Charlotte Beyer - Contributor

As they enter a car showroom, how many prospective buyers, when approached by the showroom salesman say, “Why yes, you can help me. What sort of car should I buy? How much should I pay for the best car for me?” This analogy may be an exaggerated one, but not far from the truth in the world of investors seeking advice.

As one baby-boomer investor, upon receiving a sizable inheritance, bemoaned, “I have almost zero understanding of finance, never an interest of mine, nor did I feel compelled to know.“ An investor seeking advice faces a phalanx of salesmen, too many of whom see this investor as ‘assets to be gathered’ or worse, the next commission check.

Here is what success looks like according to a high-net worth investor:

“What is most gratifying to me is that I now know enough so I avoid being the center of a feeding frenzy of salesmen.”

Here are five steps toward what success might look like to an advisor:

1. The advisor does not let a prospective client hire them until insisting that the investor interview other firms. An investor who does not know the difference between fiduciary versus suitability, planning versus investing or discretionary versus non-discretionary, for example, is not going to make the best decision.

2. Asking searching questions about the investor’s personality,their goals and prior relationships with advisors, the advisor discovers insights on how the investor will work with their firm. If an investor has ever fired an advisor, explore why. If an investor has never had an advisor, what are expectations for frequency of phone calls and meetings? An investor’s level of self-awareness helps the investor answer these questions – and is vital if the ‘right fit’ advisor is to be found.

3. By insisting in early meetings that the advisor talks less than the investor, the advisor may at first find this a very uncomfortable switch because many advisors feel they must fill any silence with opinions or wise pronouncements about the markets. The investor, however, must first reveal their expectations, just as the patient must describe symptoms, or the doctor cannot prescribe, much less cure.

4. The advisor prepares specific goals for the investor’s wealth before any formal documents are signed. Then the signature is a leading indicator of a loyal and well informed client, not just a ‘sold’ client.

Many who work in the wealth management industry claim they offer ‘solutions’ or ‘goals based investing.’ Too often, however, those goals and solutions are not revealed or finalized until after the advisor has landed the new client. This is not the optimal situation. Imagine deciding on a doctor without first knowing just what what specialty that doctor should have?