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Proving Your Advice Is Valuable With Sten Morgan

Hustling for sales works when you’re aggressively promoting products. But as a financial planner—whose product is advice—you need to be able to gain a prospect’s trust as you demonstrate that your advice has value.

On this episode of the Elementality podcast, Reese Harper welcomes Sten Morgan, founder of Legacy Investment Planning and its advisor training program. Sten believes trust builds when you engage prospects with your very best ideas from the start—and offer a concrete value proposition at every stage from then on. Many advisors seem to limit what they can accomplish. Sten reveals why advisors who are generous with their ideas, processes, and time have greater closing rates and see their careers take off.

 


Podcast Transcript

Sten Morgan:
‘Cause at the end of the day, if I charge you five grand but I show you that one of my ideas will save you 15, is anyone gonna say no to that? Most advisors sit in a meeting across the table and say, “Hey, trust me. You know you need somebody, let’s get to work. Here’s some products you might need to buy,” and you’re hoping you just catch them at the right time that they say yes. We get up on the whiteboard and just start giving away our best ideas in the first meeting, and I give them, “Hey, if you do this, this is what happens.” And you actually get good at quantifying. If you put money into this SEP IRA for this year, it’s gonna save you 15 grand in tax. If in a meeting, I can save them 10, 20 grand when I just charged them five for a financial plan and, “Oh by the way, I’m gonna help you over the next 10 months… ” Why wouldn’t they sign up?

Abby Morton:
Welcome to Elementality. I’m Abby Morton, CFP and producer of our podcast here at Elements. I love being a financial planner, but I know it’s a challenging profession, as well. That’s why the number one goal of our show is to help you prosper as an advisor as you better connect with your clients. We know your time is very valuable. Plan on a good return when you spend it here with us.

Reese Harper:
Welcome to another episode of Elementality, everybody. I’m your host, Reese Harper here on a gorgeous fall day. Freezing cold, leaves are flowing, and I just met a new friend, that I already like, Sten Morgan. Sten, how are you doing?

Sten Morgan:
Good, bud. Good to be here.

Reese Harper:
I was surprised that you took the whole crew out here to Deer Valley, right by my house, and you taught them how to ski, you forced them through a three-day trial and they… Sounds like they made it.

Sten Morgan:
They survived. Yes, the goal was to make it a good experience so they wanted to go back, ’cause I grew up out in Oregon, so…

Reese Harper:
Well, let’s start with giving everybody just a little bit of background for those of you who don’t know you. I’ve been impressed with what you’ve been able to build, both in your personal clientele and your coaching and… Your coaching practice. I’ll let you describe it and give everyone some context but let’s start just a little bit of background and then explaining what life is like right now.

Sten Morgan:
You bet, yeah. So, I jumped into the insurance business through an internship ’cause it was the only one that was gonna pay me like $100 bucks a week to show up. I had no intention of owning a business, running a business, didn’t know what this industry even meant to be in, which I still think is partially true which is may be good, ’cause if we all knew what we were getting into, we maybe wouldn’t even get into it, but…

Reese Harper:
Yeah, that is true.

Sten Morgan::
But for me, I got this… Yeah, and the industry was telling me, “Hey, if you keep your head down for 10 to 15 years, some day you’ll make some money.” And I had a single mom, three sisters, I was like, I just… I don’t wanna wait that long. So, my mission from getting into the business was to say, what’s the industry telling me? And then I’m gonna do something different. And what’s great is that, moved to Nashville in a cold market as a 22-year-old, which wasn’t a good business move, but just kept my head down and I said, “I bet I can do in three years what most people do in 10.” And so by 28, got some recognition that most people hadn’t in their 50s and started picking up that momentum and getting some attention. So, as my personal practices thrived, a few years ago I said, “I think we can take what we’ve done and just give it away.” And so, we just started sharing those ideas and then advisors, I’m sure like you experience, start asking more questions and that just morphed into this community of advisors who say, “Sten, how do I not wait 15 years to be successful? I wanna have a balance in my life now. I wanna make money now and I wanna have a good business.”

Reese Harper:
But what I heard you say when you first met was like, “It’s pretty simple. You can just do… You can cram 10 years into three or 10 years into four.” But I just wanna also just give you some credit because I don’t think you can… I don’t think it’s a quite as simple for every advisor, otherwise the success rates wouldn’t be like 10%, right?

Sten Morgan:
That’s right, and I think that’s your mission. My mission is like, “How do we increase that number? How do we… ”

Reese Harper:
The gap, we can shorten the gap. But look, guys, if you’ve been grinding at this for 10 years and you’re still got seven clients, it’s time to move on, alright? This is not a fit. There is a point where you just gotta say, “Look, there are people like Sten who are driving a lot of marketing volume and they’ve got a lot of clients.” I meet them every day and they’re like, “I just need new advisors. I just want an advisor to come and take these clients. He can make a million dollars a year if he’ll just take the clients and service them. We’re getting so much volume, we just can’t handle it.” I find that that’s a hard thing to decide when you really shouldn’t own a business and when you should, and I struggled to see that with dentists who are like, “No, I’m an independent dentist and I’m gonna build my own practice,” and it’s like, “Man, you’ve been saying that for 15 years. There’s just something that’s not working here.” And how do you kind of… In a coaching business where you’re inspiring people so much and it’s probably hard for you to know how much of it was your own self and how much of it is your processes and systems, how do you know… How can you identify when it’s time to tell someone, “Hey, maybe this isn’t a fit?” I just wanna know if you’ve ever had to say that or if it’s just, “Keep selling the dream, baby.”

Sten Morgan:
0:04:55.9 SM: No, I have. I think that I got myself early on talking people into the business that I should have never had done. And I actually was convicted by that, where I’m like… ‘Cause if you are in a way, you can speak in a way to motivate somebody to take action, like you actually have to be careful of that.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, they’ll believe you.

Sten Morgan:
And so, I’ve definitely gotten better over time about when I’ll pour in and when I’ll give some ideas but for me, in your space, I get to meet just a lot of cool people in the business, and what I’ve learned… The good and the bad news is that they’re all so different, different backgrounds, different strategies, they speak different, they dress different. For me, that was encouraging because I was like, “Okay, I come from a single mom household in Oregon. I don’t look like any of those powerful brokers or people that come from money, yet I could still be successful in the business?” It gave me hope that there was a path that I could create for myself. The bad side of that is that they’ve obviously figured something out. There is something you can replicate, no matter who you are and what you say, and I’ve met some advisors that seem so awkward and I’m like, “Who would give them their money?” They’re just that good. And so I think our process that we built out, what we call the Elite Advisor Method, is that. It’s like what do you they all have in common? And clearly, if you can see yourself going down that path, then go for it but hopefully it’ll help weed out the people that should never start, also.

Reese Harper:
Let’s hope. Rather than try to die, I don’t wanna depress anybody with trying to decide during this podcast if you’re a fit or not. We all probably just struggle enough every day, I never feel like I’m a good enough CEO. I’m in a software startup now and I feel remarkably unqualified. So I don’t want anyone to feel like that I haven’t been at the place where I’m questioning my own place but I’m like… I know I’m gonna do it, I’m confident I can figure it out. I might have to read 50 books over the weekend and grind it hard over the next three months but I’ll figure it out. And so, I think that that’s obviously possible, but what attributes do you see in people or what… When you meet someone, how do you kind of size up where their gaps are at? Where are the… And maybe that’s a better question, where are the biggest gaps that you see?

Sten Morgan:
So for us, there’s five steps to our method. The first one is what we call wake up, and because I find the biggest step is just awareness. And like for you, you know the information’s out there, you need to be the best CEO you can be. It’s just knowing, okay now it’s up to me just to go find it. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, I don’t have to do any of that. So for us in the advisory space, it’s Sten’s 10 years ahead of you, there’s no reason to go out and just try to stumble by yourself, it’s like, “Humble yourself and go get it,” like find the information you want. So, when I was curious about financial planning for the first time, I went to a conference, spent 900 bucks, went listened to a team that said, “We don’t let anybody in our door unless they pay us five grand.” I came from the Northwestern, Raymond James and that’s crazy. What if they say no, and you missed out on the insurance sale or the investment account? But I just had to become aware that like, “Oh, it’s people are doing it and it’s working. Maybe I should try that.” Most advisors sit on their island full of limiting beliefs and just can’t break out of it. And they just don’t know what they don’t know, so for me…

Reese Harper:
So, in that specific example, that the limiting belief of I can be worth X dollars, is that… That’s a belief that you think… I’m trying to just gauge the limiting belief in that example. Is that a limiting belief?

Sten Morgan:
That’s right, yeah. That my… I’m not worth the money, the product is the value versus I told advisors you are the product. Products come and go, but you are the one that they’re paying for, and you are the one… And one thing I wanna share some really kind of tactical information today with your listeners is, how we use a whiteboard in a meeting and how we quantify our value. ‘Cause at the end of the day, if I charge you five grand, but I show you that one of my ideas will save you 15, is anyone gonna say no to that? And most advisors sit in a meeting across the table and say, “Hey, trust me. You know you need somebody, let’s get to work. Here’s some products you might need to buy.” And you’re hoping you just catch them at the right time and they say yes. We get up on the whiteboard and just start giving away our best ideas in the first meeting, and I give them, “Hey, if you do this, this is what happens,” and you actually get good at quantifying. If you put money into this SEP IRA for this year, it’s gonna save you 15 grand in tax. If in a meeting, I can save them 10, 20 grand when I just charged them five for a financial plan, and, “Oh, by the way, I’m gonna help you over the next 10 months.” Why wouldn’t they sign up?

Reese Harper:
Are you suggesting that one of the best ways to get people to buy in is through a piece of advice that is unique or personalized to them or something that is a stand-out kind of unique item? Is that what you’re saying? That that’s a better… That’s your suggestion about how to lead?

Sten Morgan:
That is the nugget, you gotta hook ’em somehow. If it’s the generic stuff, and I think… I can’t remember the episode number, but Dan Allison you had on, and he was talking about bringing something specific to resource, the idea is worth more. That’s the currency, not the product. And so, for us, if I can sit in a meeting and just give you one, two, three nuggets, I don’t know yet if they’re gonna 100% apply, but if I know you’re a business owner that owns real estate, and I’m the first one to ever explain cost segregation to you, your CPA may be thinking about it, but they didn’t actually tell you about it and illustrate it on the board how it works, or how tax harvesting can help your accounts in a down market. Even those ideas that seem simple, we coach through kind of our whiteboard videos, we teach advisors how to do this. If I stand up in a meeting, all of a sudden the energy in the room goes up. The client’s like, “Oh, something’s happening,” and I get on the whiteboard, I automatically am the authority in the room, I’m teaching. And I show them something that they’ve never fully understood or heard of before. If you can do that two or three times in a meeting, you got ’em. Like, “I’ve never heard of that before. Why hasn’t my CPA told me that before?” That is really where the value is, and you’ll get into the other stuff, and I promise you if you wanna manage the money, you’ll still get it. You just have to overwhelm them with the value first.

Reese Harper:
Another way of what you’re saying is demonstrate that the advice you’re delivering is the expertise.

Sten Morgan:
That’s right.

Reese Harper:
Or is the product. You’re not going to talk about… When you say generic, you’re saying, “Look, avoided, investment, diversification conversation.” Right?

Sten Morgan:
Pretty much. You may think that we’re unique, if we’re saying we’re independent and trustworthy. Look, they’re not gonna be in your office if they don’t trust you. All this stuff that they take for granted is white noise, and there was a client… A buddy of mine had a client, he was an advisor in Texas, been in the business a long time, he was working with clients now that were selling businesses for 50, 60 million bucks, and it was down between him and I think Morgan Stanley. And he knew the client well enough, and at the end of the day, the client didn’t choose him. The other advisor went out. And he asked the client, “Hey, can we grab lunch? I’m curious why I didn’t get the business.” And the client told him, “We literally flipped a coin because we could not tell the difference between you and the other advisor.”

Sten Morgan:
So for us, it’s like I’m gonna give so much value that when you have a meeting in our office for the first time and you leave there thinking like, “I didn’t even pay them, and they just gave me three ideas I’ve never heard of, and maybe just saved me 40 grand in taxes and planning ideas that my CPA hasn’t even talked about,” there’s gonna be an energy being, “Hey, when can we get back together at that idea you shared with me?” And what do you think people talk about when they’re at their baseball game, their daughter’s, son’s baseball game, do they say, “Hey, I just about this term life policy from my advisor.” No, but I bet you they’re gonna talk about R&D tax credits or cost seg, if I was the first one to ever talk about it. So, ideas travel better than products. So, for prospecting it’s really big too.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, I’m curious how you would… ‘Cause I’m in the middle of messaging construction right now in a lot of different ways to engage a prospect, and I’ve seen… I started at Northwestern Mutual as well. I don’t know if you knew that, but that was my intro to the… Foray into the business, that’s how you probably learned how… You gotta give them some… You gotta pay homage to your heritage no matter where it comes from, even if you just don’t really agree with the business model. They did a lot of things right in order to become so large, and they learned how to sell and prospect like crazy and build a culture of people that were getting on the phones all day. So, shout out to Northwestern. And they probably helped you come out with a pretty good prospecting mentality, and these are… I can see some of that DNA, and not just you, but a lot of advisors that… If they were successful and in an insurance kind of sales environment, then they can be pretty successful with a better value proposition, your value proposition just gets better as you go independent.

Sten Morgan:
That’s right.

Reese Harper:
Imagine like… It’s kinda hard, you’re selling one of the worst things to sell when you’re selling permanent life insurance, the story’s bad.

Sten Morgan:
That’s a lot of people that don’t really need it yet either… Yeah, it is.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. Yeah.

Reese Harper:
I have been doing a lot of research lately with how many people actually value FinTech platforms versus value working with a human, and I was surprised to see how many people actually still really want human intervention. Accenture’s research recently that was published said only 17% of XYZ generation wanted a purely digital experience. There was… Everyone else was either some hybrid of human and personal or exclusively human, like no digital, and… The no digital was only 17% on the opposite end, so the middle of 60 in change which can… Don’t over index on the percentages folks, but the middle was like I want some kind of both, digitally-led service model, but human specialists. And I was talking to Bob Berries yesterday about this too. His vision was future specialization. What you’re saying is some form of specialization, you’re talking about advice specialization here, where you’ve got a good cost segregation background, you have a really good stock options background, you’ve got a really… In my case, it was like, I knew dentistry so well that if someone came into my office, I was just like, “Tell me what your collections are,” and done, they’re our client, ’cause… Yeah, I mean…

Sten Morgan:
Yeah, you know I was feeling like [0:15:37.2] ____ for advisors is I tell them you don’t have to be an expert in all these ideas, like I know enough to be dangerous on cost segregation but then the CPA actually does it. I know enough to be dangerous on R&D tax credits to recognize the opportunity, and that’s all you need to do is be the one…

Reese Harper:
You need to be the expert in how to communicate with people, I think though. I mean you’re right, it’s hard to just ask good questions and listen.

Sten Morgan:
Asking questions, but I think at the end of the day… Yeah, anybody can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple. And so what we do on our whiteboard videos, and we’ll have this up for your listeners too, it’s stenmorgan.com/whiteboard, is we’re gonna share some of our videos, which are essentially just me at a whiteboard explaining topics. And every advisor, when you go through your initial meeting should have five to seven ideas teed up in your fact finder that when you get to that point, you could stand up and educate, because that’s the experience you wanna give. Not, “Hey here’s who I am, let’s talk about the three legged stool in my business and how we’re so great and independent. Oh, by the way, what are you looking… ” Like that is so generic. You have to have a different experience, then that’s where we’ve spent a lot of time and energy.

Reese Harper:
So I’m gonna give you an example of a way that I’ve been testing. And part of this research, I went to a friend who ended up investing in our seed round, he was the VP of Product at Wealthfront and he told me that they did a lot of marketing tests at Wealthfront around financial planning and getting your house in order and getting your financial house organized. Whatever the… You name the campaign around financial planning. Prepare for the future, get ready, get a plan now. And he just said that was a really, really hard market to… He said they couldn’t get a consumer to really react to that message, and he was just like… This is like a year ago, as I was describing to him what I was trying to do at Elements, he was like… You know this… I can just see his gut kinda get sick around this financial planning concept.

Reese Harper:
This financial wellness and health kind of idea, ’cause he just like we just tried. He’s like, “I don’t think consumers are interested in it.” And it’s, I threw a couple of things by him that I thought might be better messages, and one of them was comparing people, like I just said. What if I have a data point like a house and I say, “How many people who make what you make, or who are your age, have a house that makes up this percentage of their net worth or that cost this much, or what their mortgage payment is?” And he just lit up and he’s like, “Oh my gosh, we do a ton of analytics on… Are we… I’ve seen that work a lot. People wanna know how they’re doing…

Sten Morgan:
Exactly.

Reese Harper:
Compared to other people. And when you were… Fundamentally, I guess I was just curious if you think that in and of itself, if you happened to have… If you work with business owners, like you said, and you said there’s… You could say, I’m gonna teach you about cost segregation, that’s one way to attack it, or you could say, you’ve probably heard about cost segregation. If they say no, you go, “oh let me tell you about it.” If they say, “Yeah, I’ve heard about it,” then you could still go deeper there by saying, “Well, it would be interesting to see how you actually filed that and compare it to some other people I know who have done cost segregation studies and see if there’s anything else we could do to make an adjustment to that to take advantage of your depreciation a little bit better, and I can look at some data I have and compare you to other people that have done that.” Immediately, there’s still now some meat on the bone, like if they happen to know your topic, but if you have enough data to bring context and say, “That’s great that you’ve done that, but let’s make sure it was done right, and I could compare it to a bunch of people like you and your situation, kinda see if we need to make an adjustment.”

Reese Harper:
I think there’s something about the power of lots of data that really does still speak to the consumer because they’re still making decisions in isolation, and as an advisor, if you’re making decisions in isolation on your own subjective opinion, they still don’t trust that enough. But if there’s a large pool that we can pull from, then… Anyway that… I’m feeling… I haven’t implemented that yet in the user interface of Elements, but I have felt like there’s pain for some reason in that that’s real and actually valuable not just to convert people to leads, but help people guide advice. So in a world where you run out of ideas, you don’t have any more tips, no cost segregation could… How do you see the world of comparisons in your opinion? What is that world and is that just a gimmick? I wanna just know your brutal feedback on it ’cause I’m trying to make a decision on this.

Sten Morgan:
Yeah, I think when I hear you talk about the studies, those numbers, about the big middle of people that want that hybrid experience, I think people are willing to be educated and empowered in a digital way, but when it comes to the trusting and the execution, I think that’s the personal side of it, so I think I… That’s what I see, is that it’s like, Hey, before someone ever gets to us, what’s equipping them to make better choices and have more confidence. But when they get to the person that they say, I’m not gonna argue how valuable you are to have, I just wanna have somebody. And then that’s the whole question about where does advisors fall in the spectrum of value and how much are they charging based on the complexity. But for us, I believe people solve big problems, not small problems. So for us, it’s up to us to help them identify the big problems.

Reese Harper:
The big ones.

Sten Morgan:
Yeah, because if I say, “Hey, Reese, you should do this thing that’s gonna save you $20.” “Hey, I’m busy. I’m running a business. That doesn’t… ”

Reese Harper:
Yeah, they don’t care. It’s not gonna move the needle, right? It doesn’t matter.

Sten Morgan:
It doesn’t. If I say… You know what we do in our business, when I use the whiteboard is I’ll say, “Hey, do you know if you fund your SEP IRA, it’s gonna save you 15 grand a year. You know, if we do that over the next 10 years, that’s 150,000 dollar idea.” Oh, yeah I should think about that. So I think part of it is, when you think of the point is how can you expand the point-to-point, so it’s actually a bigger value than what we’re using is just like a one-year decision.

Reese Harper:
Well, when you’re doing that partly by quantifying the result of the item, I think advisors miss that a lot, like they don’t get credit. They don’t get credit.

Sten Morgan:
You don’t have to have all the data. When I’ve talked to advisors, like I don’t know enough about cost seg it’s like, just use round numbers. Just say, “Hey, you have a million dollar building and if they accelerate the depreciation, there’s a chance it saves you a 100,000 to 200,000 dollars in a year.” “Oh, that’s great.” We’re gonna need to dive into that and actually do a study of your building, but I’m still putting a number to it so that you know how valuable it is and it’s worth your time.

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Sten Morgan:
I think it can kinda go down your path, it’s like, what’s the way of putting value to a decision so that people realize that’s worth my time, versus, “We know, hey, you should fund your Roth.” It’s like, “I know I kind of should. And that sounds like a good idea, but then life happens.” Well, you know, if you fund your Roth, it’s this. I’m gonna assign a dollar value to that decision so that you get to decide… Yeah, that’s worth my time or it’s not. And I don’t think most clients realize the compounding effect of their decisions. We have to help them identify that.

Reese Harper:
In this benchmarking and comparison context, I look at it too at like what’s the weightiest or the most grievous part of someone’s balance sheet or cash flow that’s just at a macro level, really off? If you can demonstrate that through data and comparative analytics as opposed to just like a subjective opinion, it strengthens even further. Like you said, the advisor, I don’t have the data, and we can give ’em a round number. That’s still good. But if you could actually say, “Look, of these six cost segregation studies I’ve seen, the average savings was 132,000 and your building is slightly higher than the median price of these other six,” so now it’s just like, dude you’re so dialed ’cause you’re… They’re kind of skeptical sometimes at the sales approach, advisor’s gotta be in fast talkers and loose in their advice. I think if you can bring a little bit more rigor. And that’s why I went down with these dentists in this Elements Framework that we started. Well, I think it was largely because of the skepticism of that market around precision around… ‘Cause they don’t know much about money, so if you start talking real quick, you’re over their head, and some people will buy if they feel like you just are smarter than them.

Sten Morgan:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
But most people won’t trust you until they feel like they understand who you… And trust is built through understanding, not through talking a lot, and so I feel like adding value first come to that macro big lever level. And that might be as simple as… I found it to be as simple as… What’s the average… If I’ve got someone with debt, say, “Let’s look at your debt and kind of get a sense for where the weighted average maturity is across all of your loans.” And they’re like, “What’s that?” I’m like, “Oh that’s the time that it would take to pay off every debt if we kept the cash flow payments the same and snowball them. But there’s three ways to snowball, and we would wanna just look at, in your case, which one was actually the most efficient way because as you know, interest expense can be a big factor. It slows down our savings rate and makes it not possible for us to grow our assets as quickly.” And they’re just like, “Sign me up, I guess, ’cause I don’t… ”

Sten Morgan:
What I love about what you just said was there was probably four coaching opportunities in there for the client.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay.

Sten Morgan:
I was like there’s so much opportunity to teach them something, even if it’s a small little nugget. And add that value and…

Reese Harper:
You’re not coming in a weird… You’re coming at a substantive place for them too, you’re not like some generic thing they’ve already heard 100 times, right?

Sten Morgan:
Right, but I’ve… We give this book to all of our advisors in our coaching community. It’s called Getting Naked, Patrick Lencioni.

Reese Harper:
Oh yeah, that’s a cool one.

Sten Morgan:
Oh yeah, I love his books. The fable side of it, but it’s really, give away your best stuff often, you got them. The advisors that are two meetings in still talking about the alpha and their portfolios like… I gotcha. In the book we just released, Wish I Knew That Sooner, is full of a bunch of ideas that most advisors wouldn’t share ’cause they’re worried the client would do it on their own or to find another advisor. And what do you think those clients do when they hear those idea’s from us?

Reese Harper:
I’ll just call you.

Sten Morgan:
Sounds great, will you help me do it? That’s why, every advisor listening, I’m telling you, give away your best ideas, be generous with your process and your time, run a good business, but be generous. And people are just gonna say, “Okay, where do I sign up?”

Abby Morton:
Something I often struggle with as an advisor is knowing if I’m doing enough. I tend to wonder, do my clients think I’m worth what they are paying me, or am I delivering enough value? Having used the Elements Financial Planning System for over two years now, this system provides me with the peace of mind we all need as advisors. Your clients can receive professional, easy to comprehend scorecards focused on key indicators of their financial health. They can actually see how your advice is improving their life. With an occasional update from you, they’ll know you’re right there with them watching their progress. So come check out Elements at getelements.com/meet.

Sten Morgan:
If somebody comes in for a meeting expecting to be sold or they’ve been… Most of these people have interacted with an advisor at some point, and I’m up at the whiteboard and it’s full of ideas by the end of the meeting, and they’re like, “Wait, we aren’t even working together yet, like, how do I pay you?” That’s the experience. Put yourself in the client’s shoes, going somewhere and get your mind blown with ideas and value, that’s the person you wanna work with. And so we coach a lot around, how do you use a whiteboard, how do you illustrate complex topics in a simple way, so that even your first meeting, second, so it becomes where clients… When I call a client, say, “It’s time to meet,” they always come, because it’s not just, “Oh, he’s gonna try to sell me another insurance policy or mutual fund.” It’s like, “No, we gotta go,” like this is gonna… “It’s worth our time.” And that’s what we help advisors cultivate. ‘Cause when I was 24 starting over in this business on my own in a cold market, I wasn’t getting a lot of plate appearances, like I had to close the deal.

Reese Harper:
So you had to sell them.

Sten Morgan:
And so I had to make a process where I closed 95% of the people because I just blew them away.

Reese Harper:
I wanna… Here’s a… This is contrary to… This could be perceived as conflicting with your advice there, and I just wanna get your… See how you would reconcile this. So in general sales, they talk a lot about… Especially when it comes to something strategic, a strategic sale, where knowledge is part of the transaction, they talk about not giving away too much, or you gotta leave some meat on the bone, essentially. So if I wasn’t following your program and I was just following my gut feel, my gut feel would be like, tell them about cost segregation generally, but not say whether I thought it made sense for them, but talk to them about that. That’s what I’m gonna analyze, like that… If you become a customer, then I will get personal with you. I’m giving you an idea by just saying, “This is one of the five things that I’m gonna be analyzing,” but I’m not gonna give away closure on the advice because that’s too quick. I actually do need to take in some more data, I do need to take time. Is your advice to do fact finding there, essentially do a full… Not a full discovery, but let’s say in the cost segregation example, ask for the building value, ask for the debt on the building, and then in that meeting, talk to them about… And say, “I think this makes sense, and here’s probably how much you’d save,” or is it somewhere short of that? Do you need to leave some meat on the bone for them to sign that advisory agreement or…

Reese Harper:
‘Cause I feel like there is a level you can reach where your conversion rate is not gonna be as good if during that meeting, a client perceives you to just be throwing out all your best stuff and hoping that then maybe they convert, and they’re like, “Man, he tried to give me a lot of ideas, but I felt like he was out of ideas.” I don’t wanna get to that place, because now they think that I am an idea monkey, and just pull the lever and an idea pops out, and truly, I just want them to buy my brain on the ideas. Do you agree with that generally? That’s my philosophy. And then I’m curious how, if not or if so, how are you applying that in your method?

Sten Morgan:
Yeah, and I think this is the… For a Star Wars fan, it’s the Jedi mind trick of what we do, is that all the information I have, I always give as much value as possible. So if I’m in the first meeting and they’re building a building or own a building, I’m giving them as much as I can up to what I know. In the meeting too, if there’s a chance that I can get more data between one and two where they might sign the agreement, I’m gonna come to that next meeting and give them real numbers before they sign up. Because I’m gonna be able to say in that next meeting, and I know ahead of time, “I’m gonna charge you 15 grand this year. But Hey, by the way, there’s a free idea that just saved you 50.” So the first meeting is a fact finder, I call it a strategy meeting, I’m getting as much info while coaching where I can and dropping these nuggets, but now I’m equipped between meeting one, two or three, to get a little more data, so I can actually personalize the quantification of the idea. So by the time I put a proposal in front of them, I’ve already saved them probably 5X what they’re paying me. If you can do that, the close rate’s 100%.

Reese Harper:
You’re just saying, “Look, man, I’m solving as many problems in advance of getting that advisory agreement as possible, regardless of… ”

Sten Morgan:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
That is my closing tactic, it’s give away as much as possible, which is kind of a marketing mantra in today’s demand gen world, that’s a big…

Sten Morgan:
Give, give, give, ask. Give, give, give before you ever ask. And so if somebody’s like, “This is great,” and you’re telling me that I get to work with you for the next 12 months, and in two meetings, you’ve already done this, those are the clients you want. And the good news is that one thing about financial planning fees, is if somebody balks at the fee and you do your process right, you never wanted to work with them in the first place.

Reese Harper:
Like a dentist advisors, when I have a prospect coming in, they have already been through that whole psychology, they got podcast to that for six months with free content, they got 16 eGuides and been to two events, and I didn’t even know that they had been through all… We just have this marketing engine that’s running. And so for us, we actually don’t solve any problems in that fact finder, because there’s been so much value delivered, so much value. If we start solving the problems right there, we’ve actually found that the conversion rate takes longer for us. We would just be like… We’re at the signing table, they’re ready to sign, that’s why they showed up on our calendar, and we’re like, “Here’s our process, here’s what we do, here’s how it’s gonna work, these are examples of things we’re gonna figure out. Do you wanna sign?”

Reese Harper:
And we found that when our advisors would go further and they do fact-finding right at the beginning, like it’s actually reducing the client’s likelihood to sign, because they were already sold, they… We had given away so much value, they’d felt it, they were there to sign, and then…

Sten Morgan:
I think what happens is you walk into a room with such a calmness, because you’re not there to push anything, you’re there to serve them with great ideas. And what’s amazing is that it’s like, I’d say this to clients, “Whether you work with us or not, this is what I would do.” Or, “Hey, if we’re a good fit for each other… ” All of sudden they’re like, “No, we are good… I do wanna work with you.” All of a sudden you’re not selling anymore, you’re saying, “Here’s a bunch of great ideas, and most likely, if you’re a good fit, you’re gonna say, hey, can I be your client?” And for a year, that was my hope, some day as an advisor, I would say, I would get to choose if I work with somebody or not versus, “Hey, if you fog this mirror, sign me up,” which is where I was for a long time.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, man, that’s awesome. I think this has been a fascinating conversation ’cause I think you are… My audience and your audience are actually… They’re in very similar places, and sometimes I forget, coming from where I came from, where I spent 10 years trying to get a content marketing program functioning really well, that it really is all about the trust that’s happening pre-sale. And if you’re meeting someone for the first time, and it’s just… You’ve gotta find a way to get trust, you’ve gotta find a way to give away value.

Sten Morgan:
We were talking about the industries. Every once in a while, you will bump into somebody that just happens to do business with you because they just need to and want to, and you happen to be the only person they need. But if you wanna do that, you’re not gonna be successful very fast. You need to tip the odds in your favor that when you get somebody, even if there’s a big gap in their mind, then we bridge that gap, and they’re like, “Wow, you’re the person. I trust you. You’re generous. How do we work together?” And that’s the vibe we help our advisors that we coach, and again, almost every advisor we meet is struggling with that. They have a good heart, they wanna serve people, but they don’t know how the process should go to communicate that.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, well, the way you’re advising… Content marketing program is really expensive to build and it’s super-time-consuming. Not every advisor has the ability to do that or wants to do that. What I love about what you’re doing is, you’re just saying, “Look, man. There is a hard work, roll-your-sleeves-up approach that works here.” I mean, I’m just jumping to conclusions here, but I’m seeing referral-based marketing, I’m seeing just get someone in a room, do a dinner, and you can build a big business really fast, if you just have the right conversations, take advantage of those moments, and you don’t have to build a big old marketing program to accomplish that, right? You wrote a book, you have a content marketing program for your firm. I’m sure your other advisors want that, but you don’t have to do that. And you can either go down that road and you’d have to spend a lot of money and maybe it’ll work if you are really good at content marketing, but you can still build a really big business with just like mano-a-mano, sledgehammer-to-a-pine-tree sales, and…

Sten Morgan:
I was in my 20s in Nashville, cold market, didn’t know anybody. And I built my business by educating attorneys, CPAs and being the most generous, knowledgeable advisor they knew, and I would go to them with specific ideas. So I meet a CPA and say, “Hey, do you have any clients that are business owners that own their own real estate? Do they know about this idea? Oh, they don’t? And do you have any clients that have developed their own software? Are they taking R&D tax credit?” It’s like we have to narrow our focus and get specific with our ideas, so that people think about us when something happens. And that’s why hopefully… And then we’ll put a link hopefully and some of you can follow up, it’s stenmorgan.com/whiteboard, ’cause if your advisors listing can learn how to use that, and coach in their first meeting and give ideas away, they’ll change their business.

Reese Harper:
I agree with it, man. Well, I love this angle, it’s a really valuable thing you’re doing, and it’s very helpful. Communication skills, adding value without expecting to get paid, not making excuses for why you can’t go get new clients, but just get on the phone, start walking around, meeting people in your city. There’s just… I feel like sometimes in today’s internet world, everyone’s making excuses for how they can’t build a company, and it’s literally like, get a population center of more than 10,000 people and you’re fine. You don’t need to be in Nashville to make it work. For your…

Sten Morgan:
A big part of it is, is you may think it’s not possible, but you’re gonna look back and somebody’s actually doing it right now.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, I like that, man. Well, it’s been a pleasure to chat. Me and you could go for a few hours on this, and I appreciate you giving me a chance to ask some of my own questions about the way you’re working. Besides sending people to stenmorgan.com/whiteboard, what else would you want them to know about how to get in touch with you?

Sten Morgan:
Yeah, it’s stenmorgan.com, the advisor side of that is where we just give away good ideas, and the Elite Advisor Network is our community, and we have advisors that are like, “We just wanna walk with you, get the ideas from you and get coaching from you.” And so we are kinda selective about who gets in that, so if people wanna jump on, sign up to be on our list, then we can always vet them for that.

Reese Harper:
Alright Sten, I’m excited to connect next time you’re in Park City, let me take you to dinner.

Sten Morgan:
Alright. Love that.

Reese Harper:
Look forward to hanging out, we get it soon. Later.

Abby Morton:
Next time on Elementality…

Reese Harper:
I think people wanna feel good about today, about where they’re at now. Sometimes there’s a lot of philosophy in what we’re trying to do here, and one of the things we’re trying to do is keep people from obsessing about the future or beating themselves up over the past, like, try to be as present-minded as you can. And being present to me is… It’s more difficult to be present when someone paints a picture of the future to you that’s super concrete. I see that a lot, where someone says, “Well, this is gonna happen if you don’t do this.”

Reese Harper:
I’m like, “There’s actually a hundred different scenarios that could pan out between now and even the next 30 days, so don’t project that yet.” My goal is to take it one day at a time.

Abby Morton:
You can learn more about the Elements Financial Planning System at getelements.com/meet and schedule a time to speak with one of our friendly Financial Planning Experts. Elementality’s executive creators are Reese Harper and Chad Jardine. Elementality is produced by Abby Morten and directed by Jordan Haynes. Have a good one.

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