Are your clients similarly prepared for challenges in the financial markets? Do they truly understand the risks involved? Are they as prepared to persevere in bad times as they are willing to enjoy the fruits of the good times? The better you have prepared them, the less reactive and emotional they will be if things turn sour. One of the financial advisors I coach said to me recently, "My clients are not overreacting during these difficult times. We've already had the discussion of what we would do were something like this to occur. The tough times are exactly why we've discussed financial planning, diversification and risk management."

While empathizing with clients' emotions and concerns, you must provide comfort, support, clarity and direction so that they gain the understanding they need to shift away from an emotional and reactive mindset. Then, and only then, can we progress onto the next step.

Focus On The Opportunity
Though you first want to make sure your clients are no longer emotional about their losses and that they fully understand their situation, as their understanding grows, you can then turn them toward opportunities.
Former NFL head coach Dick Vermeil said, "An opportunity is worth to a person exactly what their preparation enables them to make of it." That means you should have prepared your clients in advance to take advantage of the opportunities that often accompany turbulent financial markets.

Before winning his first green jacket in the 2004 Masters Tournament, Phil Mickelson held the unflattering title of "greatest player never to have won a major." When he was asked how he would handle the pressure of trying to win his first major if paired with Tiger Woods in the final group, Mickelson responded, "That is why we play competitive golf. That is what we are waiting for-to have that opportunity on Sunday to compete for the greatest title against some of the best players in the world, and I would love that opportunity." That's what champions focus on when under pressure, not the threat and not the fear of failure.

Top-producing advisors recognize that tough financial times present opportunities both for the clients and for themselves. A common human reaction to adversity is to stick your head in the sand and wait for the conditions to improve, yet turbulent financial times present unlimited prospecting opportunities. While other advisors stand confused, inactive and embarrassed by the performance of their portfolios, top advisors hold prospecting events, ask for referrals, meet with their clients (and their friends), and in essence fill the void left by those who are unprepared and ill-informed.

What opportunities are you discussing with your clients-opportunities to buy, to reconsider asset allocation, to further diversify their portfolios, to review their risk tolerance, to minimize their losses, or to position them for accelerated growth down the road?

Take Action
In the NFL, every team has a pre-established two-minute offense that they rely on in critical moments-say, when they might be down by seven points and have two minutes remaining on the clock and no time-outs. Why? Because it allows everyone on the field to do one thing-take action. There is no time to hold a meeting, schedule a conference call or conduct research. It is time to act. Top athletes and coaches recognize the importance of execution in these moments-thoughtful, informed, preplanned action.

Referring to how his coach, Jim Mora, helped him play during his NFL rookie season when the Indianapolis Colts won only three games, Peyton Manning recalled, "He told me, 'I know you don't want to struggle, but you are going to struggle.' I had some games when I didn't play quite as well, and he easily could have pulled me out of the game. What he told me was, 'When you have a bad game and you throw two or three interceptions, it's easy to come out; it's hard to stay in the game and avoid throwing number four.'" Champions recognize, even when a loss is inevitable, that they must stay in the game, keep learning, keep taking action.

What actions are you taking to keep learning, improving your practice and delivering your clients the value that they expect and deserve from their advisor in tough times? How are you coaching your clients to stay in the game, particularly when there are no assurances that they will win?

Remember, in really bad situations, normal people look to be pulled out of the game, wait it out and re-enter when conditions improve. Fortunately, champions are abnormal-they are conditioned, trained and prepared to act as others would not. They know how to seek understanding, focus on the opportunity and take action so that when the going gets tough, they will play like champions.

Rick Jensen, Ph.D., is a nationally renowned performance consultant in the worlds of sports and business. His clients include more than 50 touring pros on the PGA, LPGA and Champions tours. In the tennis circuit, his clients include winners of all four Grand Slams. In the world of business, he consults with Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Old Mutual, Wells Fargo, UBS, Grubb & Ellis, Colliers International, ADP and Nike. He has been featured on ABC, ESPN, CNN and the Golf Channel and is also a contributing writer for Golf Magazine and Golf Digest. For additional information, go to

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