A decade or two ago, those who sold financial products and services realized that consumers did not want to be sold stuff. Around the same time, the Internet became a significant competitor to stockbrokers and insurance agents by offering $10 stock trades and term life insurance at rock bottom prices. So the stockbrokers and insurance agents became financial planning professionals as a way to reposition the value they could deliver to the client. The new mantra was to “do financial planning” and in that manner, gather assets and make more sales. The intent of these financial plans was selling product, but the financial planning approach was the soft sell solution to paint the sales person as a professional and not as a sales person. In fact, Ameriprise has adopted this branding as their unique selling proposition: “we have more certified financial planning professionals than any other firm.” In fact, these financial planning professionals continue to sell Ameriprise products and serve as conduits for product distribution.
However, the purpose of this article is not to address whether all of this planning is merely window dressing and question its value, it’s to suggest that there is even a “next level” of positioning that will assist the financial planning professional in their sales efforts. In the current paradigm, the sale of the financial plan has replaced the sale of the mutual fund or the insurance policy. But consumers don’t want a plan either. A plan is abstract, a body of recommendations. For the consumer, it’s not clear that this advice for a so-called financial planning professional will have any value. In fact, there is evidence that it will not. I had a financial planning professional admit to me last week: “over the last 10 years, my clients have earned exactly zero working with me.” What consumers want is not the plan but the potential benefits of the plan: an early retirement, more ways to financial pamper the grandchildren, the ability to take two nice trips each year, etc. If you as the financial planning professional sell those payoffs, then you will find more consumers want the plan. In fact, don’t even use the term “financial plan” when meeting with prospects.
Rather, you want to communicate that you are a “dream weaver.” If you say you are a financial planner, that connotes someone who offers an activity but does not necessarily produce a result. A dream weaver makes dreams come true. Your conversation with a prospect needs to focus on what they want i.e. What would you like your retirement to look like Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Of course, this starting question is to be followed with several other questions about how they want to spend each day, where they want to travel, how often do they want to see family, etc. Once you know what they want, you make them an offer:
“Mr. and Mrs Smith, would it be worth $2,000 (or whatever you charge for a plan) to you to have answers to how you will:
a) retire before your 65th birthday
b) have 2 trips a year as you desire
c) be able to help the grand kids with their college education?
(YES, they blurt out).
If so, I would like to study your situation, put together recommendations and actions on how to have what you want and meet again next Tuesday?
Instead of selling a plan, you are now a more valuably perceived financial planning professional selling prospects their financial dreams.