How to Help Grieving Clients

Raymond James advisors learn about the thoughtful approaches to take with widows in order to form lasting relationships (and get referrals)

Grief consultant Amy Florian. Grief consultant Amy Florian.

When times are tough for clients and prospects, advisors need to take a new approach, according to grief consultant Amy Florian, who spoke on the second day of the Raymond James Women’s Symposium (RJF), taking place this week and drawing about 200 advisors and other guests in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“I first worked with advisor who didn’t know how to handle grief,” said Florian, who lost her husband at age 25 shortly after the birth of their son. “Then, I met another advisor who made me feel comfortable, who made me feel like a person, not a number in a portfolio. Guess which one I went with?” she asked.

Some 70% of widows switch advisors after their husband’s death, said the CEO of Corgenius, a communications consulting firm who works with clients like Boulder, Co.-based advisor Sacha Millstone of Raymond James.

The key to keeping their business, Florian says, is to consider “how good you are at grief support … and that means you’ll have client for life.”

Plus, widows, family members and friends talk to each other and often with members of their grief support groups. “They share info on who a does great job. You won’t have to ask for referrals,” she explained. “They will come to you,” if you take a more empathetic and holistic approach with those coping with loss.

In general, the loss of a spouse, a divorce and other abrupt changes related to "a break in an attachment" lead to grief, according to the expert. And in all these situations, it’s important for advisors to not only to be polite but also to be reassuring and flexible.

 

The Right Approach

“Ask good questions and really, listen,” the consultant stressed.

By good questions, she means “invitational questions” that open the door to thoughtful discussions and acknowledgement of the emotional turmoil the client or prospect is experiencing.

A question like, “What do you wish people knew about what you are going through right now?” can go a long way, according to Florian. Or an advisor can ask what kind of a day the person is having, for instance.

By genuinely helping people, you generally help your business, the consultant says. “Remember, emotions are more volatile than the stock market, and grief is a roller coaster,” she said.

While creating a bond, be sure not to say “I know how you feel,” because the grieving process is different for everyone.

Gently probe a widow’s top concerns and fears.

“Get their fears out on the table … and tell the client that you are here to help them move into new future, which will include great peace, joy and satisfaction,” Florian added.

“People are looking for a relationship with their advisor. A person who understands their lives gets their business,” she noted, and is more likely to keep it.

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Check out On Death and Dying, and Advisors by Jamie Green on ThinkAdvisor.

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