We’ve all been there, the PTA meeting, soccer game or dinner party, and the inevitable question comes up: “What do you do?”
And we all know that there are different levels of answers. You can simply respond, “I am a financial advisor.” Or, you can expand a bit, and say, “I am a financial advisor. I counsel clients and manage money on their behalf, advising them on investments and estate planning.” That’s all well and good; your listener now knows what you do and maybe how you do it.
But if you really want to explain the value you bring—what makes you different, that is, your value proposition—it’s often best to relay why you do what you do. Explaining this to someone goes to the heart of who you are, and it resonates in an authentic fashion with your team, with clients, with prospective clients, and most important of all, it keeps you in touch with your story. Explaining your “why” starts conversations; it doesn’t end them.
So, here’s my response to the “what do you do?” question:
“My purpose is to reflect and expand the light in financial advisors. A great advisory team plays an important role in a person’s and family’s life, helping them meet their everyday financial needs, goals and aspirational dreams, and is at the center of almost every major decision, from buying a car to weighing healthcare options when someone is ill. Financial advisors make a difference in people’s lives, and my role is to recognize and celebrate the imprint they have made on their clients’ lives, and energize them so that they can continue to thrive both personally and professionally, serving their clients and growing their businesses.”
My answer allows a potential client to hear what differentiates me from other executive coaches. Now, what is your value proposition? Can you articulate it to connect with your team and clients? Here are a few steps to help you find (or rediscover) it.
1. Live your brand
To be able to effectively articulate your value proposition, you need to live it. This begins by developing your vision for your practice, for the client experience. Think big, visions are aspirational. Start by asking: What will the client benefit from working with my team? Who are we? Where is our business going? What are we capable of?
2. Enact your mission
Once you have your vision, the next step is to use it to cultivate your mission with supporting core values. This will work as the team’s guidepost. Think of the mission as the external articulation of the vision; it gives you the opportunity to explain your “why” to your clients and why they should do business with you.
The mission is in turn built upon core values, defined as the convictions shared among the team that guide the actions and reveal the strength of your practice, and operating principles, which express how the team will get the work done day to day internally. Think of operating principles as ground rules for team meetings. Examples: Be fully present, seek to understand, listen to each other.
3. Communicate your core values—and your value proposition
Storytelling is a great way to communicate your “why”. Words will resonate but only when they are expressed through a story that clients understand—and remember why you are the best advisor for them.
As a financial advisor, you might tell a story about helping a client deal with an asset allocation issue, decide which long-term care insurance policy was right, or whether a certain trust fulfilled an estate tax saving goal. Choose an experience that relates to your clients’ specific goals.
By telling such relevant stories, you are conveying your underlying value proposition, what makes you different and why clients should chose to work with you. And you’ll no longer have to defend your fees, for your listener will understand exactly how you are earning them.
Danielle Papandrea is the Head of BlackRock’s Affinity Group. Rob Kron is the Head of Investment and Retirement Education for BlackRock’s U.S. Wealth Advisory group. They are regular contributors to The Blog.