Peter Finch as Howard Beale is mad as hell

I want you to get mad!

You say you have a passion for client service? You’re going to have to persuade me.

In 1976 film “Network”, Peter Finch playing the character of anchorman Howard Beale snaps on-air, breaking down into a rant against his powerlessness to save his career and paradoxically triggering a broad public outcry. “All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad.” And succumbing to his emotions, he moved his viewers in a way he never could as a broadcaster. In railing against his failure he succeeded.

Beale revealed that information does not move us, emotion does. Presenting your value to a prospective client needs to go beyond facts and services. Informing your prospective client of the rational reasons why you are a good, even great, choice as advisor is not enough. A niche is a need. Your differentiation is the problem or situation you are uniquely equipped to handle for clients. But you need to go deeper.

In Building a Story Brand, Donald Miller describes three levels of challenge a hero faces. Unmet needs create feelings. Below the problem at hand, the character has to deal with the emotions it raises. Are they up to it? Can they do it? And how? Farther down is the injustice of the situation.

So if you claim to have a passion for serving your client, dig down to that third level.

Go beyond the financial matters at hand. You can create a retirement strategy, minimize taxes, work out the best divorce settlement, start a college savings plan. Go deeper. “Feel all the feels” as my kids would say. Connect with the overwhelm of the retirement transition, the anger over the failed marriage, the confusion of the young parent. Dig down into the feelings. Then rail against the injustice.

I want you to get mad.

Your client has invested a career to create a retirement lifestyle and legacy. This should be a time of eager anticipation not insecurity and fear. A client is forced to grieve the loss of a marriage and the inevitable hurt that goes with it. It’s just not right they have to deal with all the painful decisions and legal complexities at the same time. Young families should not have to worry about all the tax and investment technicalities. They should be able to focus on their kids.

“Go to your windows” Beale urges. “Open them and stick your head out and yell ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.’”

“Are they yelling in Atlanta?” asks head of network programming Diana Christensen. “They’re yelling in Baton Rouge,” a staffer tells her. People all over the country were yelling.

Network is not a happy or optimistic story. It is a black comedy, full of cynicism and manipulation. But it contains powerful lessons about emotion and motivation. What will happen to your prospective clients if they go to a competitor or try to do it on their own? Firms on a mission are not client-oriented or client-centric; they are client driven. Have passion for serving your clients. Dig into what they need and find ways to provide it. Fight alongside them. I want you to get mad.


Need to know what’s on your clients’ minds? Pull them together and find out. And until we can do that again in person, here are some tips to do it virtually you can download for free.

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