How to Change the Conversation with your Clients

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Beverly Flaxington

I often get asked how to integrate human behavior issues into day-to-day activities between financial advisors and clients. I have asked a valued client to share his thoughts about how he integrates concepts of human behavior into working with clients. Hopefully there are ideas that can help you in your client relationships. -- Bev

Our clients come to us because they have concerns about their financial affairs. Are they invested properly? Are they going to be able to retire when they want? Are they paying too much in taxes? Is their family covered in the event of a tragedy?

But is that what truly defines who they are and what they want? Or are we, as advisors, doing a disservice if we simply focus on answering those questions?

Years ago I learned something very interesting about human behavior. When my client comes to my office, they expect to talk about the financial issues at hand. At that moment, the financial discussion is top-of-mind to them. But, in the context of their life, it might not be the most important thing they are confronting. As I engage them in my office, however, even though I may ask other questions, often we stay focused on financial topics.

But the situation shifts considerably when, for example, I have lunch with that same client outside my office. In this venue, the conversation changes. They were no longer in the confines of the “business” environment, and we are more open to discuss what is truly important to them. In most cases, the discussion will have more to do with their overall wellbeing and other aspects of their life outside of their financial status.

We might not talk about financials at all.

As I realized more and more how “holistic” our clients were, and my need to serve them well, I embraced a concept of overall wellness. I developed a series of workshops we called The Retirement Bootcamp. The concept was rooted in the reality that our clients had concerns well beyond just the financial, and I wanted to facilitate their need for more education.

The idea was to “marry” financial with wellness issues. My firm aligned itself with a local hospital and they gave us access to their speakers’ bureau. At each of three events during the year, we introduced one financial topic along with a wellness topic.

The financial topics included the basics – money management, how to maximize social security and estate planning. The wellness topics covered specific health-related topics such as what puts a person’s heart at risk as they age, how to grow old gracefully and how to stay fit in retirement to enjoy the money saved!

We promoted the event throughout the year, and made sure that at each client review we spent some time promoting the series. What I found out was that our clients’ concerns were varied and that each topic had some appeal for most of them. Interestingly, the two hottest topics were the ones on social security and focusing on heart risks.

I have since used this platform to create additional educational forums to address what is truly of concern to my most valued clients. And by doing so, I have created a greater bond with them.

They now look to us not just as their financial advisor, but as a resource to better their lives.

These conversations have helped me to take relationships to the next level and become a centerpiece resource, rather than just “the financial advisor.” Understand what your clients care about – what information could they benefit from? What worries do they have? There are so many opportunities to bring new and innovative ideas to clients.

Beverly Flaxington is on vacation this week. Her client, Mark Singer CFP® is a 26-year veteran in the financial services industry and is the founder of a retirement planning firm on the north shore of Boston. He is also author of two books, “The Changing Landscape of Retirement” and the newly released “The 6 Secrets of a Happy Retirement – How to Master the Transition of a Lifetime,” which reached #3 on the Amazon best-sellers list.

Read more articles by Beverly Flaxington