The starting point for all this is about understanding who you are in the minds of your client relationships today, and really thinking about as you move forward, in building relationships with clients and prospects in the future, it's really about understanding what role do you actually want to play in their lives, and how do you want to see them in relationship with you?

In order for us to do that and really help you through that thinking, I want to introduce you to a concept we call The Planning Table. And The Planning Table is something we've written on extensively in our book, The Right Side of the Table. This is a really, really powerful concept that we're excited to be able to bring here to you. We've provided a number of handouts in the course that you can go in and you can refer to. And I'm going to walk you through some of those concepts here, but make sure that you go to the handouts and really review that and read that. You'll want to go through that several times, the chapters that we've provided, and the other things available to you.

So, in kind of doing this I want to introduce you first and foremost, what are we talking about when we talk about The Planning Table? Well, The Planning Table is really just simply using kind of the metaphor of ... we talk about it in The Right Side of the Table, we're using a metaphor for the table when you're sitting and you're engaging with clients and prospects, right? That might be in your office. It might be in their home. It might be in their place of work, their business. But it's the place where you're engaging in interactions around that relationship. And so, how are they seeing you? What's the role that you play in their lives and really what role do you want to play in their lives, as you think about the future?

As a part of helping you think about that, I want to share with you something that we call The Advisor Styles. The Advisor Styles relate to thinking about that table. If we take a rectangular table, and each of the sides of the table represent a style or an approach that advisors are taking, that's what they're portraying in the marketplace in how they're interacting and engaging with clients and prospects, but it's also how the wealth holders, the consumers, your prospects and clients are actually seeing you and the other advisors. So, the sides I want to talk to you about is something that we call the Advisor Styles, and you can refer to the handout in the Advisor Styles grid and the chapter from The Right Side of the Table for more details on this. But I want to just kind of talk it through.

If you take for the example that the clients are sitting on one side of the table, kind of the clients side of the table. Directly across the table from them, so looking eye-to-eye, these would be people that would be more in what we call a sales style. That's the sales style. So, these are people that have really run transactional businesses and actually are really thriving on the simplicity of a very transactional business. So, they're coming in with a sales approach where somebody's got a problem potentially, maybe they know it or don't know it, and they're really trying to come in, and address, and solve that problem. And so, they've got very limited relationship with the client, the depth of that relationship is really kind of thin. There's probably not a lot of ongoing future interactions.

So, people that operate in this role, for years we've kind of seen insurance folks have been kind of pinned in this sales mode, and some rightfully so, but I think there's some stereotypes there as well. The investment world has really operated a great deal in that kind of transactional mindset around the money and the money management. But when you think about banking relationships and things of that nature, when you think about maybe a business owner that is dealing through a transaction of selling their business or something of that sort, those would be relationships like an MNA person or something like that, that would be more approaching things from a sales style.

When you think about now expanding onto the ends of the table, the ends of the table are representing what we call the advice style. And the advice style is typically founded by four main seats that need to be occupied, and they're typically occupied in a client's lives related to their planning. You've got somebody that's representing the legal seat, you've got a lawyer who's representing the legal seat. You've got somebody that's representing the tax seat, so you've got a CPA that's sitting in the tax seat. You've typically got somebody that's representing the investments needs for the client. And then you've got somebody that's representing the insurance or the risk. So again, somebody representing the legal, somebody representing the tax, somebody representing the insurance, and the investments. And clearly in today's world, advisors are playing multiple roles in that so somebody might be overseeing multiple roles there. We see that quite a bit. But we call that kind of the core team. And these are people that are really providing advice. These are the regular everyday advisors on behalf of this client. And they're probably in some level, some more than others, in ongoing interaction with that client based upon the things that they're delivering for them and trying to help them achieve. The advice seats are key and these are really key seats.

And I would imagine with a certain percentage of your clients today, you're sitting in that advice seat. Probably some of you are sitting across that table in the sales seat based upon how you've been introduced to clients, or how you've done business with clients to this point in time.

Now, there's a third style, and that represents another side of the table, which we haven't yet talked about. The third style is what we'd call the discernment style. And that discernment style really is somebody who is really operating more in a discerning approach. They're slower in the engagement with the client, because they're really spending the time to connect with that client at a deeper level, engage with that client at deeper level, and to really challenge the thinking and the beliefs of that client, not only from what's possible from their planning, but also the way that the advisor-client relationship should really work. And so, that discernment style is sitting on their side of the table. And really there's an opportunity for each and every one of you to decide, what is the right style for you and approach as you look at prospects, as you look at your client relationships today. Because the thing that I'll tell you is, as you look at your businesses you probably have a mix. You have a mix of seats that you're sitting in. Some of your clients you're really in that sales seat. Some of you are in the advice. And believe it or not, know it or not, some of your client relationships today they see you sitting squarely on their side of the table in that discernment role.

Another way that we look at that discernment role is, we call it kind of the most trusted advisor in the book, The Right Side of the Table. I'm sure you've read about it, you'll read about it as you go forward, but that's a term that we've used for years. And what we're talking about there is that most trusted advisor is elevated themselves to a standpoint where they're the go-to. If that client is faced with a challenging issue, maybe financially related, maybe not, maybe it's about their business, maybe it's about their family, their kids, whatever it might be, maybe it's a personal thing. You tend to be the one that they're calling and you're that first line of defense. So, when you think about some of your relationships today, by design or by default you're like, "Wow, I'm in that seat. That's the role that I'm playing." That's fantastic.

What we want to help you think about is, looking at these sides of the table, and the different styles, again, as you think about the future, how you want to build business, how you want to build your relationships, you can do this by design. You can do this by design, and that's what we're talking about. Those are the real key things.

When you think about some of the implications of these sides of the table, and the seats, and the roles, and all of those things, there are some real key implications. If you're sitting across the table from that client in more of a transactional mindset, based upon how you've done business, based upon how you've approached that client, based upon how maybe you've interacted with some of their other advisors that are sitting in the advice seats at the end of the table, that can have a profound impact on your relationship. And if you're okay with how that relationships working, then that's okay. If you're happy with how you're being dealt with and how you're being compensated then that's fantastic, but if you want to elevate beyond that, if you want to broaden your relationship with the client as well as the other advisors you need to start to develop some additional approaches, and you really need to step into that relationship in a different way. Okay?

That's the concept of The Advisor Styles and that's the concept of The Planning Table discussion, and kind of looking at the different seats, the roles. And as I said, the last thing I'll say in kind of wrapping is that again, if you look at your business today I will guarantee you that if you look across all your relationships that you have, all your clientele today, you're sitting in various seats around that table. And again, part of it is because of the design, and the approach, and the way that you've engaged that client, and it was intentional, and you know the seat you're sitting in. But when you think about your client relationships, and this is a conversation I would be having with your existing, especially your best client relationships is, where do they see you sitting? Because I believe, and I see this consistently it's not just a belief, but something I see consistently in the work we do with advisors, there's a gap like a misunderstanding of sometimes where a client sees you, and sometimes where you see yourself around that client's table.

So, in some instances you might think you have a better relationship than that client feels. And other times you might feel like, "Wow, I've been really kind of transactional in this relationship. We don't have a lot of depth. We're not spending a lot of time together. I'm probably in a sales mode." But you're going to find even in some of those instances, that client actually has you on their side of the table, you're the one that knows the most about them believe it or not. You may not feel that, so it's important to know that is my point. In that if that client really feels connected to you and you're their only one, what does that say about their other advisor relationships? It's pretty amazing isn't it? That's an opportunity for growth there. And if they have you sitting on their side of the table, you need to know that, you need to step into that, because there's opportunities probably for more business and to really further develop a significant relationship.

But again, the last thing is if you think you actually have that great relationship and that tight relationship, you're going to find in some instances that the client really sees you in that sales mode, or maybe the advice seats at the end of the table. You're not that confidant, that most trusted advisor in that discernment approach. And maybe it's a reflection of how you've done business, how you've engaged with them, how you've been responsive to them. And the good news is, it's all fixable. Understanding these tables, the roles, the implications, you can step into this. You can really design relationships the way you want them to be, and it all comes down to your behaviors.

I really hope that this was helpful. And as a I said, go and look at the handouts that are available and it'll go into much, much more depth about The Planning Table and how to be thinking about this as you think about the future of your business.

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