Communication is one of the most important parts of being a financial planner, but is it something you’re good at? It’s easy to get caught in the trap of giving every client similar advice. Or maybe you’re giving customized advice, but the way you communicate that information is the same with every client.
In either case, there’s a good chance that something is getting lost in translation. So how do you fix it?
Good communication isn’t automatic
Having productive conversations can be difficult in even the closest relationships. For example, my husband and I are currently working on redoing our backyard, and let me tell you – it has definitely put our communication skills to the test!
Even though we have the same end goal in mind, we have different ideas of how to get there.
I want to hire a professional to do all the work whereas my husband wants to DIY it. We didn’t realize until we started talking that we each had a different vision of what the project would look like.
We both have valid reasons for our project preferences. He is thinking about making memories while we do the work as a family. I’m focusing on how efficient it would be to just pay someone to get it done.
So what’s the solution? In this case, we need to remind ourselves that we agree on the outcome and the overall goal. Knowing that, we can work together to create a plan that we both like.
You can take a similar approach with your clients. When you realize that something isn’t working in your sessions, use these tips to get back on the same page.
Tip 1: Recognize when there’s a disconnect
The first step to improving your communication is recognizing when there’s a problem. Once you realize that your words aren’t having the effect you want, you can make changes.
Don’t feel bad about this; it’s something that can happen a lot with clients. As financial planners, it’s easy to think we’re being very clear and direct when we explain something, but there’s often a disconnect.
You may agree with your client on the end goal, but you might have a different expectation of how to get there than they do. So what do you do when it becomes clear that you’re thinking one thing and your client is thinking another?
Take a step back. Remember what the agenda is. And then refocus the conversation on what’s most important.
Tip 2: Ask the right questions
One of the best things you can do to rectify communication issues with your clients is ask some questions. Open-ended questions are ideal because they allow you to better understand what your client is thinking:
- How are you feeling about your financial goals?
- What things would you like to change?
- What would you like the next step to be?
- How can I best support you?
There are thousands of other questions you can ask, but you can use these as a starting point.
Avoid asking leading questions; they can make your client feel like you have an agenda. Plus, when you have a certain answer in mind, it can make it difficult to truly hear what your client is saying.
Tip 3: Clarify their priorities
If you notice that your client isn’t making progress on the plan you’ve prepared for them, poor communication could be the core reason. Maybe you’re not providing your advice in a way that matches how your client processes information.
Or perhaps your client isn’t clear on how your advice fits their long-term goals. Start by reaffirming your client’s priorities, and then make sure they can clearly see how the plan reflects their interests, values, and goals.
Tip 4: Get to the root of the problem
In order to give the best advice to your clients, you need to match it to their needs. And that often means going a little deeper to figure out exactly what is causing their financial challenges.
For example, if your client is consistently overspending their budget, you need to give them more than just a reminder to rein in their purchases. You need to figure out why they keep going over their budget. Is it because the numbers aren’t realistic for their income? Or maybe the way the money is allocated doesn’t align with what they truly care about.
Start by asking those open-ended questions, and use your client’s answers to determine what’s really causing the issue. Then, communicate your advice in a way that addresses that root cause.
Great communication benefits you and your clients
Communication is a skill we can always improve. And working on your communication isn’t just about explaining things more clearly and avoiding financial jargon.
The real key is making sure you’re communicating with your clients in a way that’s clear to them and that addresses their unique goals and concerns. If your advice just isn’t landing with a client, take a step back and make sure you’re tying your comments directly to their needs and values.
What are your thoughts on communication? How do you improve the way you talk with your clients? Let me know in the comments!
Communication isn’t the only financial advisor skill that takes a while to master. There are countless nuances in this profession that are easier to learn through hands-on experience than with a textbook.
If you’re ready to take your training to the next level, consider joining Amplified Planning CORE. Our innovative program allows you to get key insights from expert financial planners. You get behind-the-scenes access to real-world planning sessions along with documents and deliverables you can use in your own practice: everything you need to hone your financial planning skills.