It is clear that women want and need help from the financial services industry, but they often don’t feel like the financial industry understands their unique needs, circumstances and expectations.

Over the past 15 years I have seen firsthand the struggle that women have accessing the services and expertise they desire, yet they are the demographic with the greatest need, not to mention unprecedented wealth, savings and spending power. I have sat across the desk from financial and insurance professionals and decision makers at firms, and I draw on that expertise to create proven, real-world solutions and actionable ideas that help to increase business and sales while helping women feel at home in seeking financial help. The Female Affect, which I founded in 2010, uses that experience to help firms and financial professionals grow their business.

Below are some proven actionable ideas to help financial and insurance professionals better connect with women to build the kind of relationship that is loyal, trustworthy and comfortable.  

Tip 7: Ask open-ended questions

By asking open-ended questions, your female prospect will tell you more than the typical yes/no questions ever could. The more information you have, the stronger your relationship will be and you will be able to better meet her financial planning needs. Instead of asking the standard questions like, “what is your risk tolerance and what are your debts and assets?” ask questions that allow her to talk about her life, goals and concerns and how she wants to live her life in retirement. For example: what life experiences are you willing to share with me that impact your view on money, financial planning and security? When it comes to money, who was your greatest influence and why?

Tip 6: Make eye contact

Generally speaking, women view eye contact as a sign that you are taking her seriously as a client and that you are listening and care about what she is saying. We often take small gestures like eye contact for granted, but lack of eye contact is one of the major reasons women decide not to engage with a financial professional. That isn’t to say that men don’t like eye contact, but for women it has a different meaning. For women it confirms that you respect her as a client and decision maker. If you can’t make eye contact, why would she give you her money?

Tip 5: Boost her financial comfort zone

There is a misconception that women aren’t interested in being educated when it comes to finances, but that’s just not true. On average, women spend 40 percent more time than men researching financial decisions. Women want to partner with a financial professional who will take the time to help educate them so that they feel comfortable asking informed questions so that they can make confident decisions. Oftentimes women don’t just want to make the right decision, they want to make the perfect decision. While there are no perfect decisions, the more information you provide, the more confidence she will have to make informed choices, which, in turn, creates a strong relationship built on trust and loyalty.

Tip 4: Connect with her on her terms

We often assume that we know what our clients want from us and don’t take the time to ask. Questions are one of the most important tools we have to strengthen our relationships with clients. Women are looking for a financial professional who is willing to work with them on their terms and the best way to do that is to know what she expects from you. How does she like to be communicated with – email or phone? How often does she want to hear from you – quarterly or any time there is a dramatic change in the market? Does she want charts, graphs and figures or is she more of a conceptual learner? Does she want to know exactly what is in the financial service product you are recommending or does she want to know what the product will do for her in retirement? By connecting with her this way, you can make sure that you are meeting her needs on her terms.

Tip 3: Make two copies of everything

When working with couples, it is not uncommon for one spouse to meet with their financial professional to represent the interests and decisions of both. Even if she is not meeting with you, she is likely weighing in heavily on the financial decisions. If she doesn’t meet with you, it is especially important to make two copies of everything you propose or discuss with her spouse so that she has the same information. Putting copies of everything you discuss in an envelope with her name on it and making sure she gets it, shows you are thinking about her and you want her to have all the information she needs to make informed decisions. It is a small gesture that can have a significant impact on your overall relationship.

Tip 2: Make sure your office reflects what you want it to

Women want to work with financial professionals that know and understand them. Women want to know that their financial professional is technically sound and good at what they do, but women also want a strong relationship with their financial professional that is built on trust and communication. In order to build that relationship, she wants to know what you are about. She is scanning your office to understand who you are and if you are the right person in which to entrust her financial security. Do you have family photos in your office or college memorabilia? Are you active in your community? Have you won awards or received recognition? Remember, these are clues she can use to make a connection with you. Make sure your office is an accurate reflection of who you are because she is using this information to make a decision about working with you.

Tips 1: Most importantly – CARE

Statistics show that women live four to six years longer than male counterparts. In fact, up to 90 percent of women will be responsible for their own finances at some point in their lives. Women want to work with a financial professional who has her best interest at heart. The most important thing that you can do is to show her that you care and truly care. When she is faced with big decisions or a huge change of life event, you want her to feel comfortable enough with you to be the first call she makes.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Aging, 70 percent of women will fire their financial professional upon the passing of their spouse because they do not feel like they have a relationship with that financial professional. The best way to ensure that you are not part of that 70 percent is to show you care. Take the time to send her a card on her birthday, a personal note to thank her for her time or send her an article to help boost her financial confidence. These gestures can make all the difference.