Don't Settle for Being a Trusted Adviser

You're better offer being a decision coach, helping clients make better choices themselves rather than following a plan you, the adviser, lays out. 

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The collective wisdom in sales coaching recommends that agents aim to be their client’s “trusted adviser.” Timothy Gallwey, the famous peak performance coach, contends that there’s a more effective role for salespeople to play.  He says agents are more likely to succeed by being their client’s “decision coaches.”

Just as sports performance or acting performance can benefit from coaching, so can a client’s decision-performance. A client’s decision process is “inner.” It happens inside the client between their ears. It’s ultimately this decision-process that determines if the salesperson gets the sale. That well-known saying in sales coaching, “the goal of selling is buying,” is very true. Agents won’t get a sale unless their client decides first that the agent will be getting the sale. 

Coaching is about increasing a client’s self-empowerment. Decision coaching empowers clients to achieve their full decision-making potential. Coaches help clients get in touch with their own ability to find solutions.

Advising, on the other hand, isn’t dependent on a client’s ability to find solutions. The adviser proposes the solution. The adviser becomes solely responsible for the quality of whatever solution they proposed.

This big responsibility comes with potential pitfalls. Advisers often make the mistake of thinking that a solution that would work out well for themselves should also work out well for their client. When an agent generalizes this way, it could be  a mistake. Clients may not share the same set of beliefs and values as the adviser.

A coaching approach invites clients to get in touch with their own beliefs and values. These beliefs and values become an integral part of the purchasing decision. This is, in fact, crucial for insurance-related decisions, because insurance decisions require that clients buy in to a commitment that may keep their policy in force for many decades.

Securing client buy-in is also important for policies that can also be used as savings instruments. Each month, a client needs to decide how much they will contribute toward savings. An agent won’t be present at that time to advise the client about what to contribute. A coaching approach taps into the client’s own personal convictions about what they want for themselves. This results in a more sustainable buying decision. A coaching approach ensures that a policy’s usefulness is more likely to be optimized by the client.

Decision coaching requires agents to gain an understanding about their client’s relationship with themselves. For example, a decision coach may need to determine their client’s degree of self-confidence with making financial decisions. A client harboring self-doubt could make an inappropriately conservative decision. 

See also: 3 Key Themes for Check-ins With Clients

It may seem like decision coaching would require more effort from agents. Advising clients about what they should do seems easier and more direct. However, the extra effort involved in decision coaching comes with advantages that could save agents time in the long run.

Decision coaching is a powerful rapport builder. Clients appreciate when agents take the time to learn where they’re coming from. Clients also appreciate when agents invite them to take charge of their own finances. If you were an insurance client, wouldn’t you prefer an agent who helped you feel more empowered to discover what’s best for you?

In contrast, taking an agent’s advice relies upon clients feeling disempowered enough to take the agent’s advice over their own instincts. Empowering clients to discover new capabilities is one of the most powerful ways an agent can offer value. It’s the gift that keeps on giving beyond the agent’s visit.

Agents who think a client trusted them enough to take their advice are missing the full picture. Clients don’t trust agents unless they first trust their own ability to decide if they can trust their agent. In other words, to be a trusted adviser, the agent still must rely on some coaching. Customers need to feel empowered enough to decide if they can take the agent’s advice. To succeed at trusted advising, an agent will need to apply some decision coaching skills.

Agents seeking their client’s trust will be more successful by also recognizing the importance of their clients’ self-trust. Facilitating self-trust for better decision performance is a hallmark of coaching. That decision the client is making could be about purchasing a policy. That decision could also be about how much they can trust their agent. Agents who gain coaching skills are better equipped to serve their clients as well as themselves.

Jeffrey Lipsius

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Jeffrey Lipsius

Jeffrey Lipsius is the director of The Inner Game School of Sales Leadership™ and author of the award winning book, Selling To The Point. He co-created The Inner Game approach for sales leadership with Timothy Gallwey. Timothy Gallwey is widely regarded to be as the father of modern coaching. Lipsius is a certified Inner Game coach and has over 40 years experience training in the selling profession. Lipsius and Gallwey train sales forces world-wide to achieve their peak selling performance through The Inner Game sales leadership method.


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