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Starting A Client Conversation: It Doesn’t Begin with Finance

October 17, 2016

Personal financial can be a touchy issue for many individuals.

Consider this scenario: A client makes an appointment for a financial-planning consultation. As an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®), you ensure the client that you do not endorse, sell or promote any financial product line. Yet, even with this disclaimer, your client still appears edgy and somewhat uncomfortable. Why? What’s going on? You also advised your client that they would be wise to add an emergency fund to their overall financial plan portfolio. What’s the harm in that? You said, “emergency fund” but what your client likely heard was “no more restaurant dinners out.”                             

The takeaway for the professional is to see and hear the Whole Person. Upon meeting your client, begin to understand their perspectives of working with a financial professional. Have their prior experiences been pleasant? Take into account that, you as an advisor, may also be representative of the greater financial industry. Generally, medical and legal professionals, administrators and public officials, and other financial consultants have planted the seeds of success (or failure) with regard to the client’s first impression of you. When meeting with a client for the firsts time, I picture myself as a pediatric dentist meeting with a pre-school patient for his very first dentist appointment. Am I going to begin the appointment with the benefits of a therapeutic root-scaling? No…I’m going to ask the child about her favorite book or toy.

Upon approaching or being approached by a candidate for advisory services, be professional and cordial. Yet subconsciously, tap into the hidden or possible barriers to client trust. Even for clients who are business-like and broadcast their disdain for “small talk”, I ensure you that the interaction will have a greater chance for success if you do not start the conversation with Finance.

Essential elements of relationship-building and dismantling communication barriers include:

  • Bringing attention to areas of commonality (sports, similar tastes in music, etc.)
  • Non-judgmental probing (what is your opinion of Tech Stocks?)
  • Humor (the good, clean, and relevant kind)
  • Unconditional acceptance (Yes, I know, the cost of living has skyrocketed)
  • Being aware of posture (Are my arms folded…am I looking at the clock?)

Uneasiness is especially prevalent in individuals who come to us due to a financial loss or need of immediate advisement. Some clients may even equate asking for help or advice as a sign of failure. By putting ourselves “in their shoes,” we open our perspective and create a gateway to a successful client financial counseling interaction.

As AFC® professionals, we understand and practice the relationship-building process:

  1. Engage and understand the client’s issue.
  2. Establish trust.
  3. Provide appropriate and alternative client-centered solutions.

Remember these three guidelines and start your initial conversation by NOT talking about finance. I think you’ll discover, as have I, that this approach is a highly effective strategy for client engagement, effective resolution and efficacy.

Guest Contributor: Andre Milteer, AFC®


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