Mastering The Art of Client Communication: Essential Skills for Certified Financial Planners
As in life, effective, empathetic communication is the key component in open, honest, productive relationships. The ability to relate to one another is the capstone that connects the financial advisor to the client, their lives and their goals. Communication works for those that work at it.
The above may seem profoundly simple, but it’s not easy. You’ll find that being an effective communicator is rarely a skill that people are born with, rather a craft that’s been honed and sharpened by those that possess it. As with all great endeavors, if you make a genuine effort, great things will happen.
A significant majority of clients, around 90%, emphasize the importance of regular communication and information sharing from their advisors. (YCharts)
Poor communication is one of the leading causes of client dissatisfaction that leads to client attrition. Are you speaking your clients’ language?
Now, you might be thinking, “Well of course my clients are picking up what I’m putting down. I’m the pro here and my clients understand that I know what I’m doing.”
The Value of Effective Client Communication for Financial Advisors
Communicating effectively isn’t just about regurgitating information or a financial literacy talent contest to show off that big ‘ole brain of yours. It’s about delivering your message in a manner that will resonate with your client. You know, so they really get it.
It’s like a recipe. You might have all the ingredients, but if you don’t follow the steps exactly, you’re ordering pizza. The same rules apply for effective client communication.
You have considerable knowledge and expertise as a credentialed financial advisor, but if you can’t get the message across in a manner that is clearly understood, they won’t care how smart you are. No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
4 Benefits of Effective Client Communication for Financial Planners
1. Better client satisfaction and client retention
When you vibe with your clients and you’re speaking the same lingo, you have a positive forum to proactively help manage expectations and support your clients. But more importantly, you’ll have a real life, visceral bond with your clients and a vested interest in the well-being of their family and friends.
If clients feel heard, understood and important, they will value your leadership and empathetic client service. Higher retention rates and positive word-of-mouth referrals will likely increase.
Creating a high-touch, high visibility relationship management environment will build equity in your brand.
But we’re numbers people, right? Let’s qualify and quantify how better communication creates positive results.
You like apples? How ‘bout them apples!
2. Improve client outcomes
It is well-documented that the ability to explain complex concepts in a way that resonates with a client instills confidence and trust. This is a common complaint against doctors that struggle to explain complex medical conditions in terms we can understand as non-physicians.
No one likes to be talked down to or made to feel less intelligent. If clients understand the subject matter and feel comfortable asking questions, they are more likely to feel guided and supported toward making more informed decisions. Better decisions lead to better outcomes. Better outcomes lead to better feelings. People do business with people that they like and trust.
3. Improved efficiency and productivity
Time is money as the old saying goes. Efficient communication will improve the way you manage, or have to manage, your time. Effective communication cuts down on misunderstandings and omissions that create wasted time, effort and resources. Make an investment in systems and processes where possible to streamline client communication efficiency.
Working on yourself and improving your business is hard. But nothing worth having is ever easy. Change is scary and overwhelming. A great place to start is to commit to being prepared and prompt. Wealthy decision makers place great importance on how they spend, invest or waste their time.
Don’t be one to waste your clients’ time. Meetings start with resources prepared and they start on time (even if your client doesn’t). Show your respect and gratitude for the relationship you share together.
4. Net Result
Independent financial advisors that work at proactively improving their communication skills will show improvements in other areas that will positively impact workflow, enhance productivity and actually make you happier.
By demonstrating your expertise and knowledge through clear and concise communication with your clientele, you will assert yourself as a reliable, empathetic and trusted advisor in the judgment of those you serve.
Advisors who have deeper relationships with their clients are more likely to love their career and feel a sense of pride and stewardship in helping people and families navigate their financial lives.
Financial advisors are expected to maintain a high standard of compliance with industry best practices and regulators. Marketing communication should ensure clients have a thorough understanding of the risks and pitfalls of different financial products and strategies, which can help avoid compliance concerns.
10 Client Communication Tips to Change the Way to Relate to Clients
1. SING FROM THE SAME SONGBOOK
Steer clear of technical industry terms and acronyms. It just makes people feel left out. When you have to explain a complicated idea, just be mindful to arrange the conversation for the benefit of the listener.
Learn how to reframe the conversation for them by using familiar metaphors or comparisons to paint a picture. By finding a way to relate your respective ideas in a familiar way, both the advisor and client will feel better understood.
2. CUSTOMIZATION IS KEY
Let’s get together and go over some spreadsheets…Said no one…ever. Understand how your client wants you to communicate with them. Everybody learns and processes information in different ways. In today’s digital and social media landscape, meeting face to face has become optional. Channel management is an easy one. Ask your clients what they prefer and follow it.
Approximately 36% of advisors find it significantly simpler to maintain client communication virtually, while an additional 44% express that it is moderately easier to do so. (SmartAssets)
Generally, a picture is worth a thousand words. Whenever possible, use visual aids and graphics to illustrate complex concepts. Learn to get the most out of your firm’s system to produce sharp, compelling visuals. When possible, use financial modeling software that allows client users to actively participate in the planning process. This reduces confusion, and helps to build trust and confidence with clients.
3. LISTEN MORE, TALK LESS
Take the time to empathetically listen to what your clients are saying. As importantly, listen to what they’re not saying. It’s your job to gain insight into their goals and concerns. Ask questions. Find out.
Active listeners show genuine interest in what their clients have to say and care enough to ask questions until they understand the “why.” Clients need to feel heard and understood or they won’t be clients for long.
4. LISTEN TO WHAT’S NOT BEING SAID
Read the room. Be attentive to non-verbal cues which can help uncover material information that might be important. Your client’s body language, tone of voice or hesitation in answering certain questions should catch your attention. Ask follow-up questions. If you don’t know the problem, your odds of solving it don’t look so good.
5. COMMUNICATE PROACTIVELY
If you have a real handle on what keeps your clients up at night, you should be in a position to virtually anticipate their needs. If a position you recommended is tanking or there is something troubling in the news, don’t make your clients call you. Call them. Be forthcoming with a recommendation if you have one or sit and listen. How you handle the down days is important.
A notable 55% increase is projected for advisors planning to communicate on a frequency greater than once a month in the year 2023, reflecting a 10% rise from the previous year. (ReachStack)
6. BE TRANSPARENT AND HONEST
Your character is what your client is really attracted to. You’re there to watch out for them and their family’s financial wherewithal as if it were your own. Go out of your way to highlight and disclose all fees, costs and potential conflicts openly.
Explain the ins and outs of different financial strategies in a clear and unprejudiced way. Your knowledge of the current compliance and regulatory landscape will help your clients make better decisions.
7. EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION REQUIRES CUSTOMIZATION
Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves. Custom tailor client communications to the individual. Everyone wants to see their name, spelled correctly, at the top. Some clients will prefer a detailed analysis. Others will prefer a high-level overview.
Some may wish to get their statement through the US Mail. And others will prefer to view their statements online. Increasingly, the internet has made popular the virtual meeting which is certainly supplanting the traditional quarterly face-to-face pow wow. Give it to them exactly how they tell you to. Your clients will appreciate your sincere effort to make them feel important.
8. BE DEPENDABLE
Say what you mean and mean what you say. Nothing will sabotage a relationship faster than demonstrating that you’re not dependable. If you promise to follow up, follow up. If you say you’re going to fix a problem or get a research report or walk their dog, do it. And if you can’t do it, own it. This level of care, concern and accountability will put you in the hall of fame.
9. DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE HUMAN
Don’t be so focused on doing the job that you forget about people. They like to laugh, have fun and win. Whenever the situation arises that you can inject a little humor or show an unsolicited act of kindness, trust me, your clients will dig it. You will too.
10. IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT MATTER
Find out what your clients like to do in their free time? What ball clubs do they follow? What’s important to them? It’s great to send a client a text when their team wins or share a recipe.
And as always, the lost art of the handwritten note is greatly appreciated when you receive one. Small personal gestures and investments of your time and thoughts mean more than you might think.
How IFG Can Help with Client Communication
At IFG, we understand that effective client communication is crucial for advisors seeking to provide exceptional service. Our consortium of experienced independent RIAs–all dedicated to contributing their expertise, tips and tricks– is ideal for advisors like you to help you improve client communication, ensuring a streamlined and efficient practice.
With IFG in your corner, you gain access to your very own team of like-minded individuals that operate as your Advisor Support Team. They pick up the slack wherever you need it, whether that’s in administrative tasks, HR needs, marketing and branding support, and you guessed it–client communication. We go beyond the confines of client acquisition and retention, by offering comprehensive solutions that empower you to enhance your client relationships and foster lasting connections.
By joining the IFG Brain Trust, you can tap into the collective knowledge and experience of hundreds of independent financial advisors. Gain invaluable insights on successful client communication strategies that have worked for others in the field. This invaluable resource enables you to unlock the growth potential of your practice, positioning you to reach new heights.
Discover how IFG can transform your approach to client communication and elevate your practice to new levels of success. Trust in our expertise and leverage our comprehensive support to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of client needs and expectations.
Together, we can build strong client relationships and create a lasting impact in the financial advisory industry. Gain the confidence and tools you need to communicate effectively and foster client loyalty. Contact IFG today and unlock a new realm of possibilities for your practice.
WINNING ISN’T A SOMETIME THING…IT’S AN ALL-THE-TIME THING
Mastering the art of effective client communications is not a box that you tick or a finish line you cross. It’s an ongoing commitment to provide advice and leadership in the manner in which your clients would have it provided.
Sure, it’s simple, but it’s not easy. But I assure you, if you invest in how you relate to your client, you will communicate more effectively, grow the value of your brand and add to your quality of life.