Changing the Conversation Part I:Financial Planning – is Yours a Product or an Experience?

Though the DOL Fiduciary Rule is off the regulatory table at this point, its impact on investment advisory and wealth management practices is undeniable and likely lasting.  As a result, financial planning has become a strategic priority for many firms and advisors.  Yet from what we at Greene Consulting have seen, the implementation of such capabilities overall has been rather “unproductive.”

So, here is the question we pose for you today:

How are you leveraging your financial planning capabilities to:

  • Most effectively engage prospects and clients,
  • Differentiate your practice from the myriad of advisors out there with the same capabilities, and 
  • Drive revenue growth? 

A Typical Scenario

All too often we see a scenario like this where subtle but critical mistakes are made in the rollout of a financial planning strategy:

We have seen approaches similar to this many, many times over the past 15 years and, invariably, all fail to deliver the adoption and financial outcomes the firm is seeking.

So, What is Missing?

The primary mistake we see in such planning initiatives throughout the industry is that the launch of the initiative is focused on the wrong thing – the financial planning software.

To generate advisor adoption and ensure planning is most effectively delivered to clients, there MUST be a defined strategy – with the training and coaching behind it – to equip your advisors with the skills and practice management strategies required to ensure they can deliver an engaging “Financial Planning Experience” and leverage that experience to consolidate assets and drive revenue.

As an example of the fallacy of the “train them on the tool” approach, think about this. Everyone has access to Home Depot where you can buy almost any tool you need for a construction project. They also have knowledgeable people who can provide instruction on how to use a table saw, a nail gun, or any other tool they sell. However, even with all of the proper tools, access to resources like lumber and electrical wiring, etc., it would be daunting, at best, to think you could build a new addition to your home on your own. It’s not just about how to use the tools. That’s the easy part. The difficult part is gaining the experience in how to use the tools creatively to build the structure you want.

Financial planning is the same. Knowing how to use a financial planning tool does not mean you can effectively engage clients in financial planning.

The “Financial Planning Experience”

The “Financial Planning Experience” is the defined series of interactions occurring between an advisor and a prospect or client during the engagement, development and delivery of a financial plan. The utilization of the financial planning tool, while central to developing the actual plan, is only a limited component of the client experience and should never be the central point of focus. The focus must be clearly on the role your advisor and the team involved play in delivering the Financial Planning Experience and the skillful conversations they are having around it. Sticking with the building analogy, Frank Lloyd Wright was famous for his design and architecture, but not because of the tools and building materials he used!

Financial Planning should be no different as the value is in your advisor and their ability to develop and deliver an engaging planning experience that addresses the unique needs and priorities of each client. The planning tool is simply a resource to help make that process efficient, consistent and concrete.

While everyone seems to naturally agree with this, we have seen very few focus on the strategy, process and discipline needed to incorporate an intentional and engaging “experience.”

Key Elements to Address

To deliver such an engaging experience, your advisors certainly need training on how to use the tool; but more importantly, they need to have direction, training and coaching support in three key areas: Practice Management, Client Engagement and the Relationship Experience.

Practice Management

Your organization must be explicitly clear in defining how financial planning aligns to and supports your advisors’ practice.

Client Engagement

For many firms, financial planning is designed to be at the heart of the wealth management experience they deliver to clients. This is increasingly important in the context of the Fiduciary Standard where documentation supporting recommendations is crucial. Given this fact, you must address specifically HOW to deliver each step in the Financial Planning Sales Experience. This includes development of the unique conversational skills required to generate the desired level of client engagement needed for effective planning to occur.

The Relationship Experience

Finally, financial planning is a process, not a product. The launch must address how planning integrates into the Relationship Experience you intend to deliver. Again, there needs to be direction, training and coaching support for advisors.

Click the button below for a downloadable PDF document containing the specific practices and skills to address for each area.


The PDF download covers just a few key elements typically not addressed in the launch of financial planning initiatives – and those noted primarily just relate to the first stage of the planning experience.

Before you launch – or relaunch – financial planning in your organization, think about how you are addressing these critical elements in your strategy. Failure to do so will lead to difficulty in achieving ROI on the significant investment the organization is making in both time and expense to provide the tool to the advisor force.

The “Financial Planning Experience Program”

At Greene Consulting, our purpose is to help financial services providers design better experiences, develop better people, and thereby deliver better results. Through over 20 years of direct experience with firms and advisors as they launch, relaunch, or seek to reinvigorate the integration of financial planning into client relationships to differentiate and drive revenue growth, we have developed a program called “The Financial Planning Experience” to help firms and their advisors specifically address the challenges to success highlighted in this blog.

For more information on our Financial Planning Experience Program – which can be customized to the specific planning tools your firm uses – contact us at 404-324-4600 or email David Greene at or Rick Swygman at

About David Greene and Rick Swygman