It Is What Happens Here That Will Establish Whether You’re Building A Broad-Based, Process-Oriented, Professional Practice or a More Narrow, Product-Centric, Sales-Oriented Practice

Our industry has undergone a transformational shift from the relatively simple and narrow arena of investment advice and portfolio management to the far more complex and comprehensive model of financial planning and ultimately wealth management.


  • Define the evolution from Investment Advice to Wealth Management and Planning.
  • Illustrate the key concepts in making the transition.
  • Determine the level of access and control needed to manage and grow your practice.
  • Describe the impact of stress and trust on the relationship with your clientele.


The first thing we assess is the type of questions the financial advisor and their team asks. A sales model tends to spend more time asking what we define as “treatment questions”. Questions like, “Do you want that convertible in red or blue?” Or “Do you want that suit double-breasted or single-breasted?”

The sales model tries to assess what the customer wants and deliver that. And for some industries, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, professionals spend the vast majority of their time asking what we call context questions.

We experience this classic professional approach whenever we visit our local doctor. The doctor will ask a whole series of questions designed to deliver what the patient/client needs, which by the way may or may not be what the client initially thought they wanted. Professionals in general and doctors in particular only deliver what the client needs and they practice extraordinary bedside manner to help them understand both what and why the treatment is being recommended. This should be our fundamental model of operation.

The next thing we will look at is the type of access your team grants to its clients. Sales people allow total unfettered access. Think about your local car commercial: Come on down, stop on by, drop on in. Why does the sales person allow that level of access? Because they’re constantly searching for that next sale. Professionals would never allow that, all professionals control access to themselves, their practice and their team. They do this for three reasons:

  1. They want to be prepared when you show up.
  2. They want to convey that their time is valuable and their services are in high demand.
  3. They want to maintain control of both their practice and their clientele.

In every relationship someone is in control. When it comes to your practice, it better be you. You want to control and organize your calendar just like any other professional and give your staff plenty of time to do the work necessary to prepare you for the appointment.

Next, let’s look at the concept of Green Time. We define Green Time as time you spend in front of a client or prospect in person, or on the phone. The closer you are to an 80% level of Green Time, the more automated, systematized and functional your business model. The closer you are to 30%, the more unstructured reactive, and chaotic your business model. This is a great way to figure out where you are on the continuum between sales and a professional practice.

Now let’s talk about product orientation. We equate product orientation in our industry to treatment in the medical profession. If you were in a social setting and asked a doctor what they thought about whether you should use a particular medication (let’s say penicillin), what would they say? The doctor would say “I can’t prescribe in a vacuum”. Their approach is, “I need to know everything about you so that I know whether a specific regimen of treatment is appropriate for you”. Doctors—like all professionals—place process the head of product.

This brings us to the critical topic of trust. In a high trust environment, decisions are made quickly and easily. Without trust, decisions are made after many, many checks and balances if at all. We do not trust people who have a narrow product orientation, like walking onto a car lot and before the sales person does any analysis, immediately starts pushing the buyer into driving a Ford. In these situations, your client’s defenses are sky high. They filter everything with a high degree of skepticism and end up doing tons of research to make sure they don’t get taken by that product salesperson. This is not a high trust environment. We trust people that lead with an objective process that ends with the appropriate products and or services necessary to fulfill on that process for me, as a unique individual. We do not trust people that lead with product. Never have, never will.

Now, as you assess what we’ve covered thus far think of these two approaches—the sales model and the professional model—through the prism of control. Which model gives you as the practitioner the highest level of control over both your practice and ultimately the outcome? You’re absolutely right, the professional model puts the practitioner in the control position, not the client. This speaks to the next topic, stress.

Another critical component of this model is the concept of stress. Take a moment and think about something in your life that’s currently causing you stress. Whatever just popped into your head, whether it’s a challenge with a particular client, prospect, the growth of your practice, the quality of your marriage, your relationship with your child, your health, or even something like fear of flying, it doesn’t matter. You will find at the epicenter the sense that you’re not in control of that issue. Stress and control are linked. So our definition of stress is the “perceived or real lack of control over something”. If you want to dissipate stress, recapture control.

Looking at these two business models which one places the most control in the hands of the practitioner? Right, the professional model. It’s better for your clients and it’s imperative for you.