During the almost two decades that I’ve worked with advisory firm owners, I’ve changed my approach on explaining various elements of business management. For example, I no longer give owners reasons why they should change a behavior; and I’ve found this tactic can help many advisors in their work with clients, too.
Like business consulting, a significant part of financial advice is helping clients change their behavior. I learned long ago that the only thing that changes behavior is, well, when they change their behavior. And only they can do that. Not you.
Consequently, I’ve stopped trying to convince my clients to do something in their business, and I suggest you stop doing it with your clients, too. Instead, focus on the choices that your clients make — and help them to focus on those choices, too.
Here’s what you do:
One. The client will typically ask: “Why?” Of course, it’s the wrong question, but it’s important to recognize why they ask it.
When a client questions something you’ve suggested, what they’re really doing is resisting (and sometimes challenging) your advice. And if you start giving them reasons, you’re just opening the door for further challenges.
Instead, refocus the conversation by asking what they hope to achieve with their financial plan — and how they intend to behave to get there. To do this, ask questions.
Two. Ask enough questions to provoke their awareness.
A common problem with a client (of all wealth levels) is overspending. It also is one of the biggest problems in running a small business. You can give the overspender all the reasons why they should spend less, but that rarely changes anyone’s spending.
Why? Because you didn’t address the problem. And shaming, preaching, explaining and justifying to them really isn’t going to help. What does help is giving them the power of their own choices. Simply lay out their options and let them make the decision.
Three. After you show them you respect their choices (whether you agree or not) you can then ask them directly: “Do you want to save more and spend less?”
If the answers is “no,” don’t try to change their mind.