“A stressed-out client may not be able to communicate effectively.”
One of the difficult issues you will face is that some clients may not want to talk or take advice when they have anxiety. This resistance is something you will need to get past. They must always know your only interest is their well-being, and their concerns are understood. The relationship capital (trust) you have built through every prior interaction could be lost if your bedside manner in the downturn is wrong. Reflect on how physicians, attorneys, and accountants quickly lose trust when their communication is poor, particularly when delivering bad news.
Approaching this scenario as you would change management, you will need to gather and share more stories and examples. Consider getting them to talk with a broader sounding board of friends and mentors they respect. The more they understand the wisdom in sharing information, the more likely they will reduce anxiety and listen to advice.
One of the best ways to get your client to act in a situation requiring a change of energy will be to use the Gestalt language protocol: how to communicate with individuals in a nonthreatening manner so that clients feel like they can share and learn. One fundamental way is by sharing experiences and stories rather than being prescriptive with advice, followed by asking questions about their deeper purpose, passions, values, and identity. For example:
How do you want to show up in the new world?
How do you want to feel in the next stage of your life?
What will be important to you?
Remember that when you or your team interact with the client, understanding, tone, and words will be crucial, along with your inner confidence and authenticity.
You are their leader.
What stories will you share? How will you adapt to each client’s unique communication and behavioral style?
Build a Plan for How Your Firm Will Communicate with Different Clients
“Know how your clients will react to market movements and how their money energy will flow.”
Every client is unique in terms of their behavioral style and how they need to be communicated with. The pressure of stressful times will make this need even more robust.
Conversations are far more manageable when money comes in, and life or businesses are not under threat. Nevertheless, following the “Platinum Rule” of regularly communicating with clients on their terms, not yours, will be critical when there are stressful times.
Firstly, I suggest that you match your team members to the clients based on similar behavior and money styles. The type of energy that is brought to every interaction will be important.
The more self-directed client may only need a quick phone call, email and perhaps a to-the-point meeting.
The more structured client will want more research and an action plan.
Then, the more sensitive relational clients will need a longer but relaxed meeting.
Those who are more lifestyle-oriented will need reassurance with a more high-level response.
An essential aspect of your communication will be actively demonstrating that you have listened in a non-judgmental way. Your entire focus must be on what the client says, feels, and needs. Your mind cannot wander off with your plan, beliefs, biases, and mood.
Even think about having two team members with different styles interact with the client so that the different perspectives can be heard and further understood.
Have you ever been unintentionally triggered by a client when under pressure? Have you got a plan for how you will communicate with each client uniquely on their terms?
Expect To See Some Clients Show Up Differently
“Expect under pressure; you will see some clients do a behavioral flip that you may not have seen before.”
The behavior you may see from a client under pressure will be their natural “hard-wired” DNA Behavioral style. Despite all the socialized learning that may have gone on during their lives, it is hard for anyone not to revert to their instinctive way under pressure. As the coach or advisor, you may not have fully seen it come out very strongly, given that times have generally been good for the past thirteen years since the 2008 GFC and even the past thirty or so years.
Nevertheless, as has already been said, this is the time to hold your ground and communicate with clients on their terms based on their DNA Natural Behavior style.
Also, this would be an excellent time to take a deeper dive into the client’s overall natural DNA behavior and money styles, driving their reactions and future decision-making.
Are they working in a role that is a fit for their talents? They may be mismatched, which causes additional stress.
What is their risk tolerance? It is easy for people to overstate how much risk they are prepared to take in good times. That can cause much pressure in a downturn.
Are they managing their savings and budgets? Have they spent away from their safety cushion? Clients may have incorrectly assumed revenue, or their bonus will automatically flow in some cases. Now, the safety valve is under threat. At a minimum, this could cause mismanaged expectations at home or for leaders with their team, causing stress.
Has the client set goals aligned to their level of motivation and capability? When the “world is on the up and up,” it is easy for people to have an over-optimism bias on what can be achieved. That may be a re-set moment to accomplish the pressure valve.
Further, the business and financial plans may need to be adjusted for other factors such as prior experiences the client has had, their financial capacity, proximity to retirement, level of knowledge, and financial, legal, and family complexity.
Do you know how your clients will behave under pressure? Have you reviewed what adjustments may be needed to re-align behavioral style and expectations?