The Client-centred Blog

Giving financial advice – 3 important steps

High-quality meetings are about the tone

You no doubt put a great deal of time and effort into giving financial advice of the highest quality.

Yet this alone does not guarantee it will be accepted and followed by your client.

After working with a number of financial advisers on this subject we helped them implement three easy but important steps. These significantly increased the buy-in from clients – a very positive result for everyone.

I am sure you have seen or heard the KISS acronym. There are a number definitions but they all mean the same thing – keep it short and simple. The idea is to avoid unnecessarily complicating something by having too much detail or too many parts.

For instance, finances can be complex and well out of many peoples’ comfort zone. If a client is already feeling apprehensive then it is important to settle their mind before proceeding to give advice. Failing to do so is inviting problems – a bit like starting a car journey with a flat tyre.

Why people can switch off

The delivery of advice is equally as important as the content. Yet it is something that is easy to fall down on, if you do not take into account state of mind (here is a link to a video, ‘state of mind and success’).

Let me share an example.

A financial advisory firm I worked with specialises in giving financial advice to SME business clients.

Often, they found that the client’s finances were poorly organised. As a result the client often felt varying degrees of stress, worry and tension around this area.

The financial advisers process was to look at the current situation, help the client get clear on their outcomes, take away their findings, and agree to return with a detailed plan of their recommendations. So far, so good and all pretty straight-forward stuff, right?

Upon presenting their recommendations, the financial advisers were often experiencing far more resistance and defensiveness from the clients than they were expecting. The clients would ask lots of questions and find reasons not to implement the changes and the advisers couldn’t understand why.

The essential key to successfully giving financial advice

The solution turned out to be in something that most people wouldn’t consider and yet it is highly relevant to giving financial advice.

High-quality meetings are about the tone, not just the content.

The tone of a meeting, meaning the feeling that people are in during a meeting, is absolutely critical. A meeting will generally be successful if people are present, feeling clear minded, calm and relaxed.

If, on the other hand, people feel tense, intimidated, insecure, discouraged or fearful, you can be pretty sure that it will be a poor meeting.

What transpired was that the large, detailed report they were taking to their meetings and, consequently, all the thinking they were asking people to do was lowering the tone.

Without realising it, they were over-complicating things, people felt even more intimidated and this was why there was push-back and resistance.

There was nothing wrong with the work at all. The problem was the way they were presenting it.

Three simple adjustments to eradicate the problem

1. The advisers realised that it was essential for clients to be in a calm, clear and present state of mind when receiving the financial advice. To accomplish this they made absolutely sure that they felt this way during their meetings. As the professional person, you have to go there first because people will often pick up on how you feel. You set the tone of the meeting by starting in the right place mentally and emotionally.

2. The advisers paid close attention to the clients and did what was necessary to make sure they felt comfortable and ready to receive their recommendations. 

Also, throughout the presentation, they were sensitive to the level of engagement of the client and did what was necessary to keep the energy in the right place. For instance, sometimes the way they said things could sometimes lower the tone of the meeting. If this happened they counteracted it by re-stating it in a more positive way.

3. They cut down their report to just one page with a small number of key suggestions. This made it manageable for the client and allowed them to roll out their recommendations at the right pace.

The human factor is the key to successful meetings

Numbers, data and analytical ability are important when giving financial advice. It is also easy to forget that you achieve hard results through the level of trust, rapport, and the quality of the relationships you create.

Some advisers think that paying attention to both their own and their clients state of mind and how they feel is ‘soft’ or ‘touchy-feely’. However, absolutely everything that you do involves state of mind.

By appreciating the difference between healthy thinking and unhealthy thinking you can create an environment that produces great results with ease.

P.S. Here is a link to my post, ‘Do you ever get in your own way? Here is how to stop’

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