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Be A Gen Savvy Planner: Take Off Your Generational Lenses

Our early environments shape us for the rest of our lives.

That’s why there is so much difference between the generations, said Cam Marston, an expert on generational change and founder of Generational Insights.

Marston told FPA Retreat attendees in April that baby boomers are tough and were never told they were unique or special, so they overcompensated by telling their kids—who are Gen-Xers and millennials—that they were extra special. Therefore, those two generations were raised to think they were unique and that their needs were very important.

“What imprints on younger people impacts them for the rest of their lives,” Marston said. “Millennials and Gen-X have been brought up to say, ‘What’s going to make me happy?’

Planners should understand the vast differences between the generations and know how to talk to and communicate with each one.

Boomers. To connect with the boomer, Marston said, you need to understand how they see the world. They’re hardworking and they have the mentality that retirement is going to be great. They want to hear your story and know where you come from.

Hanging up your diplomas or certificates in your office during your meetings with boomers is a good idea.

Key points about boomers:

1.) Understand and acknowledge their work ethic—which they generally measure in hours (i.e., “I work 50-60 hours a week”).

2.) Ask them about their accomplishments and acknowledge what they’ve done.

3.) Communicate that you are on the same page. Emphasize that you are a team.

5.) Pick up the phone and call them and meet with them in person.

6.) Beware of too much technology.

7.) Know the difference between “leading” baby boomers (older than 62 and like communication that emphasizes how they deserve retirement); and “trailing” baby boomers (ages 53-61 and need to be reassured that they’re going to be OK despite setbacks they experienced in retirement savings thanks to the recession).

Gen-Xers. This generation are stalkers of product and services. They demand to be an educated consumer and are leery of “being had,” Marston said. They are interested in how well you can teach them to make a good decision. Your relationship should be a partnership.

Key points about Gen-Xers:

1.) They are going to do research and have you prove why your advice is better than what they found via this research.

2.) They tend to prefer email and your communication should be brief, succinct and to the point.

3.) Don’t waste your time leaving them voicemails.

4.) Make sure your web presence is pristine—they’ll look you up online before contacting you.

5.) The Gen-X mother has tremendous buying power and influence. She’s coming up in terms of her earning, she’s informed and she’s fully engaged. Keep her happy.

6.) Communicate how decisions will affect them personally.

Millennials. Millennials are individuals with a group orientation. They believe they’re unique but they also enjoy being part of a group.

Millennials think, “You tell me about me and what’s going to happen and how I’m going to feel about it,” Marston said.

Key points about millennials:

1.) They’re optimistic.

2.) You will get more attendance from them if you ask them to bring people. Engage them as a group and they will be more interested.

3.) They feel they are unique and special.

4.) They don’t think so much in the long-term as the other generations.

5.) They are achieving milestones (i.e., getting married, buying houses, having kids) later in life than the previous generations.

6.) Communicate via text messages and social media.

Understand these key points about each generation and try to see the world through their eyes when you’re talking to them.

“Everybody pitches and articulates their value from their own generational lense,” Marston said, “but I’ve got to take my lenses off and put on somebody else’s.”

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Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org


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Explain What You Do So People Will Immediately Want to Work With You

When you meet a prospective client, are you able to introduce yourself so that they immediately want to work with you? If you know how to speak their language, you’ll be able to clearly communicate what you do so that they can understand.

When I say “language,” I’m not talking about their native tongue—I mean the language of results.

If you can craft an introduction that’s focused on the results that your prospects are looking for, you’ll be able to get people interested in what you do.

When I first started as an adviser, I’d usually just tell people that I’m a financial planner. I quickly found out that it wasn’t the best way to introduce myself if I wanted to get people interested in what I do. The reason why this didn’t work was because so many people hear the term financial planner and their guard immediately goes up.

As I figured this out I’d then try to explain in more detail and ended up just getting confused looks. But once I learned how to speak the language of results, I was able to become more compelling and get more people interested in how I help people.

When you’re able to do this you’ll be able to introduce yourself in a way that’s compelling and People will begin to become very interested in what you have to offer. Remember these two things:

1.) Be Specific. Don’t worry about excluding people. If you have multiple “types” of people that you help, you have the advantage of tailoring your answer to the person you’re talking to. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

2.) Focus on Results. When you meet someone for the first time, they don’t really care about your services, your process or your credentials. If you want to hook people and get them interested in you, you have to focus on how you help people. What are the problems you solve for people?

Ways to Introduce Yourself

There are two great ways to explain what you do. Both are non-salesy and will clearly communicate how you help people.

Way No. 1. This is where you give a two-sentence answer that communicates the problem, the solution and the reward.

Communicate the problem first. You don’t want to start the conversation with what you do. You want to start it by focusing on them and the thing they are thinking most about. What problem does your ideal prospect have? What pain is causing them to seek out an adviser?

Then communicate the solution. Ask yourself, “What do you do that solves that problem?” and “How do you make the pain go away?”

Finally, communicate the reward. Ask yourself, “What’s their life like after your solution?” and “What are the good feelings they’ll experience after working with you?”

Here are some examples of things to say:

“Most people don’t feel 100 percent confident about their financial future. We give them a road map so they know exactly where they’re going and so they can make the right decisions along the way.”

“As a lot of people get close to retirement they’re not sure if they’re making the right decisions. We take them through a three-step process to help them get clear on their financial future.”

Way No. 2. This is a one-sentence introduction that takes fewer than 10 seconds and will communicate three things: what you do, who you help and how you help them.

Here’s the script: “I’m a financial planner and I help (specific person) (with a problem) by (solution). Here are a few more specific examples:

“I’m a financial planner and I help people who are five years out from retirement create a plan they can feel good about.”

“I’m a financial planner and I help retirees who want to leave a legacy create a plan to efficiently pass on not only their assets and their wisdom to future generations.”

“I’m a financial planner and I help busy professionals who want to make good financial decisions by giving them a one-page financial plan.”

What’s Next?

Write down your own version of how you would introduce yourself to the next prospective client you meet.

To learn more about how to explain what you do so people will immediately want to work with you, sign up for this online mini-course.

dave-zoller
Dave Zoller, CFP®, is a financial planner who teaches other financial planners how to grow their practice so that they can help more clients. He runs Streamline My Practice, a consulting company for advisers.