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Want versus need

People want what they want, even if it's not what they may need.

It was Wednesday night, 10:30pm. My wife was downstairs, desperately trying to get an SOA finished ahead of our trip overseas.

I was upstairs, trying to get my two-year-old daughter to bed.

"You need to go to sleep," I told her.

"I WANNA GO DOWNSTAIRS," she responded each time.

It's hard trying to reason with a toddler, but deep down underneath it all, even as adults, our basic motivations are very much the same. We want what we want, even if it's not what we need.

As humans, we've proven ourselves to be adept at many things and long-term planning is not one of them. People use short-term fixes over long-term benefit all the time because there is always tomorrow.

It's not entirely our fault – it's in our brain chemistry. It's not a willpower problem, it's a "won't power" problem.

Here's why it's relevant to advice firms: Knowing the way this works, if you want to get clients to really engage with advice, they have to want to.

It's no good telling people they need advice, they need insurance and or they need to get a financial plan. The problem is all the while you're telling them they need to plan for the future, marketers with shinier objects are telling them they need a new car, an overseas holiday or any number of other things – today.

Telling clients they need advice is like telling an obese person they need to lose weight, or a smoker they need to quit. It doesn't work because it's not how we're wired.


Often I've seen advisers talk through their engagement process, explaining how they show clients the importance of getting their financial house in order. I've browsed social media to see various experts broadcasting the need for potential clients to get X, or think about Y, and remember to do Z.

Need. Need. Need. It's like a kickboxing bout with no punches.

I believe the answer to selling advice to more Australians is to begin by first focusing on what they want.

Provide them with the info they need without restriction or restraint. Provide direct answers to their most common questions. Get to the heart of what they want to talk about first, and put whatever we have to offer on the back shelf, until we earn the right to introduce it to them.

Give them what they want, provide them the information they desire, solve their most pressing issues, create value for them first and make it easy for them to trust that you really are on their side.

If you're one of those feeling that robo-advice shouldn't be allowed, you may be missing a key point. Business models will live or die based simply on the notion of whether clients want to use them. If they do, it's here to stay; if not, it'll be gone in the near future.

If you want to switch over from having a trickle of clients who kind of get what you do and kind of engage with your advice, switch your focus away from what clients might need and instead, focus all your energy on trying to work out what they want.

Ask the questions:

  • Do they want to travel, or set down roots?
  • Do they want a life of excitement, or a peaceful existence?
  • Do they crave status and significance, or is it all about family?
  • Do they want to retire at 55, or do they see themselves working into their elder years?
  • Do they want to protect themselves from bad stuff happening to their family, or would they prefer to have more money in their bank account after payday?

Once you've got the answers – and I mean really got the answers – then you can make a call as to whether you can help them. If not, say no – even if you've got what they need.

If you can infuse this into your marketing as well, so you understand what your clients want and talk about it regularly, freely and skilfully, you will get their attention.

If you don't know what it is they want and don't know how to find out, email me and I'll send you a questionnaire that will help you uncover marketing gold in just ten 15-minute chats with your top clients (though only on the proviso you are going to do it and are willing to be kept accountable for doing it).

If it seems like such a simple tweak, that's because it is. The cold, hard reality though is that most advisers will never do it and, in failing to do so, will never realise how easy it really is to sell advice to more people.

Let me set you one challenge off the back of this blog. Start by finding out what YOU want. From your business, your life or your relationships. Not the things you feel you should want (e.g. To take home a good salary and only work 9-to-5), but the things you really want (for example, to only work three days a week and do nothing but see clients). 

Then, when you've connected with it, go out and start talking to clients, colleagues and other practitioners to find others who also want the same thing. Make notes of the common themes that arise. Finally, contact me when you've done it so we will both know you're one of those ambitious ones who want more.

Trust me on this. This small action alone will start you on a path that most don't walk and start a process of changing the way you view marketing your business.

Of course, you don't need to do any of this. Not unless you want to.



Stewart Bell is the founder of Audere Coaching & Consulting


Want versus need
Stewart Bell
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