June 10, 2013

When Prospecting for New Clients, First Assess Their Personalities

In last week’s blog post, we discussed why clients might leave an advisory firm (and how I tend to take it personally). This week, I'd like to continue by delving into the personality issues that can arise when a client and an advisor are not well matched. 

Over the years, I have participated in several personality tests from various companies. Most use a four-quadrant matrix to classify an individual's personality type. Before we begin, it should be noted that the results of these questionnaires are only an indication of a person's tendencies. In other words, people tend to exhibit traits from more than one quadrant. That said, I must admit, these tests pegged me well. I recall my first personality test about 25 years ago and how I was stunned by its accuracy. 

Personality types may be divided into two primary camps, those with outgoing personalities and those who are more introverted. The former, those who tend to be more talkative, may also be controlling or highly spontaneous. Conversely, the introverted individual may be analytical. Each personality type requires a different approach. I suggest that at the beginning of your first meeting with a prospective client that you ask a few open-ended questions to see if they are the talkative type or more reserved. This should be your first observation. If they like to control or emote, loosen the reins a bit. Just be careful they don't dominate the conversation to the extent that you never get to the subject at hand. Also, if they are controlling, remember that it often stems from an insecurity and their need to control their environment. In short, they may be afraid to "let go." 

Another consideration is your own personality. However, no matter what your personality type, if you are flexible, you should be able to relate to a wide variety of personalities. This ability to relate is very important. Here are a few things to keep in mind when working with different personality types. 

A Controlling Personality

These people need to feel important. Most people have this need, but with a controlling personality, the need is much more acute. Sincere compliments (rather than mere flattery) and quick, direct answers are most effective. In other words, stay on point, but allow them to feel important. 

A Spontaneous Personality

These people are outgoing, friendly individuals who are uniquely equipped to handle lengthy conversations. Gently validate their points but keep them on track. As mentioned, they may tend to ramble. 

An Analytical Personality

These individuals have two very dominant needs: to be right and to trust in your processes. For instance, if they feel your investment process is rooted in vagaries and superficial methodologies, they will not hire you. Even if they do hire you, you will likely incur problems down the road. They need to know that you are analytical because they tend to measure you by the standards they set for themselves. The ability to trust may also be an issue with these individuals. 

There are obviously more personality types and tips to discuss, but for now, I hope these will prove helpful.

Have a great week and thanks for reading!

Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.