In the financial services industry there are a lot of supporters for the use of behavioral profiles as part of the client discovery process and there are some detractors from using them. Like in any situation where there are detractors most have not yet had a positive experience or seen the full benefits or simply have been listening to the wrong information. This is human nature.
Overall, I do believe that you can never have enough information about yourself, your clients and also your team. As Benjamin Disraeli said: “The most successful people are those who have the most information”. Of course you also need to have the best and most accurate information.
In my past few blogs I have made a very strong case for how by discovering the behavior of your clients you can help them achieve better investment returns and overall make better decisions. So accepting there are very strong benefits for discovering the behavior of your clients, the question becomes how do you do it? This is where there is a great divide. Although, in my view an unnecessary division of thought and approach. At the center of great client discovery is asking the right questions, or what I call “powerful questions”. I believe this is more effectively done when you use behavioral profiles and your intuition, not one or the other.
For some, client discovery is only done by asking questions and gauging the reaction of the clients to the questions in terms of how they respond. To a large degree, in this situation the advisor is relying on their intuition to firstly ask the right questions and then secondly to assess the response. There is no doubt a person’s intuition can be very strong particularly with a lot of experience and high degrees of self understanding and overall good people skills or what we call emotional intelligence. However, no human being can be perfect and we all have “blind spots” or things we do not see. A person’s blind spots will also be carried across into how they see others. Your ability to understand another person can be significantly impacted by how you are on that day let alone how the client is on that day. So, no matter how good your intuition normally is it is not always going to be accurate. Nevertheless, do not discard your intuition. That “gut feeling” or pulse of energy can be telling you a lot even if you have not yet analyzed all of what it means. A behavioral profile will help you with that analysis.
I know that I am a highly intuitive person and naturally learn a lot about people from conversations and asking questions. This is particularly true now that I have learned to get out of my own way and also because much better listening and empathy skills have been learned. Even then I still do not see everything. I am able to go much further and make the person I am mentoring or conversing with feel far more understood when I use profiles.
The point is that the “human element” is variable and we cannot by ourselves see everything at all times. So, what can we do to make our intuitive radar stronger? This is where well constructed and highly validated behavioral profiling systems that objectively measure human behavior can be used to leverage your intuition. As is illustrated by the graphic, there is a great amount of “below the surface” information about a person you need to find out about very quickly to help them make the right decisions. Further, the person also needs to know it for themselves so the have personal clarity. Often the 10% we see on the surface is the “party manners” and not the real person.
The specific benefits of using behavioral profiles in the discovery process to build a financial life plan include:
- Enhanced objectivity, consistency and measurement
- No assumptions are made about the client
- The provision of a natural starting point for safe discussions with clients on their unique terms
- Separation of your and the clients emotions ? avoid advisor bias
- Acceleration of trust because the same discovery questions are asked of each person within a couple, family, team
- Clients are better equipped to better articulate their thoughts when emotional
- The ability to more quickly gain greater clarity of issues which you intuitively identify
- Specific identification of strengths, struggles, aptitudes which provides a human capital development framework for wealth mentoring and coaching
- The ability to better manage client expectations based on greater clarity of needs and goals
- Serve the clients on their unique terms: “one client – one plan”
- Meet the know your client rules because through better documentation and discussion of client behavior
- Increases the transferability of the client relationship because the client behavior is data based
In using a behavioral profile the key is to firstly understand the purpose of the instrument and what it was designed to uncover. Then secondly, understand how to properly use it in client facilitation to get the maximum benefit for you and the client. The great users of a behavioral profile understand it is a tool which gets below the surface but it is not a substitute for discussions. Further, one has to be realistic that even the most reliable and accurate profile will not tell you 100% of who a person is. However, they can tell you a lot. As already said the profile is supposed to leverage your insights and ultimately improve the client experience. The key is your “bedside manner” in using the profile.