As a financial planner, you may fulfill many different roles for your clients. Sometimes you provide expert advice on investment strategies or stocks. Or you might help a client with estate planning or setting up a trust for an heir. Other clients may need you to help them prepare to start a business or move into semi-retirement. To be successful, you must be ready to give each client the support they need, and that often means adjusting your approach.
Sometimes your primary job may be to comfort and encourage a client who is panicking about the market. Other times, you might need to give a little “tough love” to a client who is constantly overspending. Financial planning isn’t about choosing a single tried-and-true strategy to use with every client. Rather, it’s about developing a range of skills that you can use to teach, encourage, motivate and support your clients.
So how do you learn to tailor your approach to each client’s needs? How can you coach your clients effectively and communicate in ways that are meaningful to them? A lot of it comes down to time and experience. You develop your financial planning skills by being a financial planner: meeting with clients, listening to their situations, and developing solutions that work for them. But you can also learn a lot from watching how other planners interact with different types of clients.
Read the situation
I recently had an introductory meeting with new clients: Jeff and Jenny. They’re different from a lot of my clients in that they’re truly financial planning beginners. They have no retirement plan or savings and are living paycheck to paycheck. (Jeff and Jenny are January’s Amplified Planning CORE clients. Join CORE to watch our meetings and learn how I approached their situation).
The first interaction I had with them was so unique compared to most of my other client meetings. Many of the clients I get are individuals or couples who already know the basics of financial management and want help optimizing their investments or making detailed plans to move toward retirement. So my conversations with them typically focus on making adjustments to what they’re already doing.
But Jeff and Jenny are just starting out. In that first meeting, they weren’t ready to fine-tune their investment strategies or diversify their portfolios. They needed the basics: spending, saving, and making a retirement goal. So that’s what I gave them – a direct, to-the-point discussion about their finances.
Tailor your approach
Jeff and Jenny don’t need an investment expert yet. They don’t need me to help them manage millions of dollars or optimize their charitable contributions for taxes.
If I’d approached them from that point of view, chances are they would have left overwhelmed and discouraged. Instead, I thought of myself as a financial coach. My goal was to motivate them to make some changes in their money habits and show them the possibilities of having a financial plan.
When you meet with your clients, it’s vital to take approach them with respect and compassion. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what they need most from a financial planner. Then, modify your language and talking points to give them what they need most from you.
Offer encouragement and motivation
The direct approach worked really well with Jeff and Jenny. They started out thinking that budgeting was pointless: they were living paycheck to paycheck, so why should they even try to follow a budget? But in that very first meeting, we focused entirely on their current situation. I created a budget and ran the numbers to show them what kind of an impact budgeting could have.
By the end of the meeting, they could see a way forward and understand the potential impact of following a plan. They were ready to take the first step toward managing their money.
Their story is such a clear example of how the right approach can affect the outcome, even when it comes to a single meeting. When you focus on truly serving your clients and putting their needs first, you have the best chance of making a difference and leading them toward success.
Giving your clients the support they need
It’s easy to get distracted by all the minute details of financial planning: investment strategies, retirement options, and budgeting models. But effective financial planning is about more than just sharing knowledge with your clients. What they really need from you is support and encouragement. They need to feel motivated and confident to take charge of their money.
To be an effective financial planner, you need to be able to adapt your approach to meet each client’s unique needs. Sometimes your clients will just need you to help them fine-tune their retirement plans. Other times you’ll have clients who are just starting out and struggling to pay the bills each month. The best thing you can do is learn to modify your approach to provide each client with the information (and motivation) they need.
What are your best tips for supporting your clients? Add your thoughts in the comments!
Want to see what financial coaching looks like in action? Join Amplified Planning CORE. Jeff and Jenny are this month’s clients, so you’ll see exactly how I approach them and modify my typical meeting strategy to address their unique needs. Plus, you’ll get access to all the other benefits of CORE, including virtual meetings with expert financial planners and deliverables to use in your own practice. Join AP CORE today!