Setting yourself apart and your ‘unique selling proposition’ are probably things you heard about when you were learning how to be a financial planner. More than likely, tips included suggestions like, ‘specialize in a certain type of investment or investor’ or advised you to get involved in networking groups or become an expert in your field. While all of this is valuable advice, it doesn’t really set you apart for two reasons:

1. Every other financial planner is doing the same thing.

2. None of these things are really what your client wants from you.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at our industry. Distrust is at its highest level. New DOL standards are changing because the old ways aren’t working. Advisors are afraid of being replaced by robots. Aren’t these clues that the demand for change in the industry is so loud that not even the government can’t ignore it?

The good news is, you can still set yourself apart. But it’s not in any of the ways I mentioned above. You know what your clients want? I mean really want? They want a mentor who will get to know them, understand them, and guide them toward a better future. Yep, that’s it. It sounds so easy, but hardly any planners are doing it.

If you really want to prevent disruption of your business and succeed in the new financial climate, you need to act as a fiduciary and a role model. How do you do that? These four tips will get you on the right path.

Develop Empathy

Do you understand why your client, who is ready for retirement, just blew half of her savings on a sports car and a trip to Rome? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have empathy for her. Most people don’t set out to ruin their lives or the lives of others. They do so because of a knotty, complicated past, unstable relationships, a damaging mindset, or a thousand other reasons that even they probably don’t understand. You don’t need to agree with everything your clients do. You don’t even need to understand it. What you do need to do is hold off judging, and extend a little compassion.

Be Aware

If you were aware of the situation your sports-car buying client was in and her emotions leading up to this purchase, it’s possible you could have headed it off at the pass. Being aware of our clients—and not just their money—is crucial. When you meet with them, take in everything. Pay attention to when their tone changes or when they start doing things that are out of character. Be aware—then take action when you think it’s about to lead somewhere that will hurt them.

Be Interesting by Being Interested

Too many of us try to be interesting. We learn a million facts that we can regurgitate at parties, tell endless stories of our ‘glory days’ and embellish to get people to like us. But here’s a psychology best-kept secret: people don’t really care. You know why? Because there is one person in the world we all find the most interesting of all: ourselves. And when other people are interested in us, that in turn makes them interesting. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Be curious. Learn from everyone. You don’t need a Dos Equis to become the most interesting man in the world. You just need your own two ears. 

Walk in Their Shoes

No one experiences the same path in life. That means that no one should judge anyone else’s path, though we do so all the time. If your client makes a decision that you find baffling, stop a minute. Think about them and what you know of their past and present. As best as you can, take a little stroll in their shoes. Will you always end up at a satisfying explanation for their unexplainable behavior? Of course not. But it might help you develop a little empathy along the way.

I happen to love where the financial industry is going. As a keen observer of the human condition and a person fascinated with psychology, it plays directly to my interests and passions. Those advisors who embrace this way of thinking and adjust accordingly can enjoy not only a seven-figure business, but they can also experience a life-affirming career.

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