This story is horridly embarrassing, but highly relevant, so I’ll share it with you. My mother who, years ago, joined a New Age doomsday cult, makes no decisions of her own, disowned my sister and me, knows none of her 6 grandchildren, and has no relationships from before her days in the cult, is why I got an RLT and became an estate planning attorney.
I was pregnant with my third child and reading 9 Steps to Financial Freedom by Suze Orman. Suze is a big fan of revocable living trusts and when she described their protections, I knew I HAD to have one. There was no way that my mother was going to get either my children or the funds I would leave for them and so, thanks to Suze, I knew I needed a trust. I was also concerned that my way too nice husband might be financially manipulated if something happened to me or remarry and accidentally disinherit our three children.
The “I NEED A TRUST” drum was beating, loudly, rapidly and when we walked in the law firm’s door, I practically had a check in hand. I was sold; I was ready.
All prospective clients walk in the door with some level of motivation; it may or may not be as strong as mine was, but it’s there. Your key to success is identifying that motivational source and helping the client to visualize what life would be like and how they would feel once they’ve done their estate planning with you.
Sensory Stimuli Creating Peace of Mind
Your team’s job is to provide as much sensory stimuli as possible to help your clients feel whatever it is they want to feel. Even though it sounds cliche as I write this, we all want peace of mind. All those years ago, I wanted certain assurances to be able to achieve peace of mind and your clients do too.
- Introduce all new clients to each member of your team, while giving them a tour of your office, “These are the folks who will make sure you and your family are protected.”
- Avoid fluorescent lighting throughout the office and feature a candle, soft music, and fresh flowers in the reception area. Think either spa-like atmosphere or homey atmosphere. Include photos of you with smiling clients and a book of client thank you letters.
- Put tissues and fresh flowers on your round conference room table with a bowl of mints, a fresh writing pad and pen, and refreshment menu. Living room settings can also be effective.
Think about your ideal client; what would put the person, who love working with, most at ease so he or she can feel peace of mind? Some of our colleagues always have fresh baked cookies coming out of the toaster oven when each new client walks in the door. Imagine how good that smells; nothing says comfort like a gooey chocolate chip cookie.
Customized Verbal Stimuli Creating Peace of Mind
To me, you might have said something like, “Wendy, with this trust-centered estate plan, there’s no way your mother will have access to your children or any funds you leave for them. And, I’ll make sure to include trusts and trustees so funds are safe if something should happen to you first. In your mind’s eye, see those protections in place. How does that make you feel?”
- If your client is motivated because when she served as Executor of her mother’s estate, it was a mess, and she wants to make things easy for her children, focus on that. “Jennifer, rest assured we’ll make sure that your estate plan is set up and maintained so that all goes as smoothly as possible for Mike and Amber. We’ll be there for you and for them every step of the way. Take a deep breath and picture that.”
- If your client is motivated because he wants to make sure his son-in-law doesn’t get any of his daughter’s inheritance, then focus on that. “Rick, I understand your concern; together, we’ll create an estate plan and keep it up to date, so that your son-in-law does not have access to your daughter’s inheritance – ever. Let’s take a step back and visualize that. Your daughter and her inheritance are protected. Sound good?”
- If your client is motivated because she is now a single mom and widow and wants to make sure her children are protected, focus on that. “Leslie, I’m terribly sorry for your loss and understand your concern. I’d be honored to help you get an estate plan in place that will protect your kids now and as life unfolds. Let’s just take a moment for that to sink in. Your kids are protected; they are safe, loved, and well cared for.”
The easiest way to determine your client’s primary motivation is to ask. Simply say, “What brings you in today?” If that doesn’t do it, expand by saying, “What’s on your mind; what are your biggest concerns?”
Then, listen and gently nod. The more you listen, the more you learn. When you’re talking you learn nothing; when you’re listening, you’ll learn a lot. Your clients will tell you exactly what it takes to get them to sign on with you.
Estate Planning Attorneys Protect People and That’s a Very Good Thing
During that estate planning design meeting years ago, when I was 6 months pregnant with number three, my estate planning attorney offered me a job. I said yes; I was so thrilled by what I could do to protect my own children that I wanted to provide these same protections for others as well. That’s how I became an estate planning attorney, one of the most important careers in the world.
What you do is incredibly important; there’s everything right about connecting the value you provide with your clients’ motivations. If you do, you’ll get more clients, which means more folks will be protected. It’s a win/win for all.
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