How to Stop Being Such a Tool

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As I said in an earlier post: when you sell to advisors, you have to be authentic to your own product. If you’re not, you’ll eventually be exposed as a fake. It’s inevitable.

Still, people keep trying to fake it anyway. Think of all the vendors who position themselves as “partners” or brag about their “consultative approach.” (By the way, who doesn’t have a consultative approach these days? Can you think of any providers who advertise their “arrogant dictator” approach or their “we-don’t-listen-to-you” approach? It’s meaningless jargon at this point.) Okay. So this joker is now your partner. Try calling this new “partner” of yours for help solving a specific, real-world problem in your own business—say, performing an advisor practice valuation or recruiting a Millennial woman. Chances are, you’ll get to watch them twisting in the wind until they finally admit they don’t actually do any of the things they talk about on their website. They just put the content up because they know you want to read it.

Look, I understand their motivation. Vendors never want to be thought of as simply a tool. Tools are easily compartmentalized. They’re disposable. And the sale of a tool is purely transactional. Vendors want to build an enduring relationship with their clients—just like advisors do. They want a chance to make a real impact on their clients’ businesses. But there is a right way to stop being a tool, and a wrong way.

Fortunately, some companies are showing the industry the right way.

A prime example is eMoney Advisor.  The company is well known for its wealth-planning system for financial advisors, but its platform can also make a major impact on firm growth. Well ahead of every other vendor these days, eMoney began talking to advisors about marketing years ago. But unlike other vendors, the company puts its money where its mouth is. It hired an entire team of content writers, videographers, and animators to build a dedicated media hub for advisors. eMoney calls their platform Advisor Branded Media, and it’s amazing. They’ve shot something like 60 videos to help advisors nurture client relationships.

Schwab Advisor Services is another good example. Schwab doesn’t try to do everything on its own. Instead, its Business Consulting unit provides a framework that connects advisors to vetted, outsourced third-party relationships. They know how to ask all the right questions about an advisor’s origin story, target clients, differentiators, and so on. Then they use that information to decide whether to call a PR firm to fix a credibility issue, a software company to help with automated marketing, or someone else. The point is, even though Schwab doesn’t do it all, it still provides a clear path to the finish line instead of a dead end.

Of course, you want a closer relationship with your clients. But be authentic. Never over-promise. And always finish the job you started. If you market your value-added services honestly, you can create a satisfied customer for life. That’s when you can stop being a tool.