On a recent IMPLEMENTATION Monthly Mastermind call, I asked the group where they need help and what kind of trainings would be beneficial for them right now.  One of our Mastermind Members asked for a training about how to be a more effective behavioral coach. 


I know that this is a such powerful topic and in times of uncertainty, nothing is of more value to our clients than keeping them on track with the plan.  So, I am taking up the challenge.  But I am shaking things up.  Rather than just share my insights, I am going to a couple of experts who I respect in the area of behavioral coaching.  And I am starting with Nick Murray. 


I am re-reading Nick's 2008 classic, Behavioral Investment Counseling.. to answer the question of how to be a better behavioral coach?


First let me say that I haven't read Nick in over a decade, but his voice still resounds in my head from my early years in the business.  If you struggle with truly believing in your value as an advisor, Nick Murray is your guru.  He will whip you into shape and have you believing in no time!


Unfortunately, the Behavioral Investment Counselor focuses on asset management almost to the exclusion of everything else.  He nails that topic with rare clarity, but doesn’t dive deep into the nuance of behavioral modification as a function of comprehensive planning.  But fear not, I have another guru on tap for that. 


Let's learn the basics from the master and we can fill in the details later.


Nick has this NY no-nonsense vibe that makes it really clear to the reader and the potential client that you either want to get on board or your invitation to the "Ark" will be forever revoked.   Here are eight lessons from Nick Murray's Behavioral Investment Counseling.


"You can only help people who are willing to be helped, now, by you."

We are not here to argue, defend, convince or cajole.   We are here to be of service to those who want help and those who don't can leave.   As harsh as this sounds, we need to start with this basic truth.  We can't help those who don't want help, even if they say they do.   Rather than become a master manipulator who can "get them" to do the right thing for themselves, we need to stand in the truth of our advice.  Nick would say it is below your dignity to do anything else! 

Lesson One: Only work with the willing.


"The messenger is the message."

A huge part of influencing client is your own conviction.   You must understand exactly what you offer, why you offer it and what it is worth.  When you fully believe in the value of what you are offering, it will be easy to sell and clients will take your advice.  I see advisors all the time who lack conviction struggle to get new clients and struggle to get them to behave! 

Lesson Two: You have to believe.


"Advisors seek ever more complex intellectual/analytical remedies…"

Nick talks in-depth about his investment philosophy.  It is simple, easy to understand and explain and it works.  If you want clients to follow your advice, make it simpler, not more complex.  Boil all the noise down to what works.  I want to encourage you to take this lesson and expand upon it to encompass every major area of financial planning.  How do you approach budgeting and debt management?  How about life insurance and long-term care planning?   You should have a simple, easy to understand philosophy for every frequently encountered planning scenario.

Lesson Three: Have a simple philosophy.


"If you give people a plan for free they won't follow it, reasoning that it's probably worth about what they had to pay for it."

I believe that one of the most foundational reasons that clients don't follow your advice is that they didn't pay for it.  As cliché as it sounds, we don't value what we don't pay for.  With just a little experience charging for advice, you will realize that people are suddenly following the same advice they ignored in the past.  Same advice, same advisor and the client behavior is different.

Lesson Four: Charge for your advice.



"Does the planning approach I've described seem to you an intelligent way for us to begin?"

I don't know if I would put it quite the way Nick puts it, but his sales pitch ends with the most non-pitchy question.  Are we in agreement?  Do we have consensus?  Does this make sense to you?  You can talk until you are blue in the face and never know if the client is in agreement with you.  By sharing your philosophy and your logic behind it and then asking for a conceptual consensus, you are pre-empting any later objections.  You might get questions, but not major objections.  If you make a specific recommendation and the client completely balks at the idea of implementing, then you likely skipped this step!

Lesson Five: Gain consensus before proceeding.



"The dominant determinant of long-term, real-life return is not investment performance, but investor behavior."

How many times have you drowned your clients in short-term market prognostication?   By pretending that you can predict the movement of the markets and that you are managing investments in response to those predictions, you are misleading your client.  Also known as lying.  Why should they listen to you if you mislead them?  If you want your client to follow your advice, you have to tell the unvarnished truth about what to expect and you can control in all areas, including investment management. 

Lesson Six: Tell the truth.


"You do not start doing lifeboat drills in the middle of the Atlantic, after the Titanic has stopped to take on ice."

Giving really good behavioral advice in the middle of a huge market down turn or other stressful event is too late.  Using your simple philosophies we discussed before, you should be educating and training your clients from day one and consistently throughout the relationship.  Successful behavioral coaching involves training in advance of the event.

Lesson Seven: Train clients early and often.


So much of what Nick advocates is really laying the foundation to pre-empt bad behavior.    His answer would be kick them off of the "Ark."  He doesn’t really guide you on what to do when it all goes wrong.  I will step in here and share with you how I see these key lessons fitting together to support you when the client is about to misbehave.


Interrupting bad behavior is about reminding the client of all of the things they have forgotten in this moment of excitement or fear.


Remind them of…

  • Your role -You hired me to give you objective advice to help you make the best financial decisions possible.
  • Their plan -We built this plan based on your goals and values, has something changed?
  • Your philosophy -We determined that you have this challenge and that this would be our approach for these reasons.
  • Their consensus -You told me that this approach seemed like the best solution for your situation.
  • Their training -We discussed how things like this happen and that the impact of your decision right now will have major repercussions.
  • The truth -These are the factors we are facing and how they will impact you.
  • Your conviction -Based on my experience, I feel very strongly that this is the right course of action for you.


And then you have to accept their choices and take the final lesson from Nick and say "NEXT" if they fail to see reason!

We are not here to manipulate our clients into doing the right thing.  We are here to guide and support them.  If they continue to behave in a way that is counter to their long-term success and your advice, it might be time to encourage them to find an advisor who is more in alignment with their perspective.


Not every one deserves you!  Your job is to keep prospecting until you have a community of clients who share your values, respect your advice and appreciate the impact you have on their lives!


I hope that this serves you and helps you become a better behavioral coach for your clients and your own sanity!


With Purpose,




If becoming a better behavioral coach is high on your to do list, I hope you will join us for our upcoming IMPLEMENTATION Monthly Mastermind call on August 28th.


The IMPLEMENTATION Monthly Mastermind is a group coaching program to help financial advisors build Advice-based Practices that are both purpose-driven and profitable!  We meet live via Zoom once a month where I teach something new and open up the call for live Q&A from the members.


Using the link below, you can get your first month absolutely free.   You can learn to be a better behavioral coach on our live call and enjoy the recorded trainings in the IMM Archives.  If you love it, stick around.  If you don't, just cancel within 30 days and you will never be charged a penny!

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