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The No. 1 Mistake Made by Financial Advisors

It's time to start connecting to the right-brain needs of your clients.

Allyson Lewis, 05/23/2013

The human brain is made up of two distinct hemispheres, the left brain and the right brain. The left brain is logical, linear, sequential, and organized. The left brain likes to plan and budget, and craves order. It is methodical, structured, and incredibly detail oriented.

The left side of the brain is usually what draws individuals to the financial planning career path. Advisors and planners are leaders. They are well educated, likeable, trusted, and confident. They like people, numbers, planning, creating strategies, and calculating numeric outcomes to attempt to plan for future goals.

Financial advisors and financial planners alike are required to operate much of their business utilizing these important left-brain skill sets. Envision the number of left-brain activities you work on every day:

> completing new account paperwork
> entering orders to the various exchanges
> calculating budgets
> reading research
> implementing asset allocation models
> monitoring account performance versus target goals

However, we are now discovering that it can be a mistake to operate and attempt to work with clients only from the left-brain viewpoint. Consider this: Clients are recognizing that many left-brain functions are being commodified. In fact, if you scan the list above every single bullet point can in some fashion be accomplished without hiring a financial advisor or a financial planner. Knowing this can serve as your wake-up call.

If you want to continue to grow and develop your personal skill sets in a way that can differentiate you from your competition, then you must begin to learn more about, and focus your attention on connecting with, the right-brain needs of each client.

What You Can Do Instead
The right side of the human brain sees in pictures--not words--which allows it to process information very quickly. The right brain is flowing, emotional, vibrant, intuitive. It sees life from the 50,000-foot viewpoint. It is adventurous, imaginative, and creative, and experiences life through the five major senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste.

Most importantly, the right side of the brain is relational. It begs for connection and friendship. The right brain wants to express itself and rarely is interested in charts and spreadsheets. Instead clients' right brain would rather have a cup of coffee and an advisor who listens to the story about their last golf game and their grandchildren's recent graduation.

For many clients, the chaos and volatility of the stock market is overwhelming. As a financial advisor and/or a financial planner, your job is to offer knowledge, advice, understanding, and perspective. Kyle Uhelski wrote, "One of the main purposes of a financial planner is to help people find the specific meaning behind their financial decisions. Financial advisors can also help people to understand how a certain financial decision will affect not only the way one lives now, but the other financial choices that will take place in one's future."

Think about that for a moment: "…to help people find the specific meaning behind their financial decisions."

That statement takes practice management to an entirely new level. In order to help clients better understand their financial decisions, we must help them understand the specific meaning behind each one of those decisions. We must purposefully help them connect their emotional feelings and concerns to the financial decisions that will impact their future. This is a right-brain activity.

Right-brain financial advisors and financial planners run their practice using a different business model and a different strategic plan. For instance, a right-brain client meeting might include open-ended questions such as:

Tell me why you are here today?
The right brain wants to empathize and understand the deeper meaning.

Can you describe to me how you feel about your current financial situation?
The right brain is emotional, compassionate and is a much better listener than the left brain.

Where would you like to see yourself 1 year, 5 years, 20 years from now?
The right brain sees in pictures. It can much more easily formulate and articulate a picture of what a client's financial future might include.

For example, a client might respond, "In one year I see our family taking a $5,000 vacation at the beach." Even as the client speaks these words to you, his right brain is transporting him to that future location, and in that moment he is experiencing the smell of the salt water, can feel the ocean breeze running across his face, and can hear his kids laughing as they frolic in the surf.

At that moment his right brain lights up with joy, and he experiences a deeper desire to make that financial goal a reality.

It is easy to grasp the difference in asking someone to state a goal to you--that is a left-brain activity that carries very little excitement or commitment. But when clients see, connect with, and understand emotionally how their current financial decisions will impact their future lives, the commitments to those goals and plans increase dramatically.

What are your greatest fears?
Rather than just having a client complete a risk tolerance questionnaire, which is a left-brain activity--and some clients may not even fully understand the questions--why not ask them what they are afraid of?

Some of their answers might include:

> I am afraid of what happened in 2008--that the stock market could drop sharply, and I could lose a significant part of my life savings.

> I am afraid because I don't understand how the markets and the economy work, and I am afraid I will make a bad decision that will affect my family's future.

> I am afraid I could die early and that would impact my family.

> I am afraid I will not be able to accumulate enough assets to provide an appropriate level of income during my retirement.

These are valid concerns, and as you allow your clients to express their fears, you have an opportunity to connect with them on a much different level.

Final request: Look out 20 years from now and describe to me in detail the best things you hope will happen in your life.
Humans are the one mammal given the ability to hope, imagine, dream, and plan for their future. All other animals live only in the present moment, but the human brain has evolved to include the pre-frontal cortex, which houses the executive functions that include the amazing ability to look out into the future and dream.

What an amazing opportunity for you as a financial advisor or financial planner to take the time to listen to each client and ask them to answer this final request.

Time strategy expert and best-selling author Allyson Lewis has spent the last 30 years developing and teaching concrete, actionable business ideas all over the country. Her latest book, The 7 Minute Solution: Time Strategies to Prioritize, Organize and Simplify Your Life at Work & at Home, was released in paperback on Jan. 1, 2013. Take advantage of the worksheets, webinars, and more--subscribe to the FREE Member Tools area of our website http://www.The7MinuteLife.com and follow Allyson on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/AllysonLewis.SevenMinutes and Twitter: @allyson7minutes

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