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How do financial advisers demonstrate value in their client’s mind and justify their fees?


By simple definition, “value” is how useful someone perceives your service to be to them and how much difference you can, or do, make to their life.   Price is what you pay, value is what you get.  Simple, right?

However, every person’s situation and experiences are quite different and the way in which they perceive value can be complex and often very different to the next person.

Their perception may also change from time to time.

Consequently, the degree of value they perceive will ultimately determine whether or not they can justify paying your fees.   

When you boil it all down, though, people are most likely to determine your value as

“your ability to enable them to achieve the goals that are truly important to them and, or, to solve their current and future problems”.

In short, your ability to solve “imperative needs” will ultimately influence almost all of their decisions. So, everything depends on how expertly you skilfully create “imperative needs“ and bring them to life today. More on that shortly.

Tangible Vs intangible value

Value will generally take the form of either tangible or intangible benefits. Typically, tangible benefits such as saving tax, effective budgeting to save more, lower super or investment fees, better investment solutions that are robustly matched to their risk profile, are all easier for an adviser to demonstrate quantifiable value for and for a person to recognise and understand that value.

But clients are human after all and their decisions and value evaluation are significantly influenced by intangible, emotional factors. So, it is the emotional value that you create, and demonstrate, that can often make all the difference. And it is the emotional value you should deliver first!

At this point it is worth reflecting on how much time you spend developing your engagement skills and capability versus the time you spend on developing your knowledge and capability in relation to compliance and education. My experience is that most advisers invest most or all their time on the tangible.

So, let’s start from the beginning of the relationship…

How can you make the most impact, add the most value and quickly build trust during your initial meetings?

Knowing your client (their situation) is imperative, but really understanding them and helping them to understand themselves in a way that they have never experienced before will differentiate you immediately, demonstrate how much you care and instantly evoke a sense of importance for new prospective clients – all of which will build trust quickly.

While it is tempting to dive into their financial situation early to build a picture of how you may be able to help them, which many advisers do, this will most likely detract from deeply exploring who they really are, establishing what’s truly important and helping them to realise that they have problems they really need your help to find solutions to solve.

My overwhelming observations from attending thousands of meetings over 4 decades are that many advisers miss this precious opportunity to really connect and demonstrate how much value they can add and the difference they can make to their client’s life. Perhaps this practice has been triggered as the consequence of the ever-increasing, onerous requirements placed on advisers who feel pressured to get everything done in one meeting.

But times have well and truly changed, prompting the need for advisers and licensees to plan for a 2-meeting framework before moving to the preparation of advice.  Therefore, the initial meeting must focus on building a deep understanding and trust.

After all, you are planning to build a lifetime relationship and asking a virtual stranger to entrust their financial world to you. 

On the other hand, I have also observed some exceptional interviews in which the adviser has expertly utilised mind mapping concepts, discovery maps and “lifelines” – the results of which are amazing! In most instances, the prospect or client will ask to take away a copy of the mind map. How often does that happen when you just take a page of notes?

The value of educating of clients

I’m sure that all of the readers of this article will be educating the people that they meet with as this is one of the most fundamental ways that they add value. But is your value delivery reserved for face to face meetings, perhaps once a year, or do you have a structured program of client education all year round?

Is the emphasis of your client education related to tax, markets, products etc, or do you also add value by sharing insights, articles and views on things that relate more specifically to your client and their future needs?


Setting your relationship up for success right from the start

It goes without saying that building rapport and earning trust quickly is essential to establishing a mutually beneficial and enduring relationship, but how do you achieve this when you may only get one chance?


If the client says it’s the truth…

The first lesson that I ever learned more than 35 years ago has stuck with me every day since then. While working with a very wise adviser and multiple MDRT qualifier, he said to me

…“Jason, if the client says it, it must be the truth”.

In other words, don’t ever tell the client that things are important, until you have skilfully engaged with well thought out questions that evoke their insights and inspire them to tell you.  As mentioned earlier, mind mapping, discovery maps and “lifelines” are remarkably effective in getting people to think differently, visualise, realise and tell you what is really important to them.

There is a specific framework that you can implement in all meetings that applies this philosophy over the “cycle of commitment” and create “imperative needs.

What are “imperative needs” and how do you bring them to life?

An “imperative need or goal” is a something that the client MUST solve and expresses their need for you to help them. They are goals that they are prepared to commit to and perhaps sacrifice for to ensure that they achieve them above all else. To make sacrifices and commit to ensure that they achieve them. Solving above all else.

A simple test to see if you have helped the client to understand their imperative needs is to either review yourself or ask someone else to review the goals section of a few of your client profile booklets. If different clients goals needs read fairly similarly and if they are captured in your words, there’s a very good chance that they are not close at all to being “imperative needs” and, consequently, diminish the likelihood they will commit to any plan or strategy, either then or, if they do come on board as a client, remain committed and disciplined for the long term.


Even if you achieve an advance to progress to preparing an SoA, or a second discovery meeting, your connection at all future meetings will not be built on as strong a foundation as it could have been because you did not create or uncover “imperative needs”.  And, I they do become a client, the absence of “imperative needs” will diminish the strength of future reviews and perhaps their commitment.  


The good news is that there is a specific framework that you can implement and skills that you can develop to execute the “cycle of commitment” philosophy to create enduring “imperative needs”.

Don’t wait until review time to connect

There are 8,760 hours in a year. If you don’t regularly connect with your clients between annual reviews, others will! Ask yourself, how many of those hours are you with your client? How often do you call them just to see how they are going? How many times do you “touch” them with relevant and useful information or insights? 

One of the most successful and exceptional advisers that I have worked with aimed to “touch” clients 86 times a year. Yes, that’s 86. And he did.

While 86 interventions may not be practical, you should build a robust plan that allocates time in your calendar each week to:

  1. Source valuable articles and content

  2. Post and add commentary to insightful articles on LinkedIn and other social media platforms

  3. Call 5 - 10 of your ongoing clients just to check in and see how they are going (that way you talk to each of them twice a year)


Just ASK!

Finally, but importantly, asking potential clients or existing clients what they value is one of the most epiphanic things that you could ever do.

Occasionally a client survey can provide useful insights, but the true value is what you learn from your client in person. 

Asking consistent, well thought out questions creates clarity for everyone and demonstrates how much you care.

Moreover, it will help you to really understand your value proposition and, perhaps, to recognise areas of your service that you could improve, or you thought that your clients really valued about you.

There are a number of interactions at distinct stages of a client relationship or interventions within a relationship that present the perfect opportunity to ask well thought out questions, which should always be the same questions, no matter which client.

Effective questions to ask a brand-new client

“It’s great to bring you on board as a client of our practice today and I wanted to ask what you have found valuable as we have worked together to bring your plan to life?”

Your client’s responses will not only clarify in their mind why they chose you, but they will also help you be clear what your value proposition.

“I also wanted to ask what you expect from our relationship over the next 12 months?”

The value of asking what your new client expects is that it enables you to understand and discuss any client expectations that are not part of your service package or that may be unrealistic. That way you can both be confident that you deliver to your service promise each year and that there are no surprises when it comes to your next scheduled review.

At each review meeting

If you have not asked these questions of an existing OAS client before…

“We have been working together for 3 years now and I wanted to ask you both what are the 3 things that you most value about me?”

“And is there anything that you expect from our relationship that I could improve?”

And with people who you have asked before when they became clients, you can refer to your notes from their previous responses…

“So when you came on board 11 months ago you said that…, and I wanted to check to see how we are living up to your expectations?” 

You can also ask them what are the 3 things that they value the most about you and if there is anything that you haven’t delivered that they would like you to focus on.

Taking the time to check in with your clients not only gives you answers and information that will help you build a stronger relationship with your client, it also sends a consistent message that you genuinely care about them.


If you would like to read more on how you and your team can consistently demonstrate value in your client’s mind and justify their fees, just register HERE for more articles in my “Demonstrate Real Value” series.

Jason Dunn has developed, implemented and executed change, engagement, turn-around and transformation program strategies across a diverse range of institutionally and privately owned financial advice businesses over 35 years. While his experience is broad, Jason is effusive about creating exceptional client experiences based on thousands of hours of direct client engagement.


Download the PDF version of this article for printing and sharing, HERE

Jason Dunn has developed, implemented and executed change, engagement, turn-around and transformation program strategies across a diverse range of institutionally and privately owned financial advice businesses over 35 years. While his experience is broad, Jason is effusive about creating exceptional client experiences based on thousands of hours of direct client engagement. 


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