Last week we discussed why clients leave their advisor and how communication is vital in the relationship. In this post, we will follow up with some questions, which help to solidify the client-advisor bond.

Before we begin, it is essential to point out that if the advisor is not the “right kind” of person, the advisor-client relationship will be limited. What is the “right kind” of person? Here is an example to explain. Early in my career, my mentor (now a top executive with a fortune 500 company) told me that I should do well in this business. When I asked why he believed that, he replied, “Because you care.”

In short, when an advisor truly cares about their client, they will go the extra mile to help, even if they do not benefit as a result. In the political arena, one person often helps another because the other can do something for them. Simply translated, it means, “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine.” This is fine, as long as the individuals doing the scratching are doing the right thing. Many times, they are attempting to fulfill their own need.

Unfortunately, the financial services industry is full of individuals who are self-focused. Actually, that’s just human nature. If this were not the case, we would not be debating the fiduciary standard. Rather, everyone would simply accept the premise that the client’s interests should be the only consideration. But I digress.

You can spend time learning canned scripts, which may yield some benefit. However, it is much better to understand “why” you should ask a certain question. Getting back to the “self-focused” reference above, Dale Carnegie taught that people love to talk about themselves. When you care about the other person, your inquiries will be sincere. Moreover, helping a client navigate the path of self-discovery can yield great benefit.

While attending an annual conference of the Financial Planning Association years ago, I began to learn about “life planning.” It took a while, but it finally hit me. People make decisions based on their life experiences. When you understand who they are as people, as opposed to how wealthy they are, you will understand why they do what they do. This is the key to all relationships. In a marriage, if the husband understands his wife (and vice versa), there will be a great deal of trust and a deep bond. In the client-advisor relationship, the basis is the same; it is simply a different type of relationship.

In short, get to know who your clients are and what makes them tick. Ask about their childhood experiences. Growing up, did their family ever discuss money? What did they say? Have they ever had a bad (or good) experience with an advisor? Ask them to explain. Never judge, always listen. Let them set the tone and pace of the conversation. The key is to develop a strong bond between you and your client, which will not happen until they fully trust you. This is because they must trust you before they will open up and allow themselves to be vulnerable. If you are a man reading this, and you have a wife or girlfriend, ask them if this is true. If you are a woman, you probably understand this.

Until next time, thanks for reading and have a great week!