The January issue of Research magazine offers cutting-edge advice on communicating with clients and prospects, and assesses the tough election-year political climate facing the financial services industry.
“The Power of Words,” the cover story by Jane Wollman Rusoff, draws on the thinking of communication experts Raphael Lapin, Michael Maslansky and Frank Luntz, among others, to aid financial advisors in navigating conversations with current and prospective clients. “Advisors,” warns Lapin, “may be the experts in technical financial jargon, but they still aren’t the experts in working with and managing clients on a human level.”
Choose your words carefully, the experts advise. For instance, in Luntz’s view, “imagine” is a powerful word that helps people consider not only their goals but how an advisor can help achieve them. No less important than knowing what to say is knowing how to listen. “Pick up on something the client says or their body language,” Luntz suggests.
Political Monitor, a column analyzing national trends and issues of particular relevance to financial advisors, debuts with “Target: Wall Street,” an analysis of the implications of public disgruntlement with the financial sector, including the Occupy Wall Street movement. Other topics covered in the issue range from helping clients deal with health care costs to how a medieval mathematician helped shape modern retirement planning.
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In this cover story, Contributing Editor Jane Wollman Rusoff taps the knowledge of leading consultants on communications to explore the crucial role of language and conversation in getting and retaining clients.
“The specific words you use, as well as your look, body language and tone of voice combine to create a perception as someone clients can or cannot trust,” writes Rusoff.
The experts she talks with include Frank Luntz, the noted political analyst; Michael Maslansky, Luntz’s former partner, who consults for financial institutions and other clients; and Raphael Lapin, Harvard-trained communications expert and contributor to Research magazine.
Careful communication is notably important in dealing with an irate client. “You need to do some very good active listening and acknowledge what they’re upset about — but without agreeing with them,” says Lapin. “Understand and empathize: stand over to their side and walk along with them so there are limits to how much they can continue pushing. Don’t speak condescendingly. Ask clarifying questions. Eventually, the negative energy will dissipate, and you can bring the discussion back to problem-solving.”
Political Monitor, a new column, debuts with an assessment by Senior Editor Kenneth Silber of the political ramifications of current popular discontent with the financial services industry.
“The question,” writes Silber, “is not whether the financial industry will encounter a volatile and difficult political climate this election year. The question is just how tough that climate will be.”
The Occupy Wall Street movement has raised the visibility of public disgruntlement with the financial sector. However, by late autumn, polls showed eroding support for the movement. Looking at an agenda sketched out by Kalle Lasn and Micah White, editors of the magazine Adbusters and key figures in getting the Occupy movement started, Silber questions whether measures such as a financial transactions tax are likely to win broad support.
Still, disgruntlement toward Wall Street stretches across the politcal spectrum. One idea that might gain backers on left and right, Silber contends, was sketched out by GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman: to downsize the largest financial institutions to remove their Too Big To Fail status. For financial advisors, such a policy would mean the shakeout in the industry becomes even more intense, with layoffs at the biggest firms and a scramble for assets elsewhere.
Contributing Editor Ellen Uzelac reports on a trend among innovative advisors to develop expertise, either in-house or outsourced, to help clients grapple with Medicare and health costs in general.
This subject has become increasingly pressing as the oldest baby boomers have moved into retirement age. “Health care expenses in retirement can run hundreds of thousands of dollars — not exactly pocket change,” writes Uzelac.