Pitching is for Baseball not Financial Advice!
“This is a secret the wealthy have known about and used for decades. They just didn’t tell anyone!”
Those are the words I heard from a friendly gentleman at a local networking event this morning. This was his second or third sentence after I asked him what he does for a living. A statement like that can cause a person’s mind to wonder in any number of directions. What is this guy trying to sell me? Oh no did I get duped into a time share presentation?! Is there anyone I know here that can get me out of this moment?! All of these are reasonable responses, and these thoughts come with good reason. How many sales pitches have you heard before, and the most ominous thought, how many more will you hear in your lifetime? That was my first thought.
The gentleman continued (let’s call him Dave) Dave continued, “I’m in the business of helping people get out of debt.” “Oh, like a debt consolidation company,” I asked? “No, debt consolidation always winds up hurting the consumer in some way. No, I help people become their own banker” (His business card say’s Be Your Own Bank). “Wow” I said, “How does that work?” “Did you know you can use whole life insurance to build up your savings and borrow (he uses his fingers for quotations) from the insurance company, then you pay yourself back!” “I have helped people completely get out of debt in less than nine years, this includes their house!” That’s when the statement comes in. “This is a secret the wealthy have known about and used for decades. They just didn’t tell anyone!” Dave is content with me being the only one asking any questions. My guess is he feels that questions denote interest, and interest means I must need or want what he’s selling. No need to ask me any questions because his assumptions have already filled in all the blanks.
Dave never asked me anything about myself passed my name, which was on my name tag. Remember this was a networking event. He had no idea that I’m a partner in a boutique wealth management firm that works exclusively with affluent households. We didn’t discuss my career, education, or specializations. Dave didn’t know my financial situation in the least. There was no discussion of kids or a wife. I could have been an alien wearing a human suit, and Dave would never have known because he didn’t ask any origin questions about me. Yet, hear I sit listening to the long-held secret to financial prosperity, which is apparently a whole life policy with a cash value. I couldn’t help but reflect on how much I’ve learned over the years about listening rather than talking. The road to being someone who values and builds relationships, rather than someone who has an excellent sales pitch. Maybe the way his company uses whole life cash values and leverages the persons contributions to pay off high interested debt works for some people. Maybe someone I know could benefit. Maybe I could benefit. Both of these scenarios are highly unlikely, and I don’t agree with how his company presents itself or this product. Either way, Dave will never know, because he left that conversation knowing only what he knew before it began. He’s at a networking event, and he sells insurance.
The most disturbing part of the whole scene was when I looked at Dave’s title, Financial Advisor. Dave isn’t a bad person. I don’t think Dave is out to hurt anyone, and I think he believes a lot of what he is saying. Also, Dave is the reason I will never refer to myself as a Financial Advisor. The term and any like it are almost as toxic as Insurance Salesman, which is why Dave didn’t hold himself out as one. How many people reading this right now hear someone at a party say “Oh, I sell insurance for a living what do you do?” and run to the ice luge before it’s your turn to hear the pitch? (I only attend parties with and ice luge) How many times do you think someone has done that when they heard you introduce yourself as a Financial Advisor? How did we get to this place where providing financial advice is equated with used car sales, furniture sales, and yes insurance sales? “Oh god you’re in sales, you’re all the same!” Those words were said directly to my face some years ago as younger Financial Advisor. Ouch right!
I write this article in hopes of finding kindred spirits. There must be like minded individuals within the financial services industry, yearning to be seen as true, caring professionals. Someone who wants to create relationships with clients that are mutually beneficial, and a person wanting their expertise and mastery of craft to lift people up, not just generate commissions or bonuses. Shouldn’t our goal as professionals be improving the lives of others, while improving our quality of life? Can we really deliver on what’s in the sales pitch, or is that pitch designed to move product regardless of the outcome for the client? These are the questions that plagued me working for large firms within the financial services industry. An industry where complexity is inherent in all aspects from concepts, to products, regulation, taxes, etc. A real need for someone who understands the nuance of this environment, and how to best navigate this on an individual basis exists. Then why do people avoid someone introducing themselves as a Financial Advisor? No one wants your sales pitch, that’s why!
Take a look at the world and how people receive information today. I haven’t watched commercials on my TV at home in almost a decade. My email settings are set to NO! There is an app on my phone that helps identify and block robo-calls. My USPS mailbox is really a miniature shredder! (that was joke…. you’re welcome) My point is people have more control over unwanted solicitation today than ever before, and the consensus is “If I didn’t ask for it, I don’t want it!” Of course, marketing is still effective, and people need to know what you do for business to grow. But How are you going to create mutually beneficial long-term relationships with clients, if you can sum up your value in an “elevator pitch.” What a cringey term. Hey, your trapped with me in an elevator, and I’m going to tell you how great myself and my product is, now give me money! Does that sound like something anyone wants to be a part of…NO!
I humbly beg, nay, plead with you in the financial services industry, please stop pitching. Take time to know the person to whom you are speaking. People can be interesting on so many levels. You might learn that person has a glass blowing hobby, or they raised a prize-winning pig named Wilbur, or their grandfather was on the first wave at Normandy! There are fascinating people masqueradeing as normal folk all around you. Genuinely care about the emotions, hard learned lessons, deep seated beliefs, and life experiences of those who may benefit from what you have to offer. Don’t be afraid to tell your story and find common ground or, dare I say it solidarity, with another human being. Stop Pitching! The wealthier and the more successful a potential client the more they want to know you. (thank you David Bell) You should already know more than even a savvy investor if you have been in the industry for more than a year and hold any form of designation. We get it you know things. What you can’t know is the needs, concerns, ambitions, goals, experiences etc. of that person you just met at the networking event! We should hold ourselves to a high standard of advice in this industry.
Money affects every aspect of our personal lives, denying this is a fool’s errand. The only people who will confidently say money isn’t a necessity are those who have more than they need. (also, usually those who have never been without it) The role of a Financial Advisor is extremely important, because people are handing you their trust. I’m not talking about their family trust with millions. I’m talking about that intangible priceless asset we hand to others in hopes it won’t be broken. People are handing you their peace of mind, their security for the future, their hopes for the success of their children, and their dreams of enjoying everything they can about this world before their time is up. Stop pitching to these people! These statements come to you as a former serial pitcher! I was once scouted by the Atlanta Braves for my prowess! (this is another joke…you’re welcome twice) This is not in judgement, but in hopes to spare you and those whom you will meet in the future. I encourage you to take a part of the road that lead me to where I am in building relationships with clients today. My firm is fee only and our average household is around $4 million liquid net worth. We work with a range of retired CE0’s, small business owners, former attorney’s, Dr.’s, and those who climbed the corporate ladder saving as much as they could the whole way. Each client has a fascinating story. I wouldn’t know one of those stories, if all I did was pitch. I strongly encourage anyone reading this article to also read “Story Selling for the Financial Advisor” by Scot West & Mitch Anthony and the “Marketing Rebellion” by Mark W. Schaefer. Also, jump on the chance to obtain your CWS® with Canon Financial, jump twice if the instructor is David Bell! Good luck and don’t succumb to the pressure to just Pitch!