Life-Based Conversations and Learning to be Likable with Barry LaValley

In this episode, Steve talks with Barry LaValley of the Retirement Lifestyle Center.

While Barry always thought that graduate school was in his future, the financial services industry called his name before he could start down the academic path. After spending eight years as an investment advisor, Barry landed a role with Fidelity where he began training advisors on what he calls financial gerontology: the human process of acting, thinking, and making decisions with money.

Inspired by the work, Barry built the Retirement Lifestyle Center in 1998. Although his initial focus was retirement planning, today Barry focuses just as much on helping advisors develop interpersonal skills. For Barry, advisors are coaches above all else. Building a strong client-advisor relationship is a requirement for long-term success. In a world where investment is commoditized, clients need a reason to choose a human over an iPhone app, and that reason is the relationship.

Barry talks with Steve about the importance of life-based conversations, how to earn client trust, and why too many advisors focus on how they work over what services they provide.

“A wealth advisor is going to be, first-of-all, more of a coach than an advisor. I don’t like the term advisor even though that’s what we use and what legally we have to use. I believe that the positioning that a wealth advisor takes is as a coach, helping clients understand the key life issues that have to be planned for and then helping them build a strategy to be able to get there.” ~ Barry LaValley

Main Takeaways

  • Stop focusing on how you work and start focusing on what you do. The technology and the products are how you work. What you do is coach, communicate, counsel, and mentor.
  • Being likable is more important than being understood and being smart. If clients don’t like you, they’ll never trust you enough to follow your advice.
  • There’s a common misunderstanding that clients understand their own issues. Rather, clients need advisors to illuminate the financial issues they’re likely unaware of or don’t consider top-of-mind.
  • Clients are more likely to follow plans that feel like a collaboration. Most people don’t respond well when they’re told what to do. When you lead clients to identify their own issues, they feel involved in the decision-making process.

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