How to Uncover Your Clients’ Definition of Value
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What is value and how can you make simple changes to your communications to deliver massive value to your clients?
With Google at their fingertips, your clients could learn everything there is to know about financial planning, from Roth conversions to setting up trusts to tax law.
However, despite holding a wealth of information in their hands, your clients won’t find valuable insights on how to apply their newfound knowledge to their financial situation.
Chat GPT and search engines can’t give your clients the wisdom to apply what they learn to their specific situation. You won’t be out of a job because no artificial intelligence can replace your understanding and the value you provide through its application.
While there are many different aspects of delivering value, it all comes back to this fact:
As an advisor, you deliver value to your clients by helping them understand something that no one else has helped them understand.
We’re not just doing asset management; our jobs are more comprehensive. Clients need to see the value we bring in planning and know we’re in their corner.
But how do you demonstrate your value and understand what you’re delivering?
What is value?
Too many industry “experts” make value out to be much more elusive and complicated than it is.
Value is individualized information paired with action items your clients can follow to reach their financial goals.
Value-adds don’t need to be unique for each client. We’re not creating a new task for every household but providing information specific to each client's financial situation.
Let’s say you’re doing an estate planning review as next quarter’s value-add. You won’t send a mass communication telling your clients to review their estate documents.
That’s not helpful. As far as they can tell, you’ve just flustered your clients by informing them to review documents they thought were already done and should be correct.
Instead, you’ll deliver massive value by sending out a communication along the lines of:
We reviewed your estate planning documents (list what those are) and found you’re missing beneficiaries for your thrift savings plan (TSP).
Your primary beneficiary should be X. Your contingent beneficiaries should be Y.
Here are the instructions (or links) to make these changes.
By doing this, you’ve provided your clients with specific information by listing their estate documents and who their beneficiaries should be, followed by a clear, actionable step they can take.
Don’t just send your clients the form and tell them to fill it out. Go further and explain that if you want everything to go to your wife, trust, or beneficiaries, here’s how it should be listed.
By adding these extra details to show your clients what changes they need and how to make them, you offer a service beyond what other advisors provide.
What value isn’t
While we want to deliver as much value as possible, you can go too far. Many advisors confuse value with volume when they mistakenly think that more must be better and a little extra information is good.
Advisors get carried away thinking they should deliver monthly or even weekly newsletters because their quarterly one was a hit.
An advisor may feel that a handful of actionable items per meeting were too few, so adding 37 to the next one would be better. Or printing complex, lengthy reports and having exhaustively long meetings will demonstrate value.
Whenever you feel tempted to add more to your client interactions, remember your job is to untangle the complexity of financial planning and help them understand their situation in a way no one else can.
Learning the dance between value and volume is something you’ll have to play by ear and practice. There will be times when you’ll need a few more action items and moments when you’ll discover the client needs less.
Value is in the eye of the beholder
Value is in the eye of the beholder, meaning it depends on your client’s perception of value.
I like to be transparent with my clients and prospects by reminding them that if they ever feel they’re not receiving value worth a multiple of my fees, they should call me to discuss their expectations.
Maybe I can’t provide the value they want – it's okay! I’ll help them find an advisor who’s a better fit, and we can part ways as friends.
Maybe there’s a miscommunication with an easy fix.
No matter what happens, I want my clients to know that value is a subjective standard for them. I love empowering clients so that I can hear what they think is valuable and then exceed those expectations.
Deliver more value today
When I talk about delivering value, it comes from over 20 years of experience in this profession. Advisors see the processes I have in place and don’t realize I’ve had to learn from many mistakes to get here.
Initially, I only listed the primary and contingent beneficiaries when reviewing beneficiary designations with clients.
Later, I had the great idea to add the percentages allotted to each beneficiary. Eventually, after clients asked what those percentages meant, I listed the dollar amount for each beneficiary on each account.
Now, I list a lumped total of all accounts for each beneficiary.
All my value-add processes were built and refined over time in the same manner.
Don’t be overwhelmed by trying to deliver value in every aspect of financial planning in as much detail as more successful advisors do.
Instead, start where you are and do a bit better. Maybe you don’t yet share beneficiaries at all – just by sharing these, you’ll build the base of a fantastic value-add.
Often, advisors skip beneficiary designations because it seems trivial, but I see mistakes. Custodians drop extra beneficiaries, misspell names, mistype Social Security numbers, or mess it up altogether.
Your clients lie awake at night worried about certain aspects of their finances – specifically, if their accounts will go to the right people if something happens to them.
You can provide immense value through peace of mind that items such as beneficiary designations are correct.
Imagine that you could not look at investment accounts, talk about investments, or talk about performance during fall surge.
If you couldn’t bring any of that to the meeting, what would you talk about to deliver massive value instead?
This mental exercise will force you to realize that you better be good at Roth conversions, beneficiary reviews, estate planning, and other ways to deliver value. Micah Shilanski, CFP®, is a financial planner who achieves the impossible. Micah is recognized as a leader in the concept of lifestyle design for financial planners and has spoken at conferences across the country. Micah is an advisor with Shilanski and Associates, a founder of Plan Your Federal Retirement, and a co-founder of The Perfect RIA.
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