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Implementation Support is the Best Value-Add

Article originally appeared on The New Wholesaler Masterminds Radio Show.

A question for you wholesalers: Have you ever had the experience of giving great advice to somebody who seemed really receptive to it, only to then watch the advice go unimplemented?

Yeah, I thought so. Me, too. It makes me yearn to work with potted plants, some days. But somehow I am always drawn back to the challenge of working with people and their money, and of helping others do the same.

In my work as a professor, a financial industry consultant, and a wealth psychologist, I spend a great deal of my time digging deeply into a few key issues:

1. What makes it so hard for people to do the right things for their professional or personal well-being?

2. What can be done to help them make and sustain meaningful behavior change?

In this podcast, Rob Shore and I explored some of the answers that have been emerging from this work. Most of the interview focused on the phenomenon of Transition Fatigue, a state of mental depletion that can set in following major life changes such as divorce, death of a parent or spouse, or a business merger.

What are Transitions?

Transitions are life events that lead to major changes in people’s view of themselves. They move us from “I used to be…” to “But now I’m…”.

With that change in identity comes a whole lot of other things: big emotions, steep learning curves, major changes in social support networks. Most transition events also have very big financial implications attached to them (e.g. inheritances; insurance changes; pensions; etc.). As a result, this is the very time that clients are most likely to need sound financial counsel. What financial advisors quickly encounter, however, is the reality that such clients often do not have access to their best thinking.

They’re worn out; they’re overwhelmed; they dither; they make commitments and then don’t act upon them.

The demographics of the financial services profession are such that many advisors (and wholesalers, too) are going through major life transitions of their own, changes that are no different from those facing their clients.

As they hit late middle age, more and more advisors will be coping with ailing parents and truculent teens at the same time they’re trying to position their business for sale or transition. When your customers are going through such major life transitions, you can pretty much count on a higher-than-normal frequency of your calls going unreturned, or paperwork not getting filled out, or appointments getting cancelled with very little notice. This is Transition Fatigue, up close and personal.

It ain’t pretty.

How can you best be of service to folks who may be experiencing Transition Fatigue?

By thinking of every possible way that you can make your advice easier to implement – in short, by easing their load.  Here are three things for you to keep top of mind:

  1. Remember that the default action (which usually means doing or changing nothing) reigns supreme. Every form that customers have to fill out, every click they have to make, every signature they need to provide is a hindrance to their work with you. Eliminate as many of these small steps as possible. With those steps that remain, offer to do as much of the legwork as you possibly can.
  2. Do you know the best predictor of getting through hard times? It’s social support. That can come in many forms – through offering up encouraging words, providing useful information, and using a variety of modalities for letting them know that you are thinking of them and have their back.
  3. Your contact list can be one of your most valuable resources for people undergoing major transitions. When they off-handedly mention their need to contact an attorney or a counsellor, for example, or when they express a wish to find safe housing for their elderly relative, your list of pre-vetted resources can feel like a godsend. This is the very thing that can move people from being stuck to gaining traction.

The financial industry marketplace is awash with suggestions for “value added” experiences and products. Once a customer takes delivery of these experiences and products, however, many of them just lie dead in the water. They create cognitive and/or physical clutter in the lives of busy professionals.

People experiencing Transition Fatigue yearn for clarity, not clutter. They want help in getting the most important tasks done, and they want to feel less stressed and alone in the process.

So here’s a radical idea for you: Think of implementation support as your ‘value add’.

It’s non-polluting and inexpensive. It doesn’t take up space or create clutter. It meets the highest compliance and fiduciary standards. It positions you as a caring, resourceful colleague who knows how to be helpful without being pushy. And it pays dividends in terms of customer retention and referrals.

Nice! Way nicer, I’ve found, than potted plants.

Dr. Moira Somers

Why losing the “pain of paying” could end up hurting

This article originally appeared at CBC.ca.

For most of us, it is completely common to pull out a credit or debit card when at a cash register. Maybe using cash has become the exception. But according to neuropsychologist Dr. Moira Somers, not all forms of spending are equal. She says, “there are some forms of technology that certainly assist in the mindlessness aspect of personal financial management.”

While people have an emotional reaction when seeing bills and coins, credit and debit cards abstract the experience of paying. “You get several iterations away from paying with a chicken and a bucket of honey,” says Dr. Somers. “We are much more aware of the value of money when we fork over cold hard cash, and we don’t feel quite the same about handing over debit or credit cards.” That feeling we experience when forking over cash is what Dr. Somers refers to as “the pain of paying.”

The concept of the pain of paying comes from research done in behavioural economics, including research done by Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Behavioural Economics at Duke University. One study from Carnegie-Mellon University used fMRIs to look at how people’s experience spending cash differed from spending using credit cards. The researchers found that, while those using cash experienced pleasure from their purchase, they also felt some disgust. Those using cards, on the other hand, says Dr. Sommers, get “…all the activation of the pleasure centres, and all the activation of the please centres… and all the activation of the pleasure centres.”

Dr. Somers says one of the biggest things things is to be conscious of how you are spending you money. That might mean returning to using cash, at least for a while. “There are more ways now that we can torpedo ourselves financially than ever before, I think, in human history,” says Dr. Somers, “and so we just have to be diligent about that.”