It is always a good business practice to stick to professionalism with clients, but that can include being both aware and caring–especially when your client is going through a difficult time.
You may be tempted to avoid engaging with difficult feelings altogether. However, this could potentially cause you to lose long-term clients if you aren’t a source of support during a time of grief or transition.
Allowing, and understanding how to deal with, emotions in the office will differentiate you from other advisors. This will open doors to business opportunities and referrals that you may not have had as you gain a reputation for being compassionate and helpful. It will also help you build long-term trusting relationships with clients who know that they can rely on you through life changes.
Why does this matter?
If someone has gone through the trouble of finding and paying for the services of an advisor, then likely your clients are the type of people that like to have a plan to map out their lives. They have a vision for what they want their lives to look like, and matching goals to go with it.
We all know, however, that life sometimes carries unexpected circumstances. What happens when life doesn’t turn out the way that you thought it would? Clients need to know that you care about more than just their money. If not, they can always find another advisor who can better support their needs.
If you have a client that is going through some serious changes in their life, then your conduct with them during that interval may be crucial in determining whether they choose to continue to do business with you. It is important to be able to handle strong emotions or erratic behavior and to show that you are aware of their lives and want to engage with their troubles. This could mean helping clients stick to their business plans, avoid sudden decisions, and continue to build a trusting relationship with you.
How do you handle these kinds of difficult situations wisely? How do you help clients effectively and retain their business?
Clients require not only your technical expertise but also emotional engagement. You don’t have to sacrifice professional conduct to be emotionally engaged with clients. Here are some tips on how:
- Know Your Client’s Financial Plan: This should be relatively easy if you have been working with your client regularly. Your technical expertise will help you to confidently address any monetary changes or dangers that your client may be facing. You can help them navigate pertinent estate issues, insurance claims, and other sudden financial needs. If you already have a strong understanding of their situation, then you can work out an additional financial plan that will help them get through this difficult period.
- Be An Active Listener: Although you are being paid for your financial expertise, soft skills such as good listening are paramount. When a client shares something difficult, don’t look away, change the subject, or act uncomfortable. Instead, look at your client steadily and offer your full attention. Show that you are listening by nodding or replying affirmatively. Show empathy. (“That must be difficult.”) If you need clarification, ask them to go over the details. Repeat to show that you are listening. (“So am I understanding that…..?”)
- Don’t Be Critical: This is not the time to be harsh or disagreeable about your client’s financial plan. You can react without being judgmental and critical. Use kind language, and reply calmly and quietly. If you do disagree with something, offer the benefit of the doubt. If appropriate, wait until a later meeting to discuss additional concerns.
- Take Notes: There is no need to write down an exhaustive account, but note-taking can show clients that you care about what you are telling them. It may also help you to keep track of important information. Later, you can refer back to useful details. You can also offer continued support by asking for updates at a later date.
- Be Consistent: If you have practiced active listening and showed that you care about your clients’ lives, then it will be less difficult to engage with a client when they are going through an especially difficult time. Being consistent will build rapport over time and build long-term trust.
Life won’t always go to plan for your clients, and as a financial planner, you must be able to handle these difficult situations effectively. Although it is necessary to have the technical know-how, it is also important to know how to be able to deliver it with sensitivity–while understanding the emotional needs of a client facing challenges. Clients not only need to know that you can handle their financial future, but also that they can trust you to care about them.