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How Well Do You Really Know Your Clients?

Really understanding your client is a good thing; here's a unique tool to help you do it better.

David J. Drucker, 08/17/2006

Sir Winston Churchill said, "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it."  That's precisely the opportunity Jane Wollman Rusoff offers your clients with Family Star Productions'   Legacy Profiles.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Financial advisors are taught to put the client first, find out his life goals, and help him attain those goals.  It all sounds so simple, but it's not.  Sure, if you plunk a questionnaire down in front of your new client and he puts his goals in writing for you, it may seem simple.

But I can tell you what he's going to write and I haven't even met your client.  He's going to say he wants to provide a good education for his kids and he wants to have a comfortable retirement.  Those have been every client's professed goals since the College for Financial Planning long ago told us how important goals are.

The College was right, in theory, but wrong in practice.  How important can goals be if every client has the same ones?  The College's process was oversimplified but it enabled product folks to appear more legitimate in their quest for commission dollars.  Today's professional advisor goes beyond questionnaires and perfunctory goals.  Heck, he actually talks to his client.

And that's what Rusoff does too, so maybe advisors should take a look at her process.  "I had specialized in writing for consumer electronics publications for many years until I did some stories in the 80s about how celebrities were using new electronic products, like big screen TVs and computers.  With those new contacts, I started doing profiles of comedians for a wide range of consumer publications and, from there, began specializing in entertainment profiles."

Of her five books, Rusoff co-authored three with the late, famous comedian and creator of the Tonight Show, Steve Allen.  Her hundreds of celebrity interviews have covered the field from Ray Charles, to Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens), to the now-infamous Mel Gibson.

Even I have had the honor of being interviewed by Rusoff for the "Profiles in Success" article that Research magazine ran on me in its November 2003 issue and, if I learned anything from that experience, I learned that interviewing is a skill.  In just 20 minutes, Rusoff had all the facts she needed and portrayed me convincingly in her article.  Heck, even I found me interesting!

Says Rusoff, "One Legacy Profiles client told me, 'My mother felt very comfortable talking to you and she doesn't usually open up to anyone.'  I have to have ways of getting people to reveal themselves.  It's all about building rapport.  They feel comfortable with me and trust me.  I'm empathic.  I listen listen listen.  Sometimes someone will say something that answers my question but then she adds information; if you listen, can get a whole other story."

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