Trying to engage Americans in retirement readiness has never been easy. Pop culture provides plenty of evidence of that, from cartoons poking fun at boring meetings with financial advisors, to Super Bowl “This Is Getting Old” commercials from E-Trade about Americans working well past the normal retirement age. And COVID-19 restrictions have made many meetings virtual, which makes engagement even harder. That’s why it’s essential to follow the fundamental principles of engagement.
In last month’s blog, I focused on seven basics: prepare (every time), state the goals, know your technology, be visible, use small talk, get (and implement) feedback, and always strive to do better than last time. These seven basic items provide the environment for you to have a good meeting—but to be successful you need to go further and focus on engagement.
I will use this blog post—and the following two—to explore the three fundamentals of engagement.
The first fundamental concept is to focus on a pain point. In sales, pain points are problems your potential customers have that you can solve. You focus on their pain point and show how you can bring value to them. What problems are they having that you can solve? What needs do they have? The more painful the problem is, the bigger the need, and the more valuable you are to the potential customer. In financial services, typical paint points could be high fees, absent financial advisors, conflicts of interest, and more.
Pain points can be used to engage someone, because if you can address one of their pain points and help them with their daily life, you have something they will be interested in. Initially, they may not even be aware of their problem, so you may need to help them see it. After all, if you aren’t bringing something that can help them, then why are you having the meeting? It is critical to focus specifically on where and how you can help.
Advisors typically try to help people understand the various aspects of financial wellness. But in the context of pain points, do people really feel the pain of not understanding the information their financial advisor presents? I would guess not. I believe they want their financial advisor to be knowledgeable, but they don’t want to be educated about the details of financial planning, just like most of us don’t want a lesson from a mechanic when we go in for an oil change. We want the mechanic to know what he is doing and to be trustworthy. If the mechanic finds a problem, we want a high-level explanation, but not nitty-gritty details about what isn’t working. That’s why financial wellness per se may not be a good pain point to address in meetings.
So is there a pain point that you, as a financial advisor, could help most people address? With over 30 years of experience in the financial planning industry (but not as a financial advisor myself), I emphatically say, “YES!” Think back to the opening paragraph of this blog. There is a reason that we see cartoons and funny commercials about financial planning: People are interested in it, but they have a hard time connecting to it. I believe people laugh at these social commentaries because, on some level, they know planning for retirement is important, but they do not know what to do next. Many feel overwhelmed by how much they need to know. Being overwhelmed can lead some, if not most, people to become immobilized and unable to make a decision.
This presents the pain point: People feel overwhelmed by retirement planning. Address that pain point. Keep everything ridiculously easy for people to understand. If you help people with the essentials, they will not only be engaged in the meetings but also appreciate what you have done for them.
For most advisors, keeping it simple is tough. Advisors struggle to boil all their knowledge down into simple concepts. Their education, licensing, and experience gives them a wealth of information, but they struggle to meet clients and participants where they are educationally. They find it hard to stay out of the weeds.
So take a step back. The question that most people want answered is, “Can I retire?” If you can answer that question in a meaningful way for them, you will be addressing a significant pain point. Telling them that your meeting will address their ability to retire provides a clear purpose and promises to solve a real problem. This focus will certainly help engage the attendees of any meeting.
Virtual meetings are tough, and the success of virtual meetings requires focusing on the principles of meaningful engagement. Addressing pain points and perceived needs will help you engage people in a conversation. I don’t know of any bigger need in the financial planning world than the need to answer, “Can I retire?” Answering that question will engage those you are working with, whether in person or in a virtual meeting.