A Blog for Today’s Top Financial Advisors

The 3 Keys to Becoming an In-Demand, Client-Centric Advisor to the Affluent – Episode 10

Key Takeaways:

  • Develop a deep and meaningful understanding of your clients’ world, today and on an ongoing basis.
  • Communicate your ideas and possible solutions in a way that really resonates with your clients so they take your advice.
  • Use empathy to connect with clients over time and discover more opportunities to add value to their lives.

Here’s a fact I’d like to think all of you already know (but I know that’s not the case):

If you’re not focused on delivering a world-class client experience, you’re going to find it extraordinarily hard to move upmarket, serve wealthier clients and build a business that supports the quality of life you want for yourself.

These days, you can be the most technically skilled financial advisor on the planet—but unless you’re actively working to make your clients feel like everything you do is all about them, it won’t matter.

Your existing affluent clients will start to eye the competition, and prospective affluent clients will look elsewhere for help making smart decisions about their money.

Specifically, they’ll look for someone who seeks to know them on a deep level and then offers solutions that are directly linked to their biggest goals, concerns, fears and wishes.

Why? They’re increasingly hearing the message that financial professionals who don’t know them and their priorities extremely well can’t do a great job for them.

The good news: You can do something about it—starting right now.

The human element

The elite financial advisors who are really knocking it out of the park—consistently earning more than $1 million annually—are doing so in large part because they focus on what we call the human element.

The human element involves a series of steps that enables financial advisors to put their clients front and center at every stage. Not just lip service—“My clients are my most important asset”—but really making it happen on the ground.

There are three essential ways to put the human element to work in your financial advisory business:

  • Client-centered discovery. This approach enables you to develop a deep and meaningful understanding of your clients’ world—today and on an ongoing basis.
  • Coherent, connected communication. This entails how you can most effectively communicate ideas, concepts and possible solutions in a way that really makes sense and resonates with your clients—so they then take action.
  • Deep, intimate relationships. This is your ability to forge greater and more substantial relationships with your clients over time.

Let’s look closer at each one.

Client-centered discovery

You cannot deliver exceptional results and a high-quality experience to demanding affluent clients unless you understand them very well. That means first determining what’s deeply important to them, and only then using your technical abilities to address their concerns.

The most effective way to ensure proper alignment between what your clients want and what you provide is through client-centered discovery—spending a considerable amount of time and effort learning about the client (as a person, a spouse, a parent, an entrepreneur, a business exec, etc.). You must focus on what matters most to the client and why.

One proven approach I find powerful in conducting client-centric discovery is the Total Client Model (see Exhibit 1). Elite advisors use this method not just to determine their clients’ goals, but also to find out about their most important relationships, other professional advisors they work with, their personal interests and more.

The Total Client Model

The Total Client Model empowers you to gain a very solid and expansive understanding of your clients’ world—and it demonstrates to clients that you want to know them deeply so you can deliver exceptional results.

Coherent, connected communication

Highly capable, highly technical financial advisors and their teams sometimes do a less-than-stellar job of explaining potential solutions to their affluent clients. One entrepreneur was very upset after a meeting with a lawyer facilitated by his advisor. The entrepreneur came away from the meeting believing that the lawyer had suggested he murder his wife. Why? Because the lawyer had suggested a “floating spouse provision” for the estate plan—but had failed to explain just what that is.

It sounds funny—until you realize that poor communication can create mistrust between you and your affluent clients that might cause them to reject your recommendations or even fire you.

A powerful antidote to poor communication is the use of high-net-worth psychology—a framework for understanding what affluent individuals want from their money and their professional advisors. It can be very effective in helping you structure conversations with the wealthy and best communicate your advice and recommendations.

Say, for example, that your client discovery process reveals that a particular client is a family steward personality—that is, he cares greatly about using his wealth to take care of his family and make their path in life smooth. Any discussion of potential solutions or products should reflect these concerns and goals and spell out how the solution or product would work to address them.

Or perhaps a client is an anonymous personality type—she values privacy and confidentiality above nearly all other factors when making financial decisions. Discussions of various strategies should center on how well they potentially protect the client’s privacy under various circumstances.

Effective communication is not inherently about clients’ high-net-worth personality but about your ability to provide explanations that clients can readily understand and act on. If you fail to communicate well, it’s possible that no progress will be made—meaning that you and your clients may miss important opportunities or incur costly failures.

Deep, intimate relationships

To truly and profoundly connect with your clients over time, you must learn to be highly empathetic. Empathy enhances your ability to gain greater insights into your clients’ world and to better communicate with them—both of which give you opportunities to gather additional assets and ask for introductions to ideal prospective clients.

Empathy is a set of interpersonal skills, including the ability to probe to uncover key concerns and wishes, to speak with concreteness and clarity, and to summarize key points of conversations to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Active listening is essential to empathy. It includes attention to both verbal and nonverbal messages that your clients are sending. In addition, active listening entails understanding the context of any conversation—including clients’ current situation, their backstory and their expectations. By and large, active listening is a skill that is easy to understand but difficult for many to consistently do.

When you are highly empathetic and focused on your clients’ welfare, they will likely share more with you about what is most important to them (not just financially, but in their whole world).

This produces two powerful results. One is a positive cycle of increasing empathy and greater sharing. The second is that you develop more and deeper meaningful insights into your clients. Consequently, you become better able to be proactive and highly attentive to their wants and needs.


These three essentials of the human element—client-centered discovery; coherent, connected communication; and deep, intimate relationships—are strongly interconnected. When you are empathetic, it makes the client-centered discovery process much more effective. Similarly, because you are highly empathetic, you can make certain to explain things in ways that make a lot of sense to clients. This helps ensure that clients can make decisions based on a clear understanding of the options.

Take Action

Accelerate your pathway to elite advisor status— Schedule your complimentary Strategy Session – Best Year Ever Consultation call to get on the fast track to even more success.

Where you go—and how fast you get there—is up to you.

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