Seeing yourself through your client's eyes: The value of a self-aware advisor

April 14, 2017 by Martha Collins

A financial advisor discusses finances with a married couple

About the author

Martha Collins

Associate quality assurance analyst

Martha works in the development department testing Advicent products to ensure the software is user-friendly and error-free for its partners.

By nature, people want to be known, understood, and appreciated by those with whom they interact. You, as their financial advisor, are no exception to this desire. You do not need me to tell you that each of your clients have uniquely different past experiences, understandings of their financial situation, and expectations of you.

You cannot be successful if you approach each client’s situation in the same way. This is where your self-awareness and empathy can affect the relationships you have with your clients. Here are a few things to consider as you develop your self-awareness:

What type of body language do they use?

Psychological studies have confirmed that a quick way to get people to like you is to mimic their body language. Now, I am not telling you to copy your client’s every move, but as your meeting opens up, take notice if they are using large gestures while they speak or maintain a reserved posture. Noticing this and responding in a similar way can send them a subconscious signal that you understand them and are willing to meet them on their level.

What level of formality do they want in their conversations with you?

It is ultimately up to you to set the tone for how your meetings go. However, if you generally approach meetings with a formal tone in your conversation and your clients seem stiff or uncomfortable, try simplifying the financial jargon and neutralizing a bit of the formality. See if they respond better to a more casual tone in conversation. Reassure them that you see them as individuals, not just asset-holders. Likewise, if you generally engage with your clients in a casual tone and they seem uneasy, try taking a more formal and professional approach. Let them know that you are committed to handling their finances professionally, not to smooth-talk your way into selling products they do not need.

How willing are they to share their personal lives with you?

Obviously, you have to establish some level of personal connection and trust with your clients. However, if your client comes in to a meeting and gets straight to the point about their investments and what options they are considering for upcoming decisions, you must respond differently from a client who comes in explaining all the new happenings at their work or in their family, outlining every detail. If you respect their disinterest in small talk and focus on the finances, you may earn more credibility in their eyes as a reliable professional. Likewise, if you engage in personal life discussions, your clients could begin to see you as more than a financial professional but also as a trusted influence in their lives, which could prolong your partnership with that client.

You have heard the famous proverb “before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” We have been taught from a young age to picture the other person’s perspective before we judge or criticize them. The ability to empathize is a very effective skill for building and maintaining positive relationships with your clients.

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