Discussing financial needs with clients requires product knowledge and also what doctors would refer to as a good “bedside manner.” It is important for financial advisors to know when to let clients speak and when to offer advice and product knowledge. Developing an approach that is suited to the consultative selling process requires patience and practice. There is a fairly steep learning curve, and educating existing and prospective clients requires additional time and effort.
Financial advice isn’t all about “knowing your stuff.” It’s also about understanding the needs of your clients and catering to those needs appropriately. It’s impossible to sell a unique solution to a client without understanding their unique requirements, subjectively. What appears to be the objective right solution may not play well with a client’s particular drivers and roadblocks. It’s not just about finance; it’s also about feelings.
Cultivating a good relationship with your client means spending time with them and figuring out their particular decision-making framework. Clients also like to hear opinions that agree with their own, and understanding what those opinions are can help you tailor your sales approach toward the path of least resistance.
Before you can lead your client toward accepting inconvenient truths about whether or not they should buy that boat, you have to cultivate a bond of trust that allows you to direct your client away from their own bias. To truly advise, you must be able to also tell your clients what they don’t want to hear, and have them believe that following your advice is their best course of action to get to their financial goals.
Hearing out the client
But what about catching those clients in the first place? Having great intentions and a metric ton of enthusiasm may get you in the door, but it’s often not nearly enough to land a client. What is usually enough is proving to your clients that you care about their particular journey and that you are the person that can get them – in particular – where they want to be. It’s not enough to be good at your job; you have to be good at listening to the client.
It’s important to understand what your client is telling you, both verbally and nonverbally. Make time within your proposals to check in with the client or prospect. A lot can be gleaned from nonverbal reactions, and even more can be gathered from soliciting verbal feedback. “Advice” may be the cornerstone of financial advising, but the job requires cultivating conversations.
There is plenty of time to showcase your accolades and parade the industry’s vocabulary past your prospective client. You have to build a platform before you can put on a performance, and it has to be a stable, trustworthy platform that can carry you through many future conversations. This requires that you, not the client, start asking some questions. Figure out who the client is at the heart, what they want to accomplish and what they picture success looks like. Look into why they are seeking a financial advisor, what they think you can do for them and what they have done for themselves until now. Find out how far away from their goal they feel like they are, what they are afraid of, and what their expectations are of your relationship with them, including near and distant goals. You can lay out your low rates and your high returns to try and catch your next client, but you can’t put a price on personalized service.
Investments can be a scary game, and it’s easy for your clients to ride the wave of fear and fervor when it comes to the stock market. It’s important to use the relationship you’ve cultivated so carefully to re-rail your client when necessary. It’s important to remind clients that you have personalized their strategy to fit their goals, their aspirations, and their means.
This is where cultivating that trust really shines. Every new beginning should be about turning a stranger into a secured client who considers you to be a trusted advisor. Laying this groundwork not only helps you build a long-term client base, but it also provides you with clients who believe that you are working toward their goals and in their best interest. A client who is cultivated conscientiously will be much easier to keep on the right track. And that will help both of you find joy in your interactions, from the very first one forward.