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The Experience of Insight

Do you know why we sometimes struggle to convince people to see what we see? Have you had an “Aha!” moment?

What we are referring to here is “Insight;” A shift in our minds and consciousness that either means we see something others don’t, or that recognition when we, ourselves, ‘get it’.

I was fortunate this week to spend an hour and a half with a gentleman by the name of John Freeth. John lives in Cape Town, and in 2010, wrote a PhD on the experience of insight. In his research, John interviewed and studied the insights made by such people as Desmond Tutu and Sir Roger Penrose (who is famous for cosmology and specifically understanding the workings of black holes – if ever there was insight needed, that’s a great example!).

It turns out that the experience of insight always follows specific steps, which forms the basis of John’s PhD and which I have attempted to share below. What struck me, was how relevant this is to my work with coaching financial planners AND how financial planners relate to their clients – both of which require the recipient to experience “insight”

Step 1. The Unresolved Issue

The experience of insight arises out of a person’s awareness of, and engagement with, a problem, unresolved issue, question or tension

We must identify the fact that we have a problem, before we can think about dealing with it.

Step 2. The Openness Required

The experience of insight concurs with the person’s way-of-being-in-the-world, where there is a sufficient disposition of openness: affective, cognitive and behavioural

We must be prepared to engage at an emotional level and must not be closed to it. This happens best in a state of relaxation, and we probably feel a sense of excitement about it, even though we may not know what it is. This is a state of mind

Step 3. The Unresolved Issue needs to be ‘Confronted’ and ‘Contained’

The experience of insight requires that the unresolved issue and the raw material for insight be adequately ‘confronted’ and ‘contained’ by the person, so that the issue involved can be clarified in a sufficiently reflexive way.

This is an important moment. The reality must be faced and if it is to be faced with an adviser, there must be empathy and trust for it to be contained. Confidence and skills in framing things are important here

Step 4. The ‘Impact': A Passive Experience

The experience of insight involves ‘impact’ which comes suddenly and unexpectedly. It is the influence of the life-world on the self: A passive experience.

“It suddenly hit me.” It was a realisation or a shock. It happens TO you and you have no control over it.

Step 5. The ‘Interpretation': A Reflexive Experience

The experience of insight requires ‘interpretation’ or empathetic understanding of the ‘impact’, which may take time but becomes conscious suddenly. It is the influence of the self on the life-world: A reflexive experience.

What are the implications? What is nagging away? This is where meaning and understanding sit

Step 6. The “A-ha!” Experience

The experience of the ‘moment of insight’ releases the tension of enquiry in the “A-ha!” experience and motivates, enables and empowers action. It is the key to a self-actualising process: An active experience.

This is the lightbulb moment. It records a fundamental shift in thinking, and one’s vision of reality and what might be possible.

Step 7. The Changed Perspective

The experience of insight involves transcending the usual or dominant way of seeing things

We are now prepared to see the world differently. This is where change takes place.

Step 8. The Self-Authenticating Experience

The experience of insight is self-authenticating: The result of insight is tested in the public realm and is historically validated or rejected.

Let’s test this and see if this works. We need evidence to help us continue.

Step 9. The New Understanding

The experience of insight results in an understanding which possesses a significance greater than its origin and a relevance wider than its original application

We experience the world differently. We start to focus on other ideas and aspects differently too.

Step 10. The Recurring Quality

The experience of insight not only occurs but keeps recurring; It is not an end in itself, but rather a fresh beginning; At each recurrence, understanding develops and action is enabled… until a new problem, unresolved issue, question or tension emerges, requiring fresh insight.

Once you get one insight, others follow. Multiple pieces of the jigsaw start to fit and yet new questions are asked, problems are identified and tensions emerge which require more thought, and we return to Step 1.

The text above in bold and italicised is a summary from John’s work directly. The rest are my rambling thoughts and interpretations, which I hope are useful, but more importantly, the sharing of John’s work will add something to your thoughts for your business and your clients.


6 steps you need to take to getting “RDR ready”

The FSB’s Retail Distribution Review (RDR) is just around the corner and firms need to be thinking about getting ready. The UK RDR process started with consultation in 2006, fully six years before implementation in 2012. Whilst the process will inevitably be a bit different in South Africa, the direction of travel is fundamentally the same, and if anything, the timescales appear to be significantly shorter.

Some of the RDR principles have already started.

Firms need to ensure they are ready, and the time it takes to make the transition will depend on the firm, but if previous experience is anything to go by, these things still take time. In these situations, the early adopters advance the quickest, and I am reminded of the famous quote attributed to Darwin – “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, but the one most adaptable to change.” And this change is quite a big one.

The headline news is about making the move from getting paid commission by product providers to getting paid fees by clients, but there’s a bit more to it than that. The key issues are:

• Creating a profitable business structure

• Building your own ‘product’ and understanding how to market and deliver it

• Finding and managing the right clients

• Understanding how to position different conversations with new and existing clients

In this post, I want to provide an overview of what we see as the six steps that firms need to take to get themselves “RDR Ready.” We think they need to happen in order.

1. Understanding who you have in your business and defining your ideal client profile

The industry has taught financial advisers to prospect for anyone with a pulse. It used to be a numbers game, and many firms have ended up with a diverse range of customers and clients, some of whom are profitable and some of whom are unprofitable. Some we have great relationships with and some we may have sold something to once, and never seen since.

It’s not just financial advisers that face this challenge. Almost all businesses are having to be a bit smarter about who they work with. You need to understand who your ideal clients are and what makes them ideal, because you need to understand the problems that they will pay you to solve. You also need to make a plan for what you will do about those clients that are less than ideal.

2. Understanding what people want and designing a proposition to meet it

We are going to need to be clear about the value we add to clients, and be confident when answering the client’s question “What do I get for my money?” Clients have never had the visibility they will get after RDR and it’s quite likely that the press and media will be persuading clients to ask the questions about value.

You may think your services are highly valuable (and they are) but can you package them in a way that convinces your client, and persuades them to willingly pay for those services? It helps when you know why your ideal client is ideal and what they want.

3. The move to adviser charging

We need to find a way to price our proposition(s). Historically, the price has been set by the industry, but now the price will be set by advice firms. Will your clients pay what you want to charge in order to be profitable? Will you be able to make a profit? Do you even know what it costs you to deliver your service?

Financial advice firms are a diverse bunch, and there are lots of pricing strategies to consider. You can’t price your services though, until you know what you have built, for whom, and what it costs to deliver it.

4. Positioning your services to new prospects

The first meeting engagement process and conversation is a crucial point to getting consistent buy-in from clients and ensuring their future expectations are managed and met.

Now you’ve created a proposition, you’ll need to articulate it in a compelling way, so that prospects perceive it to be the value it genuinely represents. You need to manage their expectations and communicate your service and price confidently. That takes time and practice. How will you have those conversations?

5. Developing your regular planning service

Generating regular revenue means delivering ongoing value. Forget ‘passive’ income. There’s nothing passive about having to continually deliver value. To ensure you continue getting paid, you need to continue delivering value. The key point for this is your regular planning or review service, which for most clients will probably involve an annual meeting and some touch points in between.

If you can’t continue to deliver value, then clients will have the option to switch off your fees. How are you going to design your ongoing service to prevent this from happening?

6. Re-positioning your existing client relationships

No, we haven’t forgotten about your existing clients. You need to develop an effective strategy that will take your existing client relationships on the RDR journey with you. How do you ensure that you protect your existing profitable relationships, your revenue stream and the value that you have created in your business? And what do you say to those clients that are not profitable?

You don’t want your existing clients to find out about RDR from anyone other than you, and that conversation needs to take place from a position of confidence.

There are plenty of other things to think about along the RDR journey, but the first phase in surviving the changes is to make sure that your business is still in one piece and is fit for the future.

Why don’t you check out our “RDR Reality Check” self-evaluation to see how your firm shapes up?

It’s available as a free tool when you register on our website. You’ll also get instant access to our e books

Networking your way to more new clients

Networking is a crucial part of developing a referral network and opening new doors. And many advisers we work with are building profitable businesses almost solely on referral business. So building a referral network is a great way to find new clients and prospects.

However, networking is not about trying to sell your services to someone the minute you walk in the door.

Networking is an opportunity to engage with new people and build rapport with them. It’s an opportunity to engage on an emotional level, explain what you do and discuss the challenges your co-networkers (and potential future clients) may be facing, and leave them thinking “sounds like just what I need”. You’re unlikely to win a new client on one outing but if you engage in a simple, straight-forward way, without being salesy or pushy, you’re likely to go on to have further meetings which over time should result in new business.

But networking sits outside the comfort zone of many, so here are a few fears you may be facing and also some top tips.

Natural Fears

Many natural fears often deter people from networking at all. For example:

  • What if I run out of things to say?
  • What if I end up standing on my own?
  • What if I end up stuck with someone I don’t like?
  • I’m no good at small talk.
  • I don’t like public speaking.

However, familiarity, practice and few techniques can help you to build confidence. Successful networking requires enthusiasm, focus and passion… it’s certainly no place for wallflowers. And, as we’ve said it’s a long-term game so don’t expect any quick wins.

Here are a few tips to help you build some confidence, create a good impression and to help you enjoy the experience:

  • Be present – no glancing over your shoulder, fiddling with your phone or looking at your watch when you’re talking to people. Sounds obvious, but it happens.
  • Maintain eye contact, actively listen and ask great questions.
  • Be positive and welcoming; try to maintain a relaxed, open posture and smile – it’s infectious!
  • Have some conversation starters up your sleeve and try to find common ground.
  • Make an excuse if you want to move on. Use the fact that it’s a networking event to excuse yourself to connect with other people.
  • Most importantly have a well-rehearsed elevator pitch that you use to explain who you are, what you offer and the benefits your clients receive. Use this one-to-one or at any events when you are given your 60 second chance to shine.
  • Deliver on promises by following up on any referrals in a professional and positive way.
  • Follow up with every individual you meet on a one-to-one basis, either by email or phone, to acknowledge the meeting and possibly enclose some high level details about your business. Keep building the relationship.
  • Develop an effective “keep in touch” strategy with members of your network. Meet informally for coffee or the occasional lunch, email them and send them copies of your newsletter.
  • And take plenty of business cards.

Networking isn’t for everyone, but if you observe these tips, you never know, you might even enjoy it.

Quote of the week

Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.

Mahatma Ghandi

Quote of the week

Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.

Ralph Marston

Quote of the week

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.

Walt Disney

Quote of the week

While we are postponing, life speeds by


Do your clients REALLY trust you?

According to a research by PWC, trust in financial services organisations has fallen even further. In their report “Stand out for the right reasons – How financial services has lost it’s mojo and how it can get it back”, they report that according to their survey only 28% of consumers trust financial advisers. Worse still only 6% of consumers say their trust in advisers has increased over the last 12 months, which presumably means that 9$% trust them less or the same as 12 months ago.

Not a great starting point. But all is not lost.

I’m sure that most advisers would agree that it takes significant effort to win and maintain a client’s trust. Today’s investors are more cautious in selecting which individual or firm to entrust their assets to, given the banking crisis and market unpredictability.

How can you best present yourself to prospective and existing clients in a way that demonstrates a tangible commitment to act in their best interests? Let’s assume for a minute that competence based trust is a given. How do you establish trust based around values and character?

Human nature suggests that people are more willing to trust someone who shows an interest in them and a willingness to listen and share openly. Just think about the people who you trust and the level of openness that exists between you.

Successful advisers understand how to connect with their clients on a personal and emotional level. They take actions which evidence a client centred approach in all aspects of client management from planning and preparing for client meetings to communications and problem resolution.

Getting to really know clients in a deeper more meaningful way requires an understanding of how they got to where they are today and what’s important to them regarding their personal and financial future.

Clients genuinely appreciate when you enquire not just about their assets and wealth, but about their health, goals, interests, hobbies and family.

Author Tom Friedman wrote “never underestimate how much people just want to feel that they have been heard, and once you have given them that chance, they will hear you”.

The relationship for years to come is established from the first meeting onwards. Investing the time to explore, connect and set expectations means that clients know what they can expect and you will earn their trust if you consistently deliver against those expectations.

There are 4 keys or behaviours to building trust.

Firstly, Be curious

Go into each and every client interaction with a curious mindset. Ask great questions. Make it your goal to find out something new about the client every single time. Look for opportunities to get new client insights that will help you to build a deeper relationship with them.

Secondly… be genuinely present.

Avoid “tuning out”. Be more intentional during each client interaction and stay focused on them and the emotional, intellectual and behavioural signals they give you. Re-state, confirm and summarise things regularly.

And don’t be afraid to “self disclose”… to tell them things about yourself that might not be widely known. It’s a great way to grow trust.

Next, communicate frequently and openly.

As busy as you are running your business, it’s important to spend time communicating with clients so that they don’t infer that they aren’t important, merely because there’s an absence of contact.

And be willing to communicate about “more than money”. Once clients realize that you’re paying attention to a broader range of issues and aren’t always trying to sell them something, trust will grow significantly.

Finally look for “defining moments”.

Defining moments are opportunities to do something that demonstrates to the client that their interests are your number one concern. It might be to do with how you deal with a problem, concern or mistake that’s been made. It might be offering to do something that falls outside the scope of what you’ve agreed to do.

Do those 4 things consistently and you’re on the fast track to building trust.

Quote of the week

You will never find time for anything. If you want the time, you must make it.

Charles Buxton

Two extremes of customer service

Last week was pretty hectic in terms of client work with  consulting days in Europe and back here in the UK and for this post I wanted to share with you two “polar opposite examples of “customer experience”.

I’ll leave you to choose which to model your own “client experience” on.

After a “full on” couple of days over in Europe I flew back into Heathrow at 6.30 p.m. to have dinner with a client about a 30/40 minute drive from the airport ahead of another consulting day the following morning. I had booked and paid for a hire car from Europcar (through an online booking agency) and had with me all the necessary paperwork including both parts of my driving license.

I arrived at the check in desk in the terminal to find it unmanned, with a sign instructing me to head to the relevant bus stop to be taken to the car pick up point. On arrival there I had to pick up a ticket from a machine (for a moment I thought I must have wandered accidentally into Sainsbury’s deli counter) and wait to be called by one of only 2 people manning the desks. Other staff were around and chatting with each other, but I might as well have been invisible. I was clearly expected to wait (along with a number of others behind me in the queue).

I was eventually called forward and gave my name and booking voucher to the clerk, who seemed to be incapable of making any kind of eye contact. I was then asked for both parts of my driving license which I duly supplied. The clerk continued to focus his attention on his keyboard as he entered my details.  He then asked me whether the address on my license was my current address.

“Absolutely” I answered confidently.

“Oh”, he replied, “this address is coming up as a ‘fail'”. I explained that I had only lived there for 3 months or so, but that it was indeed my current address. (As many of you will know I am currently living with my daughter prior to moving into our new house at the end of the month. When we moved, I informed all and sundry of my daughter’s address including HMRC, DVLA, my car insurer, my credit card companies and my personal and business banks and all the documentation I had with me had this address on it).

“Where did you live before” he asked. So I told him. He then said “If this second address also comes up as a ‘fail’ I won’t be able to let you have the car”.

Well, you guessed it… it did! And he flatly refused to hire me the car. He also refused to accept a fax copy of a bank statement with my address on as proof. He offered no alternative solution. He then went on to explain that “their system” and “their policy”was what he had to go by (even when it is wrong!!)

When I asked if he might ask his bus driver colleague to drop me at an alternative car hire depot (there were 2 within 200 yards but it was tipping it down by now), again he refused.

I thanked him for being so helpful and headed out into the elements. And that’s when I met Rasha!

Rasha was behind the check in desk at Enterprise, just next door (in Heathrow terms) to the Europcar depot. As I wandered into their office I was on the phone with my client explaining that I was going to be late for dinner and might not even make it at all. I must have been having a bit of a rant because when I came off the phone Rasha asked “What on earth has happened sir, is there a problem?”

“You could say that” I replied and I explained what had happened.

“Let’s see if we can get you sorted and on your way then… how can I help?” she offered.

I’ll spare you the detail but in less than 5 minutes Rasha and I were walking to a car. As we walked outside, she said “I’ve given you a free upgrade!”, handed me the keys and paperwork for an SUV… and I was on my way.

The transformation in my state of mind and stress levels was extraordinary. Rasha literally saved my life.

Next time I’m in need of a hire car at Heathrow (which I am quite often these days), guess who’s going to get the business?