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Are You Making This Messaging Misstep?

by Bill Cates

When coaching and interviewing financial professionals on how to communicate their value more effectively – to win new ideal clients – one area that typically needs attention is helping them translate their features into benefits.

It’s an age-old concept that bears repeating and reminding on a regular basis.

In this article, I’ll provide a quick definition and then use The Financial Plan as a way to illustrate the concepts. I’ll also give you a sample word track so you can see how it might play out in real life. Then I’ll challenge you to take different features of your business and communicate them more effectively.


At the end of this piece, I’m going to show you what ChatGPT (Artificial Intelligence) had to say about features and benefits for financial advisors. I think you’ll be impressed. *

The Features

A feature is a characteristic or aspect of a product or service.

A common saying among sales trainers is, “Your customers don’t care about the drill, they only care about the hole.” In this case, the drill is the feature, and the hole is the benefit.

A common feature in financial services is working with a client to create a written financial plan. (The plan is not really a benefit. The benefit is what the plan does for the client.)

When describing your value, if you stop at the features,
you’ll surely lose many opportunities.

The Benefits

A benefit is a positive outcome or result that a prospect or client experiences from working with you, your team, and/or going through your process.

Many confuse features with benefits. For example, I was working with a bank that stated one of their benefits was that they had been in business for 128 years. However, this is merely a benign feature to which the customer will assign their own meaning or possible benefit.

A young prospective customer might assume (correctly or incorrectly) that the bank will have antiquated methods of banking and is not relevant to their needs. An older customer might assume that the bank is in sound financial shape because it has lasted all these years.

The benefit of a financial plan is that the client is now in a position to make the best choices moving forward. The plan brings clarity – which is a universal benefit.

Benefits are in the eye of the beholder.

Only benefits that are relevant to your prospects and
clients will be seen as desired benefits.

The Benefits of the Benefits

The benefit of the benefit is how the prospect or client interprets the benefit for themselves. It’s the feeling the benefit brings to them and/or how they see the benefit playing out for them. 

Most advisors (marketers, salespeople, etc.) never make it to this most impactful aspect of communicating their value, yet it’s the meaning the prospect assigns to that benefit that will make the difference between working with you and not working with you. 

Staying with the example of a financial plan… The plan is the feature. The clarity and roadmap are benefits. The benefit of the benefit typically resides on the emotional level – the roadmap and the clarity result in feelings of confidence, trust, and peace of mind. 

When it comes to having your prospects and clients understand the benefits (and the benefits of the benefits) you don’t want to assume they will do that. You know your process and products so well that you may mistakenly assume that others know what you know. They don’t!

With this in mind…

What might this all sound like?

You know you’re translating your features into benefits when you are saying things like, “What this means to you is…” or “Here’s how this will likely play out for you…” 

In the following scenario, I’m going to continue with the financial plan and add in the fact that we will keep the financial plan alive and ever-present in our ongoing work. (Which I hope you do, by the way.)

One of the cornerstones of our process is to help you create a detailed financial plan that will serve as a roadmap to accomplishing your life’s goals. And unlike many advisors who help create the plan but never look at it again, we will refer to and adjust the plan throughout our time working together.

That sounds good. My friend George told me that creating the plan was truly an eye-opening experience for him.    

That’s great to hear. What this plan will mean to you, I believe, is that by always having a roadmap in front of you, you will always have the clarity of knowing where you’re headed and how you’re going to get there.

Tell me… how does this resonate with you?

I suppose a couple of things come to mind. First off, I had never been very confident that I would be able to retire successfully. That’s beginning to change for me now. Which is huge. And most of all, I think I’ll just have more peace of mind – meaning little or no worry – around my financial future. I can see why George recommended we meet. 

Now it’s your turn!

I encourage you to set aside some time (with your team if you have one) to go through the following exercise:

  1. List 3 to 5 key features of what you bring to your clients.

  2. Next to each, write out one or more of the benefits each feature brings to your clients.

  3. Imagine and discuss how your clients will likely interpret the benefits for them and how you will help them see how these benefits will play out for them.

  4. Write up some word tracks or do a little improvisational roleplay so you gain the confidence to use this process with real prospects and clients.

Now it’s the robot’s turn!

What I asked ChatGPT:
I am a holistic financial advisor. What are the features and benefits of the work I do?

What the robot had to say…
 (I didn’t change a single word.)
As a holistic financial advisor, your work involves helping clients manage their finances in a comprehensive and integrated way. Here are some of the key features and benefits of the work you do:


  1. Comprehensive financial planning: You take a big-picture approach to your client’s finances, looking at all aspects of their financial situation, including their income, expenses, investments, taxes, and estate planning.

  2. Personalized advice: You work closely with each client to understand their unique goals and needs, and develop a customized plan that aligns with their objectives.

  3. Investment management: You help clients build and manage a diversified portfolio of investments that are tailored to their specific risk tolerance and financial goals.

  4. Risk management: You help clients manage risks such as market volatility, inflation, and unexpected expenses by developing strategies to mitigate these risks.

  5. Education and empowerment: You empower clients by educating them about financial concepts and strategies, and helping them make informed decisions about their finances.


  1. Improved financial outcomes: Your comprehensive approach to financial planning can help clients achieve better financial outcomes, such as increased savings, better investment returns, and reduced debt.

  2. Increased confidence and peace of mind: By having a clear understanding of their financial situation and a plan to achieve their goals, clients can feel more confident and secure about their future.

  3. Customized solutions: Your personalized approach to financial planning can help clients achieve their goals in a way that is aligned with their values, priorities, and lifestyle.

  4. Reduced stress: By having a clear financial plan and knowing that their finances are in good hands, clients can experience reduced financial stress and anxiety.

  5. Long-term financial success: By working with a holistic financial advisor, clients can develop a long-term plan that takes into account their current and future financial needs, helping them achieve financial success both now and in the future. 

* Please note:  my broker dealer’s compliance department did NOT check the robot.

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