The Client-centred Blog

Telling clients your truth

What do you do if you have a ‘less than perfect’ relationship with a client?

I received an email from an adviser client who wanted to talk about such a situation. 

He had been an adviser to a wealthy married couple for several years and his view of the relationship was that it was not working well for him or the clients.

For one thing the clients worked with several advisers, not being comfortable to work with just the one. Another was that the husband in the relationship was always carping about charges and voicing that he thought he was paying too much. The tone of their meetings always seemed to be a little tense. 

On hearing this my question was, ‘What do you ultimately want for your clients?’

The adviser said he wanted his clients to be happy. He wanted them to feel like they were getting great value from the relationship and he wanted the relationship to be open and honest.

My next question was, ‘Have you shared this with them?’

The answer was ‘no’ and so we had a conversation about it.

The honesty conversation

A conversation I have with new clients is the honesty conversation. I ask that they be completely honest with me and not hold back. This includes speaking about their life, what they want and what stops them. I ask them to be honest about what they are getting from our relationship because this will help us to create the most value from it.    

I also ask their permission for me to be open and honest with them about what I see. I add that I am not always right and that I am completely happy for them to challenge anything I might say.

This creates a powerful relationship. 

Of course, we want to have a deep rapport and connection with our clients, but they do not need us to be their friend (within the professional relationship). Creating tension is not something that should be avoided if it serves your client.

When you are sincere, genuine, and acting in the best interests of your client then speaking your truth is essential. 

I asked the adviser if he was willing to go and have an open conversation with this couple and if he was willing to walk away from the relationship if this was the best thing for the client.

He said he was.

Several months went by until my client brought me up to speed with what had happened.

The adviser had the conversation with his clients and left it with them to think about.

They then got back in touch and said they valued their relationship with him and wanted to continue. The husband stopped carping about fees.

Truth is, it could have gone the other way but if this had been the best thing for the client then where is the problem?

Truth carries its own power

Human beings are incredibly perceptive, and we always know truth, even when unspoken. 

Creating deeper relationships with clients that make a bigger difference in their lives involves speaking candidly (with permission) and sharing your truth.   

P.S. Steve Chandler wrote in his book, ‘Crazy Good’, “If I ask myself, “What would serve this person right now?” I always create a better communication than I would by simply trying to please.

John Dashfield

John Dashfield spent 14 years as a self-employed adviser. Since 2006 he has been a coach, mentor and author helping advisers create transformations in their business and personal lives.