It’s Not What You Say, It’s What Your Client Understands
Great communication is the key to successful relationships. Advisor-client relationships are no different! Learn the best practices for using effective communication to strengthen your relationships with current and prospective clients.
Published December 3, 2021
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Christy Matzen, CFP®
Director of Financial Planning at Zoe Financial
How often have you heard someone compare the financial advisor-client relationship to that of a doctor or real estate agent? Perhaps you’ve nodded along or even winced a bit at the forced comparison.
While, of course, there is some inaccuracy in these comparisons, the purpose is simply to demystify the complexity of advisor-client interactions. It allows us to understand, for example, how effective communication is the key to making your relationship with your prospective clients stronger.
These five communication best practices will strengthen your relationship with potential clients.
1. Convey Your Unique Value
I know that financial advisors provide value in so many ways to their clients – after all, I was a financial advisor myself. However, let’s face it, sometimes we fail at effectively communicating our value to prospective clients.
It’s important for your clients to understand the real value you provide. It’s not about how you can help them lower their tax bill, maximize their income in retirement, manage their money, or even protect them from unforeseen financial threats. Of course, all of those things are important, but when hiring a financial advisor, that should be a given.
What is most important to convey during introductory meetings is how you can help them increase their peace of mind, reduce their financial anxiety, and improve their quality of life. All this, by owning the responsibility and accountability for their financial decisions.
2. The Best Speaker is One Who Listens
Weird, huh? We usually focus on effectively expressing things with words, gestures, or actions to catch our audience’s attention. We forget that the best tools for communication might come directly from the other person.
If clients are going to trust you with their money fears, hopes, and dreams, then the best reciprocation is showing that you care. Thus, the main skill you should focus on is active listening. Once the client is done talking, you should have a deep understanding of their situation and can, based on that, address the conversation with the right choice of words.
Notice if you are coming up with a response in your head before they are finished talking – this is a sign that your focus is shifting away from them, back towards yourself. If you catch yourself doing this, stop and continue listening!
3. Choose The Right Protagonist
Sometimes, in the attempt to convince clients that we have the right amount of experience and expertise to manage their money, we over-communicate about ourselves. Only talking about our achievements and what we are great at may temporarily impress the client, yet rarely does doing so truly engage them.
The spotlight of everything you say should be on them, how you understand their priorities, and how you can assist them to get to where they want to be. The client is the hero of the story, and you are just the guide to help them succeed. The extent to which you understand this and reflect it in your communication will very likely determine the future of your relationship with the client.
4. Speak in Plain English
Now, you might be wondering ‘How do I do that?’. Well, the answer is simpler than many of us think! Avoid falling into the mistake of believing that you must speak in big words to sound smart and trustworthy. Clients know you’re smart, that’s why they are meeting with you in the first place. But it’s hard for the client to have a conversation if what you’re saying isn’t a part of their vocabulary. Your goal is to demystify the financial terms that have led them to seek out your expertise.
Practically speaking, write down some of the exact words they are using and then reuse them in your responses. Take the time to explain each thing in the simplest way to your clients and make sure that in each step of the relationship they fully understand what is going on.
The best way to know if you’re effectively “speaking in plain English” is if you start getting questions, smiles, or increased interest. If all you’re seeing is the prospective client “nodding along” or dropping “uh-huh”s it’s likely you’ve fallen back into financial advisor speak.
5. Always Close the Loop
Coming back to the doctor-patient relationship analogy, the patient doesn’t know the surgery was a success until the doctor tells them. In the same way, clients don’t know that you’ve delivered your unique value proposition unless you tell them.
Don’t let the rush of getting things done keep you from engaging in the accomplishments. By confirming both quantifiable and qualifiable progress (ie. “You’re closer to X goal”) they will feel proud of the progress you’ve made together, thereby solidifying the relationship for the long term. Believe me, doing this will be the cherry on top!
With all the challenges and responsibilities that being a financial advisor entails, the most important thing to nurture is the personal connection with your current and prospective clients. Focusing on these five communication best practices will raise your chances of creating a strong and lasting relationship with them.
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