We are living through a once-in-a-generation health crisis, and while our first concerns are about the health of our families and communities, many advisors and their clients are also understandably worried about their livelihoods and their long-term prospects.

There are many articles about the basics of this new reality for advisors, from the specifics of the CARES Act to when to update tax projections. But beyond understanding these basics, how might a young financial advisor who has never been through even a market correction—let alone something like this—develop an approach that does more to help their clients come out on the other side of this while also leaving the advisor’s businesses intact and possibly healthier than before? 

Here are three things that I believe are keys to becoming a better servant to clients and a more trusted advisor—in good times and bad.  

Tip 1: Move From A Sales To A Values-Based Mindset
In my experience, I have found that relationships and actions based on values, not market performance or short-term crises, are the strongest and most enduring.

In traditional financial advising we’re taught to focus on our clients’ needs, but in practice most of us end up focusing on selling. However, the last thing your clients want when they are quarantining at home with their families is a sales pitch. The good news is that there are ways to change your approach to client service so that you can once again truly put your clients first and not have to “sell” at all.

Tip 2: It’s About Them, Not You
A relentless focus on what your clients actually want—not what you think they need—can transform you from a products-based salesperson to a lifelong advisor. If you focus on helping clients achieve their long-term goals, especially at a time like this when they are feeling their most vulnerable, it can alleviate stress and restore positivity in your clients, all the while propelling your business forward and making you feel better than ever about what you do.

While basic preparation—having the right portfolio of products, the right forms, and an understanding of all the tax codes, legal codes, and more—is important, it is actually your mindset, not just your product knowledge, that matters. If someone wants specific information on a product, of course you should provide it. But I always remind myself that the key to success lies with the person in front of me. In other words, nothing in our conversation will be important to me unless it’s important to them.

Tip 3: Learn To Listen. Really Listen.
Where does your client want to go in life and where are they now relative to where they want to be? How do they envision their retirement, or do they even want to retire? What about the legacy they want to leave behind? The way to find out is to ask them, and to just listen without judgment or preconceived ideas.

The more you really listen to your client, the more deeply you will understand what they want for their future. If you make this effort—and only afterward look for the ideal mix of products or services for their situation—you will likely be able to help them realize the lives they envision. If you keep truly hearing them, you’ll find that you’re no longer thinking or acting like a salesperson but are on your way to becoming a trusted advisor.

Deemphasizing selling and leading with your core values can change the way you relate to your client and improve your ability to help them achieve their dreams. It’s not always easy to do. Then again, it doesn’t take much more effort to direct a client’s cash flow or place assets in a way that fulfills their optimal outcome, and you will be doing good by doing better for your clients. Better yet, by doing good you can go from closing 20-30 percent of your cases to building lifelong client relationships. Over time, of course, these happy clients can become valuable referral sources. What could be more fulfilling, especially at a time when many clients are feeling great anxiety?

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