My articles published in for financial advisors

FYI in 2007 I submitted the following articles to, a digital library designed to accelerate business development for financial advisors.

You can apply any of these articles to your business or service.

1.  10 Tips for Distinctive Client Service   Distinctive client service separates you from everyone else who talks about professionalism but doesn’t deliver on it. Take action with these 10 tips from a recognized, distinctive financial professional.

2.  4 Principles of Selling in the Trust Business  Selling defines success. Nothing else is more important in your business. So what is this notion of the trust business?

3.  How to Act With Courage   Excellence springs from courage, but not everyone chooses to be brave. These advisors share how and why they acted with courage, and how it benefited their business. Consider their insights into the nature of courage, and start using it to build your business, too.

4.  5 Keys to Solid Cold-Calling Performance   If your prospecting strategy requires you to consistently make outbound calls, you must pay attention to these five vital elements of a strong cold-calling practice.

5.  Customer Delight: 8 Tips for Creating It   This top producer creates more than customer satisfaction. He creates customer delight. You can too, with these eight tips.


Call me at 704.895.6479 to discuss HOW you can apply these great ides to your business!

How to increase your sales

Too many “sales experts” have fuzzy theory and fuzzy results.

Here is a template that I have developed over time.  It works great.  Steal this template.  Call me for details if needed.


  1. Accountability is a hard task.  Most people hate it.  Most salespeople really hate it.  Most software, like Salesforce or Act or the latest app, is a pain to use.   You can use this excel spreadsheet, or a pad of paper.  Start now.
  2. Accountability determines success.  The three top words in sales are “relationships, relationships, relationships.”  Use the attached format to build relationships, be strategic, provide value.  Or not.
  3. These 4 roles determine sales:  champions, economic buyer, technical users, consumers.  You need all 4.  Complex sales evolve.  They only succeed when you focus on all 4 roles.
  4. All successful sales people have accountability metrics and teams.  Do you?

Call me at 704.895.6479 or contact us or subscribe today.

High pay vs. Low pay marketing

Since 1997, I have been delivering value to clients.  That fact means that I market and sell my services every day.  In everything I do and say…

Years ago I coached a new franchisee in the Sandler Sales Program, called President’s Club.  Pat needed to distinguish between high pay and low pay activities, because he is distractible.  (Like most small business owners.)  I helped him increase his business over 300% in 6 months.  He had to do so.  I strongly recommend the President’s Club content.  And I strongly recommend re-visiting the President’s Club content, which is what I did yesterday.

High Pay marketing activities are those that will likely lead to relationships and higher value sales.

  • direct meetings with qualified prospects
  • direct meetings with referred or pre-qualified prospects
  • invited speaking in your area of expertise
  • cause marketing in your area of expertise
  • networking with buying agents
  • invited writing as a credible expert

Low Pay marketing activities are those that will likely lead to transactions and lower value sales.

  • email marketing
  • direct mail marketing
  • interruptive advertising
  • paper and digital advertising
Last week I met a local marketing expert, Shelly, who provided a circular model of marketing services she could offer her clients.  Imagine spinning the Wheel of Fortune with as many colorful options.  I appreciated her ideas, but felt dizzy.
Last week I also met a financial advisor who had been a member of MDRT, the Million Dollar Round Table, for 11 years straight.  He was exhausted. His marketing system required that he deliver seminars to local retirees who needed to invest in his estate planning solutions.  He wanted to know if there was something else he could do that would yield similar high results, but be easier.  I said, “No.  Nothing is simpler.  Thank God.”
He give me a strange  look, and asked, “What do you mean?”
I explained, “If you want great compensation, then you need to provide high value.  The laws of marketing require that.  When we give great value, then and only then we receive great value.  You know that better than most, who dream of being at the MDRT level.   What you need is a regular kick in the ass.”
He agreed and hired me to coach him.
You can too.  Call me at 704.895.6479 now.
So, are you engaged in high pay or low pay marketing?

WTF Coaching

WTF stands for “what the f____”     It’s a swear word.   You should know that.

I swear by this:  WTF stands for “What’s The Focus?”

When you FOCUS on providing great value to people, then you will do so.

When you focus on cheating people, then you will do so.

WTF Coaching is a process of intentionally focusing on positive outcomes in your professional and personal life.

We ALL need WTF coaching at times.

No one is successful when they are alone.  Teams are successful.  The myth of the solo-preneur is dead.  Every successful client and alliance partner that I know of has a tremendous support team providing sales, marketing, delivery, assessments, etc.

Throughout history, our WTF Coaches have helped us become successful.  They help us keep our focus.

I currently work with 2 peer WTF Coaches, because I need more help than many 🙂

So, who is your WTF Coach?

10 Tips for Distinctive Client Service

Distinctive client service separates you from everyone else who talks about professionalism but doesn’t deliver on it.

You can use these 10 tips from a recognized, distinctive financial professional. They are relevant for any service professional, from consulting to sales.

Every financial adviser talks about client service.  You may even state that client service is one of your “top priorities.” You may even have a poster on your wall or mission statement that emphasizes how much you value client service.

I say, “So what?”

Clients don’t care about posters or mission statements. Your clients and prospects want to know what makes you distinctive.

So be distinctive!  For example, one of my coaching clients, Mary, is very successful.  In fact, she was just recognized by her clients for the excellent service she provides.  Though it seems to come naturally to her, Mary was asked to prepare some comments on how she creates amazing client service for a panel presentation in Hilton Head, S.C.

Hundreds of financial professionals aspiring to her level of success listened for nuggets that they could apply to their businesses to gain an edge over their competitors.  Here’s the list Mary presented at the meeting.

Perhaps her tips—and my commentary on them—can help you develop a new level of distinction in your client service.

1.    Create a professional environment. Start by taking an objective look at your work environment. Over 90% of effective communication is nonverbal.

  • Listen to the unspoken message. What is your environment saying to others? There are experts in office design and feng shui. Most of those experts provide a free consultation.
  • Let surroundings reflect your values. You need to create the environment that reflects your values. If you want a yellow room with sofas and cold drinks that promotes small talk and building relationships, invest in that room. If you want leather wing-back chairs and a flat-screen television showing MSNBC that promotes quick decision making, invest in that room. Physical spaces make a tremendous impact on people.

2. Go the extra mile. Meeting distinctive standards of appearance may include investing in some cosmetic improvements, like having your teeth polished, getting laser eye surgery, or even having cosmetic surgery. Do whatever it takes to look your absolute best.

  • Get strong. If you convey robust strength through your physical presence, you will gain trust. Yes, it’s true: people buy more from those who are more physically attractive.
  • Be healthy and robust. Improve your physical appearance by eating well, sleeping well, and exercising regularly. If you’re lucky, your parents or grandparents taught you what to do. If not, invest in a personal trainer or wellness center. Read any bestseller by Dr. Andrew Weil. Our bodies are organisms in natural decay. What can you do to improve your physical health and appearance?

3.    Demonstrate professional behavior. All effective businesspeople have the basics of the professional demeanor down. They know how to:

  • Lean forward
  • Use good eye contact
  • Take selective notes

If you lack those skills, hire a business coach or accountability partner. You can learn from them. To become distinctive, you may need to practice additional behaviors.

The most important behavior is to become comfortable with silence. What do I mean by that? You need to shut up and listen! God gave us two ears and one mouth to use in at least that proportion. Practice being Quakerly. I worked in Quaker environments for nine years. It took me that long to become comfortable with silence. One of my coaching clients, who speaks too often, recently went to a Quaker meeting as a homework assignment. You might want to try the experience, too. There is something magical about shared silence. It can build relationships and lead to sales.

For instance, in your business, just after you state your fees for services, you need to become silent. Just after you state your recommendation for that fund, you need to become silent.

Why? Because the next person to speak becomes the buyer!

If you fill the silence with awkward comments, or a feature or benefit dump, you will lose the sale. As soon as you become comfortable with silence, the prospect will speak and invest. I call this a Quaker close.

Here are some more familiar client service tips:

2. Maintain a professional appearance.  All professionals need to perpetuate a professional image. That is a given. I want to push you beyond business suits and well-groomed hair. Those are minimal standards of appearance.

3.   Deliver more than what you promise.  Make sure that you return all calls within the day.  Be early for meetings.

4.    Gain knowledge: Read, read, read! Because you are reading this article, I know that you want to learn. There is plenty of great reading material online.  Find great websites.  (FYI I am a contributing author at Horsesmouth.) If you spend time staring at a television screen, you could be spending better time staring at a laptop screen. If you are working within a company like Mary, it can provide a list of great books on investing and product knowledge. Set a reading goal. Mary reads two books a month on average and keeps three open at a time. Be an active reader.  She takes notes and writes book reviews and sends them to her clients. Reading should be interactive, not passive!  Go public with your opinions. Add your review to Amazon or any online bookstore. Include your contact information so that people know how distinctive you are. Share your favorites. Buy dozens of your favorite inspirational books and give them to your clients

5.    Gain knowledge by interacting with others. One reason for seminars and conferences is to force people to interact. In fact, your most valuable seminar time may be those transition moments in lobbies, elevators, and meals. Engage others as if they were prospects, by asking about their business success. A great opener may be, “I am focused on making my client service distinctive. What do you do that is distinctive?” People buy chutzpah. We all have chutzpah. When you share chutzpah, people will be attracted to you. For instance, Mary is an introvert, and practicing chutzpah is difficult for her. She makes calls from a private place. She closes her office door, and her assistant does not interrupt her. Sometimes she sits under her table because, she says, “It feels safe there.” When she engages someone on the phone, she stands up and walks around her office. At other times she hangs from a pull-up bar in her office, using her headset, because it gives her energy over the phone. You can become that person with the light in their eyes who is actively listening to someone.

6.    Share your knowledge. Mary used to follow the old advice “Fake it till you make it.” Now when she encounters a question she’s not sure about, she says, “I don’t know the answer to that question, but I will get back to you ASAP.” Then she finds the expert who can answer the question, thus expanding her own expertise and encouraging her clients’ trust.

7.    Treat others as if they were family. If you have older clients or prospects, take care of them as if they were your parents. If you have clients or prospects who are younger than you, look out for them as if they were your children or cousins. Respect trumps all obstacles.

8.    State your investment recommendation clearly. Mary used to provide multiple choices, background information on fund managers, and hypothetical spreadsheets. No more. People became confused. They hesitated. Now, Mary directs people to the fund that best suits their needs, and explains, “This is the best fund for you because…”

9.    Write articles for local readers. In Mary’s town, everyone reads the local paper, and she submits articles to it regularly. She uses articles straight from compliance and includes her headshot to be published alongside the piece. These informative articles always lead to warm prospects who say, “I’ve seen you somewhere before.”10.    Host birthday lunches. Among her many marketing tactics, Mary hosts bimonthly birthday lunches at a nice restaurant. Clients need to RSVP and are invited to bring guests who must also RSVP. Her clients love the attention. Not only do these events build the ties that bind, but they also generate both referrals and review meetings. For Mary, these pleasant get-togethers are fun—and productive.

The bottom line?  You can become distinctive by examining how you serve others, writing down your service values, and acting on them.

Mary has a list of her top five values on a dry-erase board in her office. She looks at it several times each day. It’s more than a reminder; it’s an affirmation. She tells all her clients and prospects, “Nobody provides better service than me,” and then she lives up to that claim daily. She cultivates relationships with accountants and attorneys. You can too.

Do it with chutzpah!

And when you need help, contact us at or call 704.895.6479.

Fee Ranges for Consulting Services

Let’s reduce some mystery in the consulting industry.


Annual revenue from management consulting in the U.S. was over $58B in 2016.


Question:  How much should you invest in your team or group?

Answer:  Enough to guarantee that your outcomes are exceeded.  Not a dollar more.


Use these Organizational Consulting Activities and Fee Ranges as a guideline.


1.  Consulting Day Onsite.   Fee Range $3,000-$10,000.  The primary reason to invest in external consulting is to accelerate desired change behaviors.  The services may include (1) assessments, (2) coaching or consulting, or (3) skills training.  Those services may be for individuals, groups (defined as 2+ people), or organizations.  Be wary of consultants who bill by the hour, because that practice is transactional and inherently unethical.  Be wary of consultants who offer an “in-town reduction,” or who charge additional fees for books, materials, or excessive travel.  Only select external consultants who provide tremendous value, clear contracts, expected outcomes, and then exceed any promises.   We typically provide three choices.   For details click here.


2.  Consulting Day Offsite  (research, data analysis, assessment development, etc.)  Fee Range $1,000-$5,000.  The primary reason to invest in such consulting days is to enable an expert to customize evidence-based content for your organization.   Be wary of consultants who charge an excessive fee for research on your project.  Those consultants may not be subject matter experts-  they may be billing you for their self-study.  That practice is both expensive and unethical.  However, it is fair and reasonable for any consultant to provide a summary of value provided for any offsite consulting work such as customization, research, or data analysis.  We always include those expenses in our value-based contracts for services.   Click here for details.


3.  Keynote or other brief speech.  Fee Range $2,000- $15,000.  The primary reason to invest in a motivational speaker is to introduce a new topic or to accelerate learning.   For instance, when we speak on “How to Apply Positive Psychology to your organization” the material is customized for your specific learning outcome.   Too many professional speakers (including some distinguished members of the National Speakers Association who endlessly self-promote) are struggling to survive.  (We have met many of them.  In fact, Doug’s brother, Stuart Gray, was featured on the cover of NSA Magazine.)   Only select speakers who can provide video evidence of their relevant expertise.  There is little evidence validating a long term impact from any motivational speaker.  The real value of speaking is to integrate customized learning into your business outcomes.  For recent details on our speaking expertise click here.


4.  Half-day workshop.  Fee Range $2,500- $7,500.  There may be a compelling business reason to provide content in a half-day workshop, rather than a full-day workshop.  For instance, when we provide workshops we integrate virtual or digital training into the process, with pre-event assessments, a digital playbook, and post-event impact boosters.  Those are evidence-based aspects of our process; therefore, we provide them at no additional cost for a workshop of any length.  Some consultants will have additional expenses if, for instance, we have 200 attendees instead of 20.  Those are real costs for assessments, customized program materials, group coaching, etc.  Be wary of any leadership program that is “off the shelf.”  There is little evidence to support their value.  And be wary of the assumption that a consultant can “condense a full-day into a half-day.”  That assumption is absurd.  Half-day workshops have different business outcomes from full-day workshops.  For details on each workshop design, contact us here.


5.  Full-day workshop.  Fee Range $5,000- $15,000.  Only select proven consultants who provide tremendous value.  Adult learners require meaningful experiential events.  Anything else is a waste of time, money and energy.  Leader development must be customized if you want impact.  Consider these facts:  Your operational investment into your full-day workshop is multi-fold.  The direct costs of the facility ($5,000) plus the direct costs of 20 people away from their desks ($20,000+) plus the real business lost from that day ($20,000+) mean that your investment in that full day workshop for 20 people actually exceeds $45,000.  We strongly recommend that you invest in expert consultants facilitating a complete process of pre-event assessment, customized delivery, and post-event impact boosters tied to business outcomes.  We have delivered hundreds of these programs.  For details contact us today.


6.  Executive Retreat, per day.  Fee Range $10,000-$50,000.  Executive leaders have unique demands on time and energy.  They require condensed leadership development experiences.  Those experiences must be remarkable.  We have facilitated executive retreats with private chefs in the mountains, and with professional actors in the city.  The reason to invest in an executive retreat program is to accelerate new learning in short, remarkable periods of time.  The goal is strategic transformation or breakthrough.  The action learning model is designed to foster breakthrough experiences.  Customization for your executive team is critical.  That process requires partnership with external trusted consultants.  That’s why you should call today.    For details, contact us.


7.  Systems Implementation  (e.g. talent assessment, organizational culture change, succession planning initiative).  Fee Range $10,000- $50,000.  Organizational leadership may be defined broadly as a series of phased interventions toward desired business outcomes.  That process requires ongoing active leadership from external consultants.  We provide the objective assessments that you require.  Be wary of any consultants who depend on online talent assessments for lower level employees, or those who sell boilerplate programs.  60-80% of change initiatives fail to be adopted.  Contact us for the detailed citations.  Do not waste any time or money.  Your success requires executive sponsorship, valid assessments (often at individual, team and organizational levels), proven process steps with measures for accountability, and specific expertise.  We are the experts.  We typically provide three choices or a phased set of solutions.   For details, contact us.


8.  Employee or Customer Surveys.  Fee Range $15,000- $100,000+.   Caution:  the ability to create an online survey does not make one expert in the use of surveys.  The primary reason to invest in any survey is to assess a population and make informed recommendations toward some desired business outcome.    Valid data requires external consultants with a reliable process.  Internal “consultants” or departments may be self-serving, because they are required to justify their importance.  Consequently, their survey findings may not be valid.  External service providers are absolutely essential for an objective assessment of your organizational performance.  The scope of your investment in these external surveys must vary with the scope of your business needs.   Assessments are (1) quantitative, (2) qualitative, or (3) mixed.  We strongly recommend that you hire an external consultant for surveys.  Contact us for details.


9.  Strategy Formulation.  Fee Range $50,000- $150,000.  One definition of strategy is a 3-year horizon line of behavior that reinforces the organizational culture.  The process of strategy formulation requires expert facilitators who can assess purpose, mission, values and culture.  External consultants with unrelated expertise may provide the best value to your organization.  For instance, we have worked with attorneys and accountants for 20+ years.  Recently we were hired to work with a mid-sized company of IT providers who required a new way of thinking about strategy.  They were delighted with their new strategy.  Be wary of the consultant who says, “I have no bias.”  We all have biases, and expertise, that will affect any investment in strategy formulation.  Our bias is based on evidence-based research in positive psychology that assumes a growth mindset that groups can flourish.  Our strategy formulation services are always provided in measurable phases with milestones,  so that all parties are delighted.  For details contact us.


10.  Organizational or Group Assessment.  Fee Range $20,000- $200,000.  External consultants are the ONLY people capable of providing objective data about your organization.   Internal consultants have an inherent bias that limits their effectiveness.   We partner with your internal leaders to provide the data you need to make informed decisions, reduce cost, or mitigate risk.  For 30+ years we have provided expert organizational and group assessments.  We know that the best talent assessment methodology includes a multi-rater (2+ consultants) multi-method (quantitative and qualitative) design, because the result has high predictive validity and reliability.  However, your group may only need a quantitative assessment.   Assessments are (1) quantitative, (2) qualitative, or (3) mixed.   Our theoretical model focuses on positive psychology, therefore we make recommendations based on your individual and organizational capacity to flourish.  Then we help you implement those recommendations.    Those details are here.


What are you waiting for?   Contact us today.


Download this list of services and investment levels now:


Now you have some numbers.    So what?


Contact us today.


Or call us at 615.905.1892 or schedule your initial consultation here.