Your Biggest Regret in this Career

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Achiever's picture
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In life, I've realized that I've made so many mistakes and most of them could've been avoided. Growing up, I've had tons of parents, friends and mentors who've advised me with the breadth and depth of their knowledge and tried to help me "do it right" and not repeat their mistakes. But being a young man who his own dreams and ambitions, I was either too confident, too ignorant, too apathetic or a combination of all three to heed most of their advice. As I transition into adulthood, I realize that, I too, am trying to mentor my younger brother, my friends and those who I care about. I relate to them my own experiences so that they don't have to endure the unnecessary suffering that I had once faced and fought. Life is a humbling experience and we learn something new everyday. While it is nice to learn for yourself and experience the world on your own terms, I am also mature enough to realize that advice and knowledge is one of the most precious gifts one can endow another and it should truly in my best interests to listen and appreciate.I'm sure all of you all trekked different paths and climbed different mountains to achieve the success you all currently enjoy. But the important thing is that you're (most of you anyways) are there now and you've built your businesses from scratch. On your ways in establishing your careers, what have been your biggest regrets? If there is one thing you could've done differently, what would it have been? For example:-It could be the client who was "the one that got away...," who had the assets to really augment your AUM-It could be avoiding that silly mailing campaign that really tarnished your reputation-It could be that you should've focused on seminars very early into your career-It could be that you should've really purchased that nice-looking BMW sooner so that you could impress your clients-It could be that you should tipped your CSA more from the beginning so she didn't treat your clients like crap-It could be that you should've worked 60 hours instead of 80 so you didn't get burnt outWhat were your biggest regrets in your career as a FA? I know part of this career is learning by experimentation to find what works and what doesn't work for myself. But at the same time, I've realized that I am just one man. I am a man who is vulnerable in making the same mistakes as everyone else. I am a man who can probably better himself by learning. I would be truly grateful if you guys could share with me some of your own experiences so that I don't fall into some unforeseen traps and make unnecessary mistakes on my way in establishing my business and my career.I would appreciate any feedback. It would be honor to learn from the best of the best.

planrcoach's picture
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Joined: 2006-12-13

I scrapped and scraped to get those first few clients. There is so much to learn. The one thing I would have started doing much earlier would have been to have more frequent contact with folks once they became clients.
As trained planners, we do good work and set folks up well - maybe too well, so things can be on course for more of an annual basis.
I'd have had more frequent contact just calling up, checking in, more phone and less in person every meeting ( they teach "planners" not to be like "brokers" and do everything face to face, which is less important as time goes on.)
I'd have kept folks more conservative (at least 40% bonds and fixed, or 50 -50, or 60 -40), starting in the mid 90s, would have been nice in 2000!
Smart question, Achiever, hope you get some gold nuggets.

Achiever's picture
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Joined: 2007-02-15

Thanks planroach!I don't have much experience to speak about your second point with respect to investments but the first one is definitely something I will try to focus on.I'll try to input all my clients into some sort of database and it will ideally have all their information. Hopefully, the computer will then remind to call them at least once a month or periodically as time permits. Additionally, I will also try to send out birthday cards, anniversary greeting and Christmas well-wishes. It will definitely be easier since I am getting started in the business to start doing this since I am adding clients one by one into this database and not doing hundreds at a time. Updating and maintaining this database will be a chore though. If I can afford it, I'd definitely try to pick up Bill Good's Gorilla marketing system which does everything I just said, professionally. But the damn system costs $10,000...

Achiever's picture
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By the way, how often do you suggest that I maintain contact with my clients? Once a week? Once a month? I know that it all depends on the client and the situation and that there isn't a hard-set rule with this. But at the same time, if I want to impress the socks off of my existing clients and really dig for some referrals, what is the appropriate amount of contact? I don't want to saturate them either and have them annoyed... Should I call them once a week, also e-mail them / mail them periodically and try to have dinner once a month? Would that be appropriate?

4luvofmoney's picture
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Joined: 2007-02-12

Hmmm, here's a novel idea but since you didn't ask other brilliant minds who may not be an fa, I'll give you this gold nugget, all at no extra charge:
How often do you keep in touch with clients?
Hmmm, that's a tough one.  Oh my gosh, oh well, here goes for what it's worth:
ASK THE CLIENT!!!!  I can easily answer this as a potential client since I'm not an fa and have no desire to be one -- although if I didn't have to beg friends, families or do cold calls and had prospects coming to me much like a customer going to a store to buy something--then maybe I'd consider it - anyway that's the best answer here.  I tend to communicate at work via e-mail and after getting slammed by other squadrons who didn't appreciate the written word, I've learned the best way is to consider good customer service and ask "How would you like for me to communicate with you?  Hop often?  Via phone call, email, letter, arrange for inperson visit, meet for lunch?"  ...and be willing to "adapt" to what the customer wants.  If they say "don't call me, I'll call you" -- then honor their wishes and leave them alone but tell them you make it a practice to follow up with clients at least once a year and what their commuication preference is and honor their preference.  This is the best advice you'll get on this topic.
Another thing:  I've gotten Christmas letters from insurance agents, mortgage loan officers, realtors--this means nothing: unless you can pick out a really cool card --then yeah, it might be a good idea.
Create your own Access database: pick up a book on learning this yourself.
BTW, how's it going -- getting any portfolio action these days?
 

4luvofmoney's picture
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oops, underlined implied.

planrcoach's picture
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Forget spending 10k on anything. My brief impression of Bill Good's thing is that 90% is the idea itself - just get a good database program like ACT and you are set.
When we start our business, we can think spending money on stuff will give us a return, we just need to do the activity of making new relationships itself.
At first, contact every client at least quarterly by phone. Later, you can just do that for the top, active clients.
A newsletter, if it is prewritten and easy, and inviting everyone to a regular client even lunch, or whatever is good.
 
You can find reasons to call clients and just check in and talk about some little thing.
What I have found after twelve years is, at some point you need to get out of the prospecting mentality, and put 110% into the relationships you have - and get all of your new business by referral off your existing clients. And you say, " help me out - let your friends and family know I am here to help. I think research shows some kind of contact every six weeks is optimal.

troll's picture
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Joined: 2004-11-29

"It would be honor to learn from the best of the best."
Well, that leaves me out.
And my biggest regret, listening to the guys in my office who thought they were "the best of the best." Not to mention taking the words of a firm that I wanted to believe was "the best of the best."
I know that it sounds like I'm being snarky, but in this case (while I am trying to keep it somewhat light) I'm being completely honest.
And now that my fingers are warmed up! Doing what the firm said was the next great thing. There were the limited partnerships, and the closed ended funds and the fee based accounts (which they are still hawking and they are still just on the cusp of a negative news cycle that is going to put half the brokers out of the business again!) Others that don't jump to mind. 

4luvofmoney's picture
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As a potential "client" not being an fa and all, I'll add to what plannercoach said: "sure everyone likes lunch" and I totally agree REFERRAL is best (we all have more respect doctors and most lawyers who don't advertise, don't we?)...word of mouth is excellent advertising but then some people, even friends, are suspicious of that and think that "hmmm, what's in it for you-you must be getting a discount"...   A newletter certainly isn't too pushy and might be good, too.  I do business with USAA and get a USAA magazine.
So I'll add to what I said before:  go with your "instincts".  If you feel the client is turned off by your six week contact, then back off.  Sometimes the client might prefer "don't call me, I'll call you."
My point was if you're too pushy, it is a turnoff.  But forming a good relationship as plnrcoach says is definitely very good advice (getting to know the client as an individual is really very good advice).  Keeping a tickler file so you know more about a client is good..."eg, wow, you remembered my daughter would be starting college and great, yes, you're right!  I wanted to do more planning for college expenses...". 
In summary, if you're getting vibes that you're being too pushy, you might need to back off and use a different strategy.  Re: referrals, mention that if the client is happy with your services, you'd appreciate them letting others know (simple as that).  Then again, some may want to know "exactly what is this fa doing for you, what are your returns...3-5%, you don't say!--hmmm, I'll pass." 
 

Achiever's picture
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4luvofmoney wrote:BTW, how's it going -- getting any portfolio action these days?All is quiet on the Western Front, unfortunately... 4luvofmoney wrote:Hmmm, here's a novel idea but since you didn't ask other brilliant minds who may not be an fa, I'll give you this gold nugget, all at no extra charge:
How often do you keep in touch with clients?
Hmmm, that's a tough one.  Oh my gosh, oh well, here goes for what it's worth:
ASK THE CLIENT!!!!  I can easily answer this as a potential client since I'm not an fa and have no desire to be one -- although if I didn't have to beg friends, families or do cold calls and had prospects coming to me much like a customer going to a store to buy something--then maybe I'd consider it - anyway that's the best answer here.  I tend to communicate at work via e-mail and after getting slammed by other squadrons who didn't appreciate the written word, I've learned the best way is to consider good customer service and ask "How would you like for me to communicate with you?  Hop often?  Via phone call, email, letter, arrange for inperson visit, meet for lunch?"  ...and be willing to "adapt" to what the customer wants.  If they say "don't call me, I'll call you" -- then honor their wishes and leave them alone but tell them you make it a practice to follow up with clients at least once a year and what their commuication preference is and honor their preference.  This is the best advice you'll get on this topic.
Another thing:  I've gotten Christmas letters from insurance agents, mortgage loan officers, realtors--this means nothing: unless you can pick out a really cool card --then yeah, it might be a good idea.
Create your own Access database: pick up a book on learning this yourself.
BTW, how's it going -- getting any portfolio action these days?Thanks for the advice - that's actually an excellent suggestion I should keep to heart. Often times we get caught up in wanting to be professional, suave and confident that we forget to do the most obvious thing. I'll definitely deliver my expectations up front on what I can offer and then directly ask for how much contact they're looking for and settle on an optimum amount.
4luvofmoney wrote:As a potential "client" not being an fa
and all, I'll add to what plannercoach said: "sure everyone likes
lunch" and I totally agree REFERRAL is best (we all have more respect
doctors and most lawyers who don't advertise, don't we?)...word of
mouth is excellent advertising but then some people, even friends, are
suspicious of that and think that "hmmm, what's in it for you-you must
be getting a discount"...   A newletter certainly isn't too pushy and
might be good, too.  I do business with USAA and get a USAA magazine.

So I'll add to what I said before:  go with your
"instincts".  If you feel the client is turned off by your six week
contact, then back off.  Sometimes the client might prefer "don't call
me, I'll call you."

My point was if you're too pushy, it is a turnoff.  But
forming a good relationship as plnrcoach says is definitely very good
advice (getting to know the client as an individual is really very good
advice).  Keeping
a tickler file so you know more about a client is good..."eg, wow, you
remembered my daughter would be starting college and great, yes, you're
right!  I wanted to do more planning for college expenses...". 

In summary, if you're getting vibes that you're being too
pushy, you might need to back off and use a different strategy.  Re:
referrals, mention that if the client is happy with your services,
you'd appreciate them letting others know (simple as that).  Then
again, some may want to know "exactly what is this fa doing for you,
what are your returns...3-5%, you don't say!--hmmm, I'll pass." 

Absolutely: going by instincts is probably the best method. Like the way in which every client is different and requires a unique financial plan, I should contact each person according to the situation. But then again, as a newbie soon-to-be starting at a wirehouse, I don't really have institutional memory and past experience to refer to. That's why I kind of wanted to ask current brokers and current clients, like yourself, what you've found optimal. That way, I can always use that as an appropriate guide in case my instincts cannot give me a definitive answer.

Achiever's picture
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Whomitmayconcer wrote:"It would be honor to learn from the best of the best."
Well, that leaves me out.
And my biggest regret, listening to the guys in my office who thought they were "the best of the best." Not to mention taking the words of a firm that I wanted to believe was "the best of the best."
I know that it sounds like I'm being snarky, but in this case (while I am trying to keep it somewhat light) I'm being completely honest.
And now that my fingers are warmed up! Doing what the firm said was the next great thing. There were the limited partnerships, and the closed ended funds and the fee based accounts (which they are still hawking and they are still just on the cusp of a negative news cycle that is going to put half the brokers out of the business again!) Others that don't jump to mind. If you've succeeded in this industry and have established your business after the first couple years of trials and tribulations, I'd definitely have the utmost respect for you and your tenacity. That's the way I see it and those successful FA who "make it" are indeed the cream of the crop.If you're suggesting that I should take everything with a grain of salt and not subscribe to the opinions mindlessly, then I agree. I will definitely think about every piece of advice I get and consider whether or not the suggestion is truly "right" for me as opposed to following through unconditionally. However, I simply do want to learn about others, hear about their mistakes and better myself through their experiences. If anything, I get a better perspective of the industry. Worst comes to worst, I waste a couple minutes of my life listening to someone's sob story. But chances are, the mistakes others have made and their advice to me is something I should probably appreciate. Even if I only manage to avoid one mistake from listening to the experiences of two dozen others, the avoidance of that one mistake is worth it in my mind.

4luvofmoney's picture
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I agree.  I like learning from other's mistakes, too and it's unfortunate that people really don't like to share their wisdom and experience that much and we all have to learn from "hard knocks" when (if only) someone would have shared.
I've learned that if you work for someone, you really don't have any "freedom" (not while you're at work).  So, not even being interested in the fa biz but an interest in good writers brought me to this site since I like creative writing (may eventually take some classes) - I've learned that it's best to strive to get your own franchise if your firm allows this.  Working for someone is fine if you have a good, fair boss that you can respect.  I went to a dr's office and the lady at the front office said she worked "with" the dr--I like this way of thinking since referring to a boss always denotes that they are your superior--even though we know it's true since they can make or break you.
So that's my best perl of wisdom.  Stay out of debt yourself so you have more FREEDOM and if you have a bad boss, you can tell them where to go.  But if you're in the military, anyone with an extra stripe (or cluster, if an officer) than what you're wearing is your boss, Yes Sir!     As far as LT's go, they don't know nothing and depend on Senior NCO's to do everything for them.
I can tell that you are very intuitive and will do well in your career.

4luvofmoney's picture
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If you want to learn more about people, watch Survivor and the Apprentice because it's true, people do form alliances, backstab and the like.
The Human animal is a mixture of good, bad, ugly and just when you think someone might be bad and ugly, the good will appear or vice versa.  The Human animal can and will always catch you off guard.  Best advice is to be a good person and be nice to everyone (anyway).

tri$mom's picture
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" QUOTE  So that's my best perl of wisdom.  Stay out of debt yourself so you have more FREEDOM and if you have a bad boss, you can tell them where to go.  But if you're in the military, anyone with an extra stripe (or cluster, if an officer) than what you're wearing is your boss, Yes Sir!     As far as LT's go, they don't know nothing and depend on Senior NCO's to do everything for them. QUOTE"
I second what you say regarding NCOs and LTs.  I would also say that even as a company commander, you're only as good as your SNCOs.  Your job can be much harder is your SNCOs don't trust your leadership.  This is true not only in the military but also in the corporate world.  Your job as a manager is soo much easier when the people reporting to you know you "have their back".  That can be translated to the customer as well.  Let your customers know that you'll do what is in "their" best interest and that you're not a "one size fits all" fa. 

troll's picture
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" I will definitely think about every piece of advice I get and consider whether or not the suggestion is truly "right" for me as opposed to following through unconditionally."
What I mean more was the experience of having guys who were naturally strongly opinionated (otherwise they wouldn't be in this business) who would tell me how NOT to do the business and why all of my ideas were recipes for disaster. (Some of them were but many more were not).
There is an insidious negativity in this business that comes dressed as "Positive Thinking".   Many people use language of "Strength" to crush your position. They use phrases like "best interests of the client", "keep it simple stupid", "product knowledge is a trap", "work smarter not harder", etc etc as a set of clubs. (Not meaning specifically you tri$mom). They all translate down to the same saying "My way or the highway!"
Realize that you are smart enough and you have the survival skills to be successful in all phases of this business (choosing investments, dealing with clients, creating business etc etc). Create your business philosophy and work it. That's all.

planrcoach's picture
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 They all translate down to the same saying "My way or the highway!"
Realize that you are smart enough and you have the survival skills to be successful in all phases of this business (choosing investments, dealing with clients, creating business etc etc). Create your business philosophy and work it. That's all.
And I think you said you are transitioning after many years of being affiliated in a more structured, corporate setting. You speak words of wisdom.
One of the greatest joys of this business is building your own. After all, this could be seen as somewhat geeky stuff - being a planner/investment advisor. Then, egos get involved as professionals need to differentiate themselves with " My way or the highway."
Also, you some issues with this being a male dominated or influenced industry. Having started out in the old culture of the steel industry myself, if was fun to see how that industry modernized a little in term of being a little more culturally evolved. So any time you see sublime vestigates of things like gay bashing, sexist attitude toward women, controlling behaviour or putting down behaviour on the part of veterans towards the next generation of professionals, you are really seeing ego, or ignorance or boredom, sometimes couched in a " My way" package.
A big irony is, it appears this industry is a little slow in evolving - I hope everyone is sharp enough to distinguish open mindedness for political correctness - know what I am talking about in terms of your comment about:
There is an insidious negativity in this business that comes dressed as "Positive Thinking".   Many people use language of "Strength" to crush your position.
That set of clubs. The irony is, we are engaged in the highly spiritual business of helping people with their money, and we do have a moral obligation not to be Neanderthals about it.
So now you'll realize the joy of remaking yourself in a creative fashion, in the name of survival.
All of this talk will likely piss off a couple of characters here that come to mind, too bad. I know where I stand and am unafraid, remember no one is required to read every post.
But you have so much to contribute, and things happen for a reason. ( Like needing to move your book.) Obviously a positive leader and influencer, and a deep thinker.
 

vbrainy's picture
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Joined: 2006-07-26

Achiever, you are spending entirely toooo much time here.  Pick up the phone or meet some people. 

planrcoach's picture
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" Also, you some issues with this being a male dominated or influenced industry. "
Edit: Also, there are some cultural issues ... 

BondGuy's picture
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Joined: 2006-09-21

Achiever, this biz is a sales career. By the way, that's a positive. We use a sales process to uncover individuals wants and needs. It's as professional as you make it. Or not.
Those not in sales do not understand the process. From their POV they don't want to be sold. Ask anyone who is looking for a car if they want to be sold a car? All will say no, yet all will buy a car. All will be sold. Same thing here. People need our help, yet they don't want to buy anything. From our POV we are helping these people. The sales process uncovers the need, scales the wall of trust, and delivers the solution to the client. A large part of your job is to overcome their reluctance to the process. 
If you have any hesitancy about sales get over it now. Or fail. Wait for people to buy and fail. Figure out how to thread the needle of those not wanting to buy and your needing to sell something or fail. What's the drop out rate in our industry today? Now you know why.
Starting out you need to be proactive, not passive. You need to concentrate on activities that put you in front of as many prospects as possible. You need to develope a process that delivers prospects to your doorstop. That's all you need to do for now. Everything else is wasted energy. Referrals, client contact rates etc are all in part two of the program. Part one: get some clients.
Lastly, as well intentioned as some of the posters to this thread are I caution you against taking the advise of those who are not in the business. Building a successful FA advisory practice or succeeding as an FA with a large firm is a complex undertaking. While one customer's POV might be interesting to read, it's not something to incorporate into your business plan. Like a top chef opening a restaurant you need to offer your entrees based on your recipes, understand not everyone is going to like it, and stay to course attracting those who love your menu. Those who don't like your cooking are not your prospective clients.
 

BondGuy's picture
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BondGuy wrote:
Achiever, this biz is a sales career. By the way, that's a positive. We use a sales process to uncover individuals wants and needs. It's as professional as you make it. Or not.
Those not in sales do not understand the process. From their POV they don't want to be sold. Ask anyone who is looking for a car if they want to be sold a car? All will say no, yet all will buy a car. All will be sold. Same thing here. People need our help, yet they don't want to buy anything. From our POV we are helping these people. The sales process uncovers the need, scales the wall of trust, and delivers the solution to the client. A large part of your job is to overcome their reluctance to the process. 
If you have any hesitancy about sales get over it now. Or fail. Wait for people to buy and fail. Figure out how to thread the needle of those not wanting to buy and your needing to sell something or fail. What's the drop out rate in our industry today? Now you know why.
Starting out you need to be proactive, not passive. You need to concentrate on activities that put you in front of as many prospects as possible. You need to develope a process that delivers prospects to your doorstop. That's all you need to do for now. Everything else is wasted energy. Referrals, client contact rates etc are all in part two of the program. Part one: get some clients.
Lastly, as well intentioned as some of the posters to this thread are I caution you against taking the advise of those who are not in the business. Building a successful FA advisory practice or succeeding as an FA with a large firm is a complex undertaking. While one customer's POV might be interesting to read, it's not something to incorporate into your business plan. Like a top chef opening a restaurant you need to offer your entrees based on your recipes, understand not everyone is going to like it, and stay to course attracting those who love your menu. Those who don't like your cooking are not your prospective clients.
 

Advice, Iknow iknow iknow iknow

planrcoach's picture
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Eloquently stated, Bond Guy.
The referrals, and the more subtle implementation of ideas (selling) come later. Without survival, you never get to that part.
The selling of cars is changing, though. A lot of consumers, like me, do their research and find out which cars have the best service record, safety, value - and then narrow it down to model, color, dealership - there is a little wiggle for paying a premium for the relationship, though, and cheerfully at that.
I think the "wirehouse culture" does promote some sort of male dominated competitive selling behaviours that are a little out of step with the times. I'm not just talking about feel good stuff here - I think the market is just destroying this old culture of selling at people - versus true, professional, consultative selling.
Of course, what happens is that a lot of otherwise good folks who start the career end up feeling like cheap, dirty salespeople, and in some cases the training environment is no less than self interest.
So, newbies, choose your training environment wisely.
Not to dilute one word of Bond Guys admonitions, Achiever. You still have to suck it up and cut the mustard.
 

planrcoach's picture
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Exactly, blarm, even sitting on the couch.
Achiever wisely said:
I know part of this career is learning by experimentation to find what works and what doesn't work for myself. But at the same time, I've realized that I am just one man. I am a man who is vulnerable in making the same mistakes as everyone else.
It is the little techniques of the craft, the negations (stopping at one) and affirmations (having one) that define success.
Sharing best practices with your peers at all levels of success is a 24/7 "buzz" that transcends waking and sleeping, working and relaxing.
(So thanks for the bold thought, Achiever.)
 

planrcoach's picture
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(posted in the wrong string.)

tri$mom's picture
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I agree with you Bond Guy that this is a sales job.  Having been in a competitive sales arena for 10 years, theres a lot that is learned from experience.  And not every client can be treated equally.  Some will believe what you say just because they like you, trust you or believe you know what you're talking about.  Others will want the details of where you got your information and why you say what you say.  Knowing how to treat each customer based on what their level of "need" is comes from experience and depending on the customer, asking them what they want (I have some customers that would laugh at me and say, isn't that you're job to tell me what I need to know! if I was to ask them what they "needed" from me.) 
But I do believe that if you treat other people with respect and do what is right by them, you'll succeed and sleep well at night.  That goes for life and business. 

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