Because health and finance are arguably the two most important areas in a person’s life, finding a trusted financial planner is as vital as finding a trusted medical practitioner.
“Technical expertise is a given in our field, but everyone needs to find a financial advisor who really gets them as a person, so that they can take those very important decisions in their lives in the best possible way,” says Peggy Mengel, human behavior solutions advisor at DNA Behavior International.
Today, it’s a given that advisors are subject to far closer scrutiny by clients, both potential as well as existing. Thanks to the Internet and to social media in particular, most people will have done their research on an advisor before even walking into his or her office, Mengel says.
“That means that although many people are still intimidated by the financial world, they have access to all kinds of information before they decide on a particular financial advisor and they’ve already decided whether someone meets their initial parameters,” she says. “After that, what they want is to create a lasting relationship with their advisor and make sure the advisor gets them as a client and understands the way they think and the way they behave.”
But how about advisors’ feelings vis-à-vis potential clients?
Most advisors have recognized the importance of understanding human personality and behavior to forming a lasting relationship with clients, and they are aware that clients today may reject them if they feel the relationship is not working. However, many advisors will hesitate to reject a client even if he or she exhibits behavioral tendencies that may be difficult, if not impossible, to work with.
“Most advisors have the idea that they can take on anyone, but they need to go beyond their practices now and be able to say about certain people that ‘Hey, maybe this isn’t the person I want,” Hengel says. “Advisors need to be able to look for personalities that match theirs and are easy to manage to create the best relationships with. Either that, or they should be able to modify their behavior to suit the client’s behavior if they want the match to work—knowing, however, that sitting on the opposite end of someone is very hard and it can be draining to constantly tailor their personality to fit that client’s.”
Today, advisors can use online tools created by companies like DNA that in a few simple questions give them insights into the behavior and personality of a potential client. However, the really savvy advisor will also use the intelligence gathered to his or her own benefit, Hengel says, to determine whether or not the client is the right fit.
DNA’s tools generate enough information to give an advisor insight into a client’s behavior and personality to enable an advisor to decide whether he or she thinks they can work with that particular client.
“The results of the survey clients take give the advisor the choice to say ‘I can’t work with them because we are both different,’” Mengel says.
From then on, it’s a question of making some intelligent decisions with regards to having a productive and long-lasting relationship—a decision that can also be “an advisor deciding that a particular client is too much to behaviorally manage so it’s best I don’t work with them,” she says.
Turning down a potential client, though, doesn’t necessarily mean losing out on a potential business opportunity. An advisor might have a colleague whose personality is better suited toward a particular client’s behavior, Mengel says, so all it would take to retain that client is a simple referral.
If, however, advisors decide to proceed forward with a client whose behavior and personality are diametrically opposite to theirs, they must also be prepared to go the extra mile and make some changes to their own modus operandi, Mengel says.
“Let’s say I’m an advisor who doesn’t want to pass up a client, although the client is someone who wants very detailed information and I’m more of a big picture type,” Mengel says. “I need to prepare for that client differently and adjust myself and my day accordingly. Maybe that means scheduling that client at my highest energy point, when it’s easiest to modify my own behavior, or making sure I have someone else in my office who’s more detail-oriented than I am. Maybe I can schedule before and after meetings with clients who are more like me in order to boost my energy levels to deal with the client who’s different from me.”
There’s no doubt that turning down potential clients is very difficult. However, working with clients who are different from the advisor is also very difficult. Advisors need to be aware of this if they want to forge meaningful and lasting relationships with their clients.
“Otherwise, relationships can continue but only until something major happens—because once the stress points come and a client doesn’t get what they want from their advisor, the relationship that may have looked good on paper is sure to melt away,” Mengel says.