Five Secrets to Better Understand Your Clients and Team Members

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Readers,

In my decades of working in the financial services industry, and particularly in the financial advisory segment, the issue of difficult clients and team members, clients and prospects who don’t communicate, clients who won’t refer and generally ways to just understand others comes up hundreds of times each month. This week, in honor of Independence Day, I’m sharing a few overall tips for true independence – how to understand your clients or team members and not get bogged down by wondering what they mean when they say something to you!

These five secrets are excerpted from my bestselling book, Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior:

  1. For all of us, it’s “all about me.” Often times if you aren’t getting what you hope to from your clients, it is because your focus is on you. An advisor might say, “I’m uncomfortable asking for referrals” which is about their experience. They are focused on how negative it might be for them, instead of thinking about the fact that the client might like to be asked for help, might not know how to suggest someone and might need help in navigating a referral.
  1. Behavioral styles interfere with your quest for good communication. If you have a client you would characterize as “difficult,” examine the differences in how they communicate and how you do so. Often times the difficult ones are people we don’t understand because they approach things differently than we do. You might have the overly aggressive client who seems to get upset about nothing, but your style is more calm and thoughtful. You could be driving your client crazy while they are driving you crazy! Look for the differences and try to adapt wherever possible.
  1. Values speak more loudly than we do. In the financial business, most people have either a high Utilitarian or an Individualistic value as one of their top two drivers for what they care about and believe to be important. You may speak in “ROI” (Utilitarian) and you may care about doing well because your name is on the door (Individualistic) but your clients may be driven by religious values, do-good or social values, love of learning or love of beauty. They may hear the talk about ROI and believe it to be harsh and uncaring. Make sure you listen to what matters to them and convey what they may need to hear in terms that seem right to their values, not yours.