But they arenĂ­t dying fast enough.

It's not unusual to wonder about the future-to consider what products may come and go, to speculate what new surprises the market has in store, to try to project clients' attitudes and buying behaviors into the next five or ten years.

It's not unusual, but it's fruitless. To succeed in this business, you have to stay focused on the fundamentals. When things get rough, many people start looking for "the next great thing" to save the day, to increase sales, to rescue a faltering career. Yet the truth is that there is no new thing, no magic bullet, and if you take a moment to breathe-to set aside the fear and frantic anticipation that times like these tend to breed-you'll realize you already know this.

Worrying about the variable life dilemma and IMSA and long-term care and selling securities within the life practice are all just too product-focused to make a real difference. What gets most financial advisors in trouble is concentrating on these types of issues instead of something far more critical to their business: the clients. Advisors fall down when they latch onto a product or a philosophy and forget about executing the fundamentals with people. When the market turns, they're stuck wondering, "Well, now what do I do? All my clients think I'm an idiot."

Let's get back to basics. That doesn't mean you won't employ new investing practices, products and philosophies. It just means that you are going to build your business on something central to its success, something the vagaries of the market don't jerk around like a fish on the end of a line.

Building high-trust relationships with great clients is the name of the game. Delivering service that constantly demonstrates your commitment to them achieving their goals assures that you will achieve your own. Make sure that what the client "purchases" is that relationship-which means they benefit from your expertise and experience, as well as your attention to their needs-and not just some investment vehicle or method-of-the-month.

This means that when you do financial planning for someone, it is more than a sales technique to get them to just buy more life insurance, investments or what-have-you. It means you take a look at their current financial picture, understand what's important to them in life, then formulate a comprehensive plan for achieving their goals. Paradoxically, if you take this holistic approach, clients actually buy more life insurance, investments or what have you. Advisors who are client-focused make more money, period.

Indeed, the old sales methods are dying, but not fast enough for me. I'm very aggressively trying to kill them, but they're like a nasty virus. They keep mutating, cloaking themselves in new names, showing up in different places. It's true that some relationship-selling models are actually relationship-oriented, but many are just calling themselves that because it seems to fit a trend: "Hey, people want relationships! Let's slap that label on our practices and see if we can fool a bunch of people into thinking that's what we're selling." It reminds me of a president who allows the polls to dictate his opinions. It's giving the people what they want-except the people never actually get anything but deception.

Motivational expert Jim Rohn was fond of saying, "You should always be suspicious of someone who claims to have 'new fundamentals.'" Indeed, a lot of what gets touted as the next great thing is just a new mediocre thing to tide you over until the next crisis. So forget about the products and focus instead on your fundamentals. You know, create a plan and follow the plan. Focus on the long term. Methodically implement the rules of money. And so on. The good news is you probably already know all this stuff; you just need to get your mind off of a few mammoth distractions.

What will happen in five or ten years? The financial services business will be the same. There will be good and bad clients, good and bad advisors, good and bad products offered by good and bad companies. The industry stays the same; only the players change. Your job is to guard against distraction.

This year, during the Super Bowl, I doubt the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were paying much attention to the Oakland Raider fans. If they had, they wouldn't have been focusing on what counts: the real game, the fundamentals of passing and kicking, blocking and tackling, of running the plays. The market is not unlike fans in the stands; it creates an environment in which the real game gets played. And if you focus on what's going on in the stands, you and your team (clients) will get creamed on the field.

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