Communication Tips for the Independent Financial Advisor
One of the most important assets for a business owner to own is good communication skills. An independent financial advisor must not only know how to communicate with clients, but they must also communicate effectively with employees and industry peers. Communicating is the process of relaying a specific message, directive, or intent effectively. Think about the many messages you need to relay on any given day:
- Your company’s goals to a prospective new hire
- The goals of a client’s portfolio to a skeptical client
- The importance of a client returning appropriate paper work timely
- The necessity of following regulations to the letter
- How many shots of espresso you want in your latte
- Your stance on whether the latest trend is safe investing
- The pros and cons of a mentors plan to reinvigorate your business model
And on and on. To be successful, you must develop good communication skills and utilize them daily. Not only must you communicate to others, but you must allow others to fully communicate with you.
Avoid interrupting others unless absolutely necessary. Give your employees and clients a show of respect by listening to their every word. There are some who may drone unceasingly, but in most cases, you’ll do more good for your business by allowing them the time to completely state their thoughts.
Should you need to interrupt or feel that you should to move the conversation along, be sure to summarize their points before moving toward a solution or the next topic. In this way, you can confirm that you were listening or be corrected if you misinterpreted.
Interrupting unnecessarily and continually illustrates impatience with another’s thought process and ideas. This can leave clients feeling they would be better understood elsewhere. This can also ruin positive relations in the workplace, and if you are constantly cutting off the flow of thought in those who are part of your team, you could be stifling creativity and productivity.
Understand that Clients May Not Understand
When dealing with clients, you need to be aware that some (or most) will have less knowledge in the financial planning arena than you do. (After all, they are seeking your aid.) Don’t speak over their heads or act in a condescending manner. Feel free to ask them if they understood everything or if they need you to recover a topic. Keep your antenna tuned to their receptors. Are they giving off hints that they are understanding, or do you need to repeat what you’ve just said using simpler terms? Quite simply put, don’t drive away your clients by making them feel ignorant or unlearned. Value their understanding.
Don’t Take Emotions Personally
Problems with a client’s portfolio can likely evoke an emotional reaction. If you’ve done nothing wrong, don’t take these emotions personally. Simply understand that any type of loss or misunderstanding is frustrating, and it can lead to outbursts or tears. During times such as these—whether from a client or a worried employee—remember to communicate effectively. Do not belittle emotions; they are an important part of being human. Do validate any legitimate concerns (not necessarily the emotions attached) and address any worries. For example, if a customer looks at a report and sees a small dip in her portfolio, she may come in to your office or call you in tears. By talking with her, you can come to understand that her child is graduating high school next year and the impending cost of college tuition is drawing closer. This has her worried. You can address her worries and shore up her confidence in your procedures and plans by going over her portfolio with her. In short, emotions do not have to be a road block for good communication. Refuse to run from them and build long-term relationships.
A sound business strategy is to anticipate the questions or objections you are likely to face. The wording of your marketing campaign, the message left on your voicemail, your business cards and websites, and especially every consultation or meeting with clients will be ripe with opportunities to second guess you and your business. Ahead of time think of answers to as many of these questions as possible. Formulate answers and be ready to adapt them to different situations and clients. Thinking ahead and being prepared are key points in learning to communicate effectively for a successful business.
Communicate and communicate often—even if nothing is going on of importance. Set up a schedule of communications. The most powerful are scheduled reviews of their portfolios. Also communicate by newsletter, email, phone calls, or text messages. Make clients aware of the communication standards at the outset of your relationship. Don’t only communicate about changes or non-changes in portfolios, but set up notification systems to remind clients of things they need to do for you, like returning tax papers, etc.
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