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Sell the plan, not the product

Troy A. Collins, ADFP

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Your guide to becoming a strategic, not a transactional, advisor.

It’s time to go beyond transactional advice to strategic advice. It’s not about the products. Those are only tools to ensure foundations are strong.

For instance, superannuation, similar to a 401(k) in the U.S., is a tax tool. It’s going to deliver an outcome — financial independence — in the long term. But ultimately what’s important to clients is their lifestyle choices. It’s educating their kids. It’s having their dream home. It’s having their dream experience of travel, sporting activities and so forth.

It’s not about the products. So step away from the transaction, and focus on that strategic relationship you have with the client. Being a strategic advisor means being more holistic in the way you deliver your advice. A strategic advisor is a coach who thinks with the end in mind.

To be a strategic advisor, I’ve developed tools that make it easier to engage with clients. Because a lot of people find it hard to set goals and clear benchmarks for themselves, it’s important to understand your client’s dreams and ambitions first.

For my clients, we’ve developed a goals booklet. It starts off with asking them to define their top goals and dreams. Then we map it out and break it down to personal goals, lifestyle choices, experiences, professional goals and so forth.

That’s the client’s why. It’s not about the product, the life insurance, the investment, the superannuation. It’s about the lifestyle choices they want to have for themselves and their families. That’s where the true engagement is with your clients.

Moving forward

We have a process for working strategically with clients. It’s systemized, so it’s the same every single time. If we want to attract new referrals, we want to do the same thing on a consistent basis.

It starts off with understanding what client goals are in regard to the key outcomes they want to achieve. Then we move on to wealth. What are their wealth goals? Where do they want to end up — whether it’s 10, 15, 20 years’ time? Let’s work back from there to understand what needs to happen.

We have a discovery process that is a strategic blueprint. We’re still not talking about products. It’s not until we get to the comprehensive strategy report that we begin talking about products.

What then follows is implementation, post-implementation and the ongoing management of that relationship with the client.

Then we track the clients. All the hard work is upfront, but there’s more to come with managing the client’s situation. We track their cash flow, their debt management and their wealth accumulation on an ongoing basis.

We have a tool called Prospera, which enables us to do that. And it benchmarks: “This is where we projected you to be, as per the net position illustration on this particular slide. This is where you should be, and this is how you’re tracking to plan.” We track that monthly.

So we are only ever 30 days behind in knowing how they’re performing and how we’re performing. Because it’s a collaborative relationship. It’s not all on them. And delivering returns on products is not all on us.

We have what we call the Collins Financial Group Wealth Portal. It’s an app on our client’s phone that feeds information on investments, lending, cash flow and so forth. That’s linked with the client’s ongoing reporting. So there’s a whole process around the ongoing engagement with the client, but there’s great connection with them.

Structuring fees

And last, a strategic client-advisor relationship has to be profitable. We have a clear, transparent fee structure. It’s not related to products and commissions on those products. We’re neutral regarding all products. We’re neutral on whether the client invests in shares or property.

So decide what tools work for you and are going to deliver that value to you and your clients. Make sure the relationship is productive. That it’s enjoyable for all parties. Yes, productivity is important, but it’s got to be fun. So make sure it’s fun.

3 steps to running a strategic business

  • Be fee-focused, rather than commission-focused. If you have a fee structure, it doesn’t matter whether there are products or not.
  • Have a structured program that delivers consistent results for your clients and for the business.
  • Don’t be transactional. Look at the relationship. Look at the process. The product will be the last part of the process, if it’s there at all.

Troy Collins is a 21-year MDRT member from Toowong, Queensland, Australia. Contact him at


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