Jerry Citarella: Quality advice or sales tactics?

How can you tell the difference between quality advice and sales tactics or — even worse — quality sales tactics?

You’d think it would be easy, but far too often even the worst sales tactics, disguised as advice, go unrecognized.

What’s troubling is the potential damage that can result if you are not careful about whom you trust. I wish I could say that financial success and ethics always go hand in hand. Unfortunately, they do not. Couple that with the fact that people generally trust, and even revere, successful people, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Now, I understand the need for salespeople and fully accept their place in society, as well as business. Heck, we have all needed someone to help us get the things we need at some time or another.

But I’m talking specifically about salespeople with only their sale in mind, who may be mistaken as caring and ethical advisers. If you’re going to get the help you deserve, you must be aware of the difference so you can understand the motivations and be open and patient enough to find your answers.

I’m OK with anyone selling a product as long as the people they interact with are aware of their position. Nobody walks into a car dealership wondering what the people working on the lot have in mind for them. Their job is clear. They want to sell you their brand of car for the best possible price.

In many other industries, the lines are not so clear, and in the world of insurance and financial planning, it’s often very confusing. Simply knowing and understanding this concept is the first step in protecting yourself.

Definition of advice
Here are some common definitions for the word advice:

1) Recommendation regarding a decision or course of conduct

2) Opinion about what could/should be done about a situation or problem; counsel

And here is my favorite definition-

3) Recommendation as to appropriate choice of action

The key word for me in the last definition is: appropriate. Quality advice from an ethical and experienced adviser should always be most appropriate for the person seeking and possibly paying for the advice.

A “sale,” by definition, has nothing to do with what’s right or wrong for anyone. It’s the act of exchanging a product, good or service for something else of value. Hopefully both parties get the best of what they need, but in reality that isn’t always the case.

A salesperson’s job is either to convince people who’ve sought him or her out to buy what the saleperson selling, or to find people who may not have sought him or her out, with the same end result in mind.

A true adviser’s job is to uncover real needs and use experience, intelligence, research and concern to guide one to the proper solution. In some cases this would also include leading a client to the appropriate product to fit their need.

To the inexperienced eye, both roles can look the same, especially when part of the salesperson’s job is to convince you that he or she is acting as an adviser. Confusing, I know but don’t let the confusion stifle you — use it to motivate you. Be committed to getting advice that is delivered with the right intentions by someone who is qualified to give it.

For now, absorb this first step: acceptance.

Accept that you need to be aware that not everyone is looking out for your best interest, but there is good news — not just good news but actually great news.

There are qualified, experienced and ethical “advisers” available to help you. The challenge is sifting them out in a world where they may not be the majority. I know you can do it!

In future columns, I’ll clearly identify steps you can take to qualify those who wish to serve you. For now be bold, be brave and be sure to remember that you’re in charge. You’re hiring people to help you. Make them earn your trust. Even if you make a mistake and have to go through the process more than once, don’t worry. Your financial life will last for many years and it’s worth the time to get it right.

Jerry Citarella is the owner of Infinity Wealth Management 23734 Valencia Blvd., Suite 301, Valencia, (661) 255-9555, ext. 11. He is also the author of “The Truth Helps” series of financial planning books. Mr. Citarella’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. Submit questions to: Securities and investment advisory services offered through NEXT Financial Group Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Infinity Wealth Management is not an affiliate of NEXT Financial Group Inc.


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