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I’ve been visited by four builders over the past few weeks who gave me great insight into why some advisers are more successful when it comes to client engagement than others.

To give the background: we’ve moved into a new house and want to get a deck built in our backyard.

  • The first builder said he could build the deck for me and gave me a quote. It seemed expensive.
  • The second builder said he’d build it for me and show me how I could maintain it over time, so it always looked good as new. If it needed replacing, I’d be able to do it myself. Thing is, I’m pretty lazy. He could have found that out if he’d asked.
  • The third builder was compelling! He asked what I wanted, then said he’d make my garden look a hundred times better than it did now.
  • The fourth builder blew me away. After asking a whole bunch of questions about what I liked, disliked and making me think more deeply about what was possible, he said he’d add $20,000 worth of value to my home and make my deck area a peaceful, functional outdoor room I could proudly entertain in.

Thing is; they were all offering pretty much the same core thing – a deck. However, the fourth builder was by far the most compelling.

It got me thinking. Why?

  • The first was simply talking about the outcome of undertaking activity. He was offering a commodity that made me price-conscious.
  • The second was better, also talking about information outcomes, but he assumed I wanted to be educated.
  • The third talked about a ‘change of state’ outcome, from what I had now to what I wanted in the future. Good, but it lacked tangibility for me.
  • The fourth however got down to talking about ‘benefit outcomes’. He made me realise that far from just installing a deck, I was investing in a solution that would far outweigh the cost of installation.

I believe the same is true of advising clients. I’ve seen a clear correlation between the ability of advisers to drill deeper down the outcome matrix vs. business profitability, levels of client engagement and how much those adviser enjoy the business of working with their clients.

The correlation works from top to bottom. The deeper the adviser goes, the better it seems to get:

  • The most shallow level is simply talking about activity outcomes, for example sorting out a client’s superannuation.
  • Deeper is providing information outcomes that will enable clients to make better informed choices.
  • Even deeper yet is providing change of state outcomes, taking clients to a place where they feel more in control, have greater peace of mind, know what needs to happen and enjoy great clarity, for example.
  • Deepest is those talking about benefit outcomes of putting in place a plan that can result in the creation of an additional $1m worth of wealth up to retirement, enable clients to balance that with a good standard of living in the short term and still achieve the goals they have for themselves and their family in between.

At the heart of this lies the art of great client engagement. How to do it is about asking better questions to find out what clients really want underneath it all. Finding out what motivates them. Enabling them to make the conclusion for themselves that what is being offered is far more than simply doing stuff they don’t know how to do, but instead making the investment in advice about deliberately designing a better life.


This post was authored by Stewart Bell who was a coach with Elixir Consulting between 2010 and 2014.