061: Carl Richards on How to Simplify Your Appointment Process and Build Trust by Asking Better Questions

061: Carl Richards on How to Simplify Your Appointment Process and Build Trust by Asking Better Questions

In today’s conversation, I grab some time with Carl Richards. For those of you unfamiliar with Carl, he is a CFP and creator of the Sketch Guy column, which has appeared weekly in the New York Times since 2010. Carl and his work have also been featured on Oprah.com, and Forbes.com and he frequently keynotes at financial planning conferences around the world. 

Through his simple sketches, Carl makes complex financial concepts easy to understand and these sketches have served as the foundation for his two books, The One-Page Financial Plan: A Simple Way to Be Smart About Your Money and The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money.

Brad’s favorite sketch by Carl

Carl Richards

Today I’m excited to bring this conversation to you as I’m not sure we’ve ever done a deeper dive into the structure of a proper appointment process on this show and the psychology of why your prospects make the decision to either work with you or someone else.


Here are a just a handful of the things that you’ll learn:
  • [03:46] Why it’s so important to face your fears and do the work you need to do to make the world a better place, no matter how scary it is.
  • [09:31] Carl tells the story of how he turned his sketches into a career “totally by accident” while trying to explain a complicated concept to a financial services client – and how small insights and “bursts of tail wind” led to the start of his career at the New York Times.
  • [20:00] The reason drowning prospects in complexity is a bad sales technique, how clients want to be treated in meetings, and the disastrous meeting with an estate attorney that made this very clear to Carl.
  • [47:12] Strategies you can start implementing today to get present, be engaged, and provide better service both before and after your next meeting.
  • [01:01:00] How to shift your mindset from plan to process – and how to rethink your plans in order to make them as effective as possible.



  • [9:00] Why new and novel work is always scary – and why striving for perfection will never help you grow. 
  • [20:00] The reason drowning prospects in complexity is a bad sales technique, how clients want to be treated in meetings, and the disastrous meeting with an estate attorney that made this very clear to Carl.  
  • [26:59] How Carl discovered the importance of discovery meetings in financial services – and the power of asking the right opening question 3-5 minutes into his first conversation with a new client. 
  • [33:34] Why being vulnerable in a meeting is a sign that you’re doing something right – and how this vulnerability gives you a lens to frame everything around your clients’ goals. 
  • [40:32] The reason great financial services practices are more like therapy than simply a way to sell financial products. 
  • [44:04] Why women in financial services are often better at working with non-dominant spouses in conversation. 
  • [47:00] An example of the power of treating a non-engaged partner in a relationship like a human being – and the incredible insights discovered along the way. 
  • [56:00] How to help clients understand why they need a plan in the first place – and why they rarely want to hear the word “plan” at all. 
  • [01:01:00] How to shift your mindset from plan to process – and how to rethink your plans in order to make them as effective as possible. 
  • [1:06:00] Why Carl and his wife moved to New Zealand, and how this story reflects how impossible it is to stick to long-term plans of any kind.



Behavior Gap

Carl Richards

Complexity Elegant Simplicity

Carl Richards

Set Plan Time Worrying

Carl Richards

Very Little Overlap

Carl Richards




Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.

The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.



Thanks for checking out the latest show, on to this week’s featured reviews!

This week’s first review comes to us from user BenschD who says:

Dave, always awesome reading a review from someone I’ve gotten the chance to interact with personally. Love the work that you and Adam are doing out in Ohio! Crazy to think how we all met years ago after a few DMs exchanged out on Twitter. For those of you financial advisors aspiring to write a book some day, you should go buy a copy of Adam’s book “Off the Record”, one of the best financial advisor books I’ve read and great example of how to make finance interesting for your clients and prospects!

Also, for those of you all listening in that aren’t aware of the incredible #fintwit community out on Twitter, there are some absolutely incredible minds freely sharing their work you should be diving into conversations with… too many to name, but some of my favorite follows include @danielcrosby@iancassel@jposhaughnessy@patrick_oshag@DefineFinancial@jus10castelli@AlexChalekian@TR401@ReformedBroker@MichaelKitces@jfc_3_.

The next review comes to us from user elmorC who says:

Thanks so much for the kind words and review. It’s interesting how many times I’ve heard that the training in our industry often tends to miss the mark as often it’s focused on technicalities and details of financial products vs asking the right questions and listening in order to deeply understand your clients issues and concerns when it comes to finance. So glad to hear the show is helping you and other advisors out there bridge this gap! Thanks so much for listening in and hopefully this episode with Carl Richards helped you out even more on that front 🙂

And the last featured review for the week comes to us from BCLowrey, who says:

BCLowrey, always awesome to hear from a longtime listener so thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on the show! Love to hear that the show is helping you along the path of transitioning from financial advisor to a true CEO that’s running a business, I find that to be one of the biggest struggles that advisors face as they grow. Also, glad to hear you’re finding the show is not only informational but also entertaining, I’ll do my best to keep delivering on that front! Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts.

Ok, as we wrap this show, thanks again for those of you who have taken the time to write a quick review, I love reading each and every one. In fact if you’d like to connect on a more personal level, give me a follow on Twitter, I’m @brad_johnson. Let me know you listen to the show, how you found it, who I should have… etc. I’d love to continue the conversation there!

Take the 1st Step to Building Your Ideal Practice: Apply for “Virtual Discovery Session

For those of you that have interest in diving deeper or figuring out how you may be able to have our team help you implement many of the ideas shared on the show, my day job happens to be consulting financial advisors from all over the US on how to grow their business and design a practice that serves them, versus them serving it. Yes it’s possible to grow your business and work less, this is a model we’ve replicated over and over in markets all over the country… So, if you’d like to apply to see if it makes sense for us to have a 1-on-1 conversation on how to overcome what may be getting in your way, you can do that at bradleyjohnson.com/apply. It takes about 5 minutes to fill out the application so we can understand what your business looks like, what challenges you may be facing and how myself and my team may be able to help. We then dive into a Discovery session where we ask a lot of questions based on your survey. We do a lot of listening, and take a lot of notes to build a rough draft of our proprietary Elite Advisor Blueprint – 90 Day Plan™. Taking the first step is as simple as applying at bradleyjohnson.com/apply 🙂


Already heard it once or twice? Please leave a short review here, and tell me which guests I should have on!




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Content is provided for informational purposes only. Results from the use of these concepts are not guaranteed. For financial professional use only.

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