My advice to all financial planners, as you look to 2010 and beyond, is to focus your intention on providing the very best in client-centered financial planning service and advice. And, the place to start is to evaluate the strategies you currently use to nurture your client relationships, and then to research and identify the most effective “tools of engagement.”
In contrast to “rules of engagement” that define the circumstances for entering into battle, “tools of engagement” are designed to create interest, focus thinking, and influence cooperation. Within the financial planning profession, we can also think of tools of engagement as ways of communicating that develop client trust and commitment. For many, the answer has been to integrate a life planning focus into their client meetings and interactions. An examination of Adult Learning Theory can help us to understand the wisdom of this approach. Malcolm Knowles (a pioneer in the adult education field) described adult learners as being “relevancy oriented.” In other words, they will not seek or utilize new information until they understand how it relates to their own lives.
Likewise, in financial planning relationships, clients won’t be totally committed to the financial planning process until they “see” how it relates to their individual needs, circumstances, and aspirations. This is not to say that financial skills and knowledge have become less important in serving clients well, but it is the client’s life that must take center stage in the financial planning dialogue and process. Now, with the current market uncertainty, it is more important than ever to build trust and commitment in your client relationships by understanding your clients' true values and priorities.
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