The phenomenon of endless blogs and studies addressing this topic serves only to complicate what is in fact a simple issue. It’s not just the financial services industry that loses clients through poor communication – it can happen across all service providers.
So, are clients petulant and easily seduced away to another provider? Well maybe, but the financial services industry is different in that it deals with money, which is an area of life that is somewhat sacrosanct ? almost as sensitive as the relationship with a doctor. There will always be some clients who are chasing a better return. Those clients are hard to retain at any time. However, given money is such an emotive issue a much greater retention effort should be made with the majority of clients who want to build a trusted long-term relationship.
I listen to many people involved in the financial services industry and they seem to have a technical and results based language all of their own. There seems to be little or no emotionally engaging conversation which is customized to each client. One almost feels like calling out ‘talk to me’ as a human being who has goals, desires and family issues.
Talking to clients about their finances should be seen as a privilege. Every conversation should require the advisor to stop and consider their role in their client’s world. These conversations cannot be ‘one style fits all.’ Conversations need to be based on getting the mix right between investment, financial and personal topics. Knowing how to speak to your different clients and understanding them on a real and tangible level will deliver long-term sustained relationships.
The blind spot for most financial advisors is that they do not really know the communication needs of their different clients to be able to properly engage with them on their unique terms. Further, they do not sufficiently know the financial personality of their clients and how that will be motivating them and driving their biases. This needs to be addressed in decision-making conversations.
The following independent research statistics speak for themselves. Knowing how to communicate and engage with clients is the road to retention.
Lack of communication is one of the top reasons investor clients fire their advisors. Clients do not necessarily need to know if they are up 3% on the market, but they do want to know if they are on track to meet their financial goals. George Tamer, director of institutional sales at TD Ameritrade Institutional
Every client and advisor will have a unique communication style based on their natural behavioral DNA. To be able to develop more effective relationships with clients, advisors need to know how to understand their own and their client’s communication style.
Communication is not just about whether the client wants an email, phone call or meeting, it is also about how each communication interaction is framed. This comes down to setting, tone, use of words (such as goals versus family stability or spending versus savings), empathy, graphics and detail.
To put it simply, every client will approach the first meeting wearing a mask (metaphorically speaking). Advisors who up-front have the behavioral insight to understand how to communicate with the client on their terms will be able to discover what’s behind the mask. Therefore, they will be able to more quickly take the first step to building trust with the client.
Discovering each client’s unique connection to their money at a deeper level will deliver insight that helps you to provide life-time recommendations. Through understanding a client’s communication style you will be better placed to help the client more confidently make key decisions when they are under pressure in market volatility or facing life transition events. Imagine, if you had the framework available at your fingertips to know exactly what to say to each of your clients in review meetings and phone calls if the market went downwards 8% during a quarter?
You will understand hot spots that might surface if your communication style is markedly different to theirs and know how to navigate them safely. You will be better able to separate your own emotions and bias from the client’s actions and decisions.
Finally, understanding communication will enable you as the advisor to have open and meaningful conversations that not only place the client at ease around the sensitive topic of money but will also help you to more confidently and wisely advise your clients to make better decisions at all times.