Getting to the H.E.A.R.T. of the Matter with Clients
by Kim Potgieter, CFP®, and Managing Director, Financial Life Planning Institute South Africa
At our recent Financial Planning Institute of South Africa Convention, I spoke about how advisors can use the word "heart" as an acronym, resulting in a more meaningful relationship between advisors and their clients.
I know that most advisors have the best interest of their clients at heart. The challenge is to demonstrate this to your clients in a sincere and affirming way. The value for advisors is that we are making a difference in the world by making a difference in our clients' lives—we become more valuable to our clients. Instead of having to reduce our fees, we will be seen as an integral part of their lives, not the equivalent of what they can find on the Internet.
Your Client's HEARTbeat
Financial life planning has taught us to better connect with our clients. Our initial meetings with prospects used to comprise wonderful presentations of how brilliant we were, and we were very disappointed when those prospects did not become our clients. We realized that our financial plans, however good they were, were too generic.
As financial advisors, we want to facilitate change in our clients' lives through their money. Clients no longer see our value as telling them what to do, but rather as embarking on a journey where we help them get not only a Return on Investment but Return on Life™. We developed a "connection toolbox" that contains several tools which, when used together, form the anagram H.E.A.R.T.
The Connection Toolbox
Connection starts the minute a client walks through the door of your office—first impressions really do count. At our company, we have chosen to see clients in our offices—it helps if you want clients to see you as a professional, like doctors and accountants. It limits the distraction, and you can focus on your client (no children running around, or phones ringing).
Do you dress to the same formal degree as your clients? It may seem a small thing but shows respect, as does good coffee, a flower on the tray, a kind phone call to inquire how they are. Be aware of your body language: more than 90 percent of the impressions we convey have nothing to do with what we actually say.
People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude. Being truly curious to get to know your client cannot be faked. Showing enthusiasm for what you are doing will help your client feel excited about the process, too.
"If you talk to a man in the language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
Empathy is our emotional radar. We want our clients to take action, but they won't do it because we are telling them to, but because we take the time to find out what is important to them and why, rather than making assumptions before the meeting. Search for common ground; we don't know all the answers, and if we are arrogant, clients switch off. When they come into our meetings, they are very anxious, and often feel totally vulnerable—take the time to make them feel relaxed and comfortable.
Being present helps you stay engaged in the present: before the meeting, clear your head of things going on in your life and rid your mind of assumptions.
Be authentic; your message must be your own. If you feel uncomfortable, your client will sense it immediately. She or he wants to know you and who you are in order to trust you. Knowing yourself and how you operate is a good place to start. Keep things simple and try not to speak above your clients. Also, help clients feel at ease, and understand their expectations of you. Manage these expectations, as disappointment and a client complaining about you can cost a lot. To move others, we must be able to see things from their point of view. "Have an understanding so there won't be a misunderstanding," says Charles Blair.
Respect Your Clients
Treat each client as a "10"; to really connect, the other person needs to feel valued. People like people who like them.
Use questions effectively: they are the secret to success in every conversation and help you fast-track getting to know your client. Questions help us to talk more about our client than ourselves, and to find out what they really value. Some effective questions are:
- What is your first money memory?
- What lessons about money did you learn growing up?
- What previous experiences have you had with financial planners?
- If you had all the money you would need, how would you live your life differently?
(Questions are from Your Clients for life® by Mitch Anthony.)
We now have a number of stories about our clients that we can use to write their financial plan in line with their lives. Clients are less likely to seek out another planner when they have shared their stories with you. Also, they are more likely to reveal more of their financial position, like assets that they have, when they share their stories. You can use their stories anonymously to help other clients who may be facing similar challenges.
Creating a sense of community and belonging engenders loyalty in our clients. We can begin to add value in our clients' lives through functions, newsletters, phone calls, and ideas that are not just around money. This makes sure our clients think of us more often, and even gives them more to share with their friends about us.
As financial life planners, we can embrace the philosophy with each other. Sharing at conferences and writing articles improves the way we all do financial planning. This sharing adds to our feeling proud of our industry, taking it to an even greater level of professionalism.
The very definition of a financial planner suggests we make a difference in people's lives. We are not just gathering information for the sake of it—rather we can go beyond connecting to just someone's head to connect also to their heart, a connection that is so much stronger. This will ensure that we are truly making a difference and that our profession grows to become indispensable in people's lives.
© 2014 Kim Potgieter
Kim Potgieter is a qualified financial planner, as well as a registered life planner. Armed with a Clinical and Industrial Psychology degree, Kim has a keen interest in the relationship between psychology and money. She is fascinated in the relationship people have with money, and is passionate about inspiring retirees to live with purpose. Kim believes that to have the most fulfilling retirement possible, you have to see it as an exciting journey filled with opportunities. Her favorite question to ask is, "Are you getting the most life out of your money?"
Contact Kim at www.charteredwealth.co.za
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