs. They allow their conflicts of interest to
color their recommendations, giving rise to
fiduciary and suitability concerns. In short,
they’re self-centered rather than client-centered, a difference people are quick to notice.
Like my friend’s doctor, self-driven advisors
may see a lot of prospects, convert a reasonable number into clients, and generate substantial first-year commissions. But scratch
below the seemingly successful surface and
you may find a practice with poor persistency
(and weak trailing commissions), limited cross
sales, and a lousy reputation in the community. They’re walking placards for the proposition that if you’re in this business for yourself,
you may not be in it for long.
So what does a no-worry advisory style
look like? It involves putting clients at the
heart of your practice in every way. It involves
a robust commitment to comprehensive
fact-finding, a full embrace of the new Department of Labor fiduciary standard (when
it goes live next year), and a by-the-books
approach to product suitability.
The payoff for being client-centered: more
income, more referrals, fewer E&O insurance
problems, and a stronger professional reputation. A slam dunk in every respect.
As with prior articles in this series, getting
to a no-worries position demands both ethical
values and compliance rigor. Here are some
ethical pointers that will move you in the
• Sell clients only what they need, not what
you need to sell financially.
• Commit to multi-meeting fact-finding
that probes the full complexity of prospects’ financial and personal lives.
• use skilled open/closed and direct/indi-rect questioning techniques that uncover
core needs and risk tolerances.
• Rely on empathy and attentive listening to
hear the problems and concerns beneath a
From a compliance perspective, these
pointers should be equally helpful:
• Commit yourself to a 100 percent fact-based selling style; never misrepresent
what a product does or what it costs.
• use a printed or electronic fact-finding
form to guide your interview and record
prospect answers in order to minimize
future E&O insurance problems.
• Only use approved sales aids to illustrate
key product concepts.
Because at the end of the day, putting your
clients at the heart of your business may well be
the most powerful way to accelerate its growth
and assure its future, while minimizing its E&O
insurance risks. To serve yourself best, you
should always serve others first.
no worry selling, part 3:
serve yourself best by serving others first
How do you prove that
clients are at the heart
of your practice?
Go to this article on
to start a discussion
with other advisors.