Special Feature

The planning process

This three-part series on the planning process offers suggestions for successful discovery meetings, how to present a financial plan and ways to elicit feedback from clients.

Financial Planning

Frame your presentation as a roadmap to success

By Brent Jolly |

After you have completed a productive discovery meeting and done some careful analysis of your clients' needs, avoid framing the presentation of your plan as the final solution to all your client's problems, says Keith Costello, president and CEO of the Canadian Institute of Financial Planners in Mississauga, Ont.

"You have to educate the client that the plan is a roadmap and a guide to help them develop their future," Costello says. "It is not about offering a final result or outcome."

Costello offers the following suggestions to help you present a financial plan to your client:

> Explain clearly
It is your responsibility to explain to your client your recommendations and how they fit with his or her particular circumstances. Having already acknowledged your client's level of financial literacy will make this task much simpler.

The default, Costello says, is always to explain financial concepts in layman's terms to ensure that your message is properly understood. That will help lead you from the presentation of a plan to the implementation.

> Make it a conversation
Regard a financial plan as a communication tool, Costello says, rather than as a solely technical document.

"A financial plan is a living document," he says.  "So, if you are having a ‘technical dump' with your client, you are likely having a one-way conversation."

Instead, you should always be sure that you are having a two-way conversation with your client.

Also, pay attention to your client's body language to gauge his or her receptiveness to the ideas you present. Although you have the professional training, you also should make sure you have his or her story right.  

> Hit the "hot buttons"
Presenting a plan should never be a formulaic process. Instead, it should be tailored to your relationship with your client.

In the same vein, look for "hot button" issues — those issues your client is particularly concerned about. For example, your client might have a child with special needs or be taking care of an ill parent.

It is imperative that you first identify those concerns at the discovery stage, and acknowledge them during the presentation of your plan. Giving these concerns a sense of priority and urgency will help give your client the impetus to start implementing your recommendations.

"You can do a lot of stuff in that plan," Costello says. "But if you don't identify the main issues the client has, they will think there is no sense of urgency because they can do that anytime."

> Ask for questions
Allocate some time at the end of your presentation to address questions from your client, Costello says. This is an important part in the communication process because it ensures that the client is clear on the plan you are proposing.

This is the second installment in a three-part series on the planning process. Next: Soliciting client feedback after the presentation of your plan.