What Clients Want from a Financial Advisor
What do clients look for in a financial advisor?
The obvious answer to this question is a combination of expertise and integrity. The trouble with the obvious answer is that it is the price of admission. Do a simple Internet search for financial advisors or planners in your area, and you will find they all list expertise and integrity as keystones of their professional practices. As a result, a prospect who is making a choice based on just those two characteristics could use a random number generator to select a financial advisor!
In reality, what clients want from their financial advisors varies significantly based on their individual financial and life circumstances. It we consider a relationship business model for financial advice (as opposed to a transactional, pay-for-unit-of-service model), here are some general guidelines.
An ability to listen deeply and connect
The financial advice industry is overcoming a legacy of bad reputation. Couple that with the fact that we as customers are bombarded with sales messages daily, and it is easy to see why prospects tune out the moment they hear a sales pitch.
How do you counter that? By moving away from a sales mentality, and into a listening mode.
A good guideline to use for client meetings (particularly the initial discovery ones) is that the client talks 80% of the time, and you use the remaining 20% to ask clarifying questions. This is very different from the traditional CPA model of spending most of the meeting time giving advice.
Listen deeply with only curiosity as your goal. This can be difficult at first, since most of us have the habit of listening to refute or interject. Use the meeting time to get the information with need, and to connect with the client.
Patience and translator skills
Your clients are not financial planning or investment experts. The most effective way of speaking to them is in their own language.
“Alpha,” “standard deviation,” “reversion to mean,” and “mid-cap growth” are technical terms that mean something to you, through your extensive study and experience. They are confusing and meaningless to the client. Explain strategies and concepts in simple terms – the greater your understanding of the subject, the simpler.
Coaching, support, and accountability
The true value of financial planning and investment advice does not stop with the initial recommendations. Any plan is only as good as its execution! Your clients need you to be there to support the implementation, coach them through tough parts, and ground them when the market inevitably hits a snag.
Your clients are more than their account balances and tax bills. There are matters of health insurance, life insurance, wills, and business succession planning for your entrepreneur clients. Even if you cannot offer all of those services in-house, do not overlook them for your client’s sake.
Clients may come to you asking for advice and recommendations in the areas of their lives that have nothing to do with investments. Do you know a great car dealer? A family lawyer? How about a doctor that you would trust with a knee replacement? Grow your personal and professional network, and your clients will value and appreciate you for it.