The Big Trap in Casual Conversations

Dan Richards

Last week’s article, The Best Question to Engage Clients, featured some advice on questions to ask clients. Today, I highlight an example of bad advice – focusing on how to engage people who aren’t clients in casual conversation and in particular on how to respond to the question “How’s business?”

Many advisors struggle with how to talk about what they do when chatting with a casual acquaintance. On one hand, no one wants to be seen as pushy and “always selling.” At the same time, we want to leave the door open should someone be genuinely interested and want to talk further.

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There is no one solution that will work for every advisor in finding the right balance. But there are three general guidelines that are helpful when talking to people in a social setting who already know what you do and might be prospects down the road:

  1. Keep it low key

When someone asks “How’s business?” they’re often simply being polite. People don’t expect the answer to “How are you?” to be a recitation of ailments and doctor’s visits. In the same way, people aren’t looking for a long spiel in response to “How’s business?”

  1. Keep it short

We’ve all been trapped at some point by someone going on and on. When talking to people you know in casual conversation, keep the “less is more” principle in mind.

  1. Redirect the question

The best advice when someone asks how things are going is to answer with a short, sincere response and then turn the question back to them.

Let’s see how this plays out when responding to the question “How’s business?” Here’s some advice that recently appeared on this topic.

How’s business?

An article by two sales coaches in a leading publication for financial advisors proposed how to answer the question “How’s business?” The authors suggested that advisors avoid phrases like “great,” “couldn’t be better” and “busy,” since these come across as canned and disingenuous.

Then the authors of the column provided some alternative advice:

Try something along the lines of…

It’s going well. As you could imagine, with all the volatility lately, we’ve been in close contact with our clients – reviewing their financial plans. It’s a lot of work – but it’s our passion.

Your objective is to position yourself as a financial advisor who is client-focused and proactive. (If you haven’t been in close contact, or don’t do financial planning – you’ll have to choose a different response).This type of language also sets the stage for a follow-up question that could create a window of opportunity. If you’ve gotten their attention in any way, you’ve earned the right to ask…

Has your advisor reviewed your financial plan recently?

Obviously, you now are reading your “How’s business?” questioner – and if you see any hesitation – you’re going for the mini-close by suggesting some version of the following…

You really should have your plan reviewed in today’s environment.

Let’s grab a coffee one day next week and I’ll take a look at it.