The questions you should ask every client

June 19, 2017 by Devin Rivera

A financial advisor asks her client questions on his goals and preferences.

About the author

Devin Rivera

Account executive

Devin started with Advicent in the support department, working with existing partners to help them leverage our tools. Now on the Advicent sales team, he works to help advisors find the solutions that best suit their needs. Devin believes that, in any aspect of life, a well-made plan provides freedom. He is here to enable advisors to help their clients achieve financial freedom.

If you have spent enough time working as an advisor, then you have had at least one client whom you regret onboarding. The engineer who challenges every number you present. The Ph.D. who knows more than everyone, ignores all advice, and then blames you when he falls off track for retirement. The list goes on.

On the other side, I hope that you have also had some dream clients. These clients’ expectations align perfectly with how you run your business, and you wish everyone would just “get it” the way that they do. How, then, can you avoid the former and build up more relationships like the latter? One strategy is plain and simple: ask better questions.

Asking the right questions during onboarding

Everyone has their own “get to know you” process for prospects. This is your opportunity to learn about their needs and to show the value you can bring to them. Any advisor worth her salt will at least ask basic questions about the client’s finances and financial goals. But consider the impact of asking a few more qualitative questions. For example:

  • How do you envision the role of your financial advisor?
  • When it comes to your finances, do you like to delegate the work or would you prefer to be more “hands-on?"
  • When given an in-depth report, do you usually dig through the details or are you happier just reading the summary?

If this client has met with other advisors, you probably just stepped out ahead of the pack. Just by asking these questions, you demonstrated that you view your clients as individuals and recognize their various needs. Plus, in the client’s responses you now have crucial insights on what your relationship might look like moving forward.

If you do decide to onboard this client, you already know how best to work for, and communicate with, him or her. You might even be working with a married couple. He prefers to delegate, but she always wants her finger on the pulse. If you know that from the beginning, you can bypass a lot of frustration for both you and your clients.

Now these clients have signed with you, and they want to talk about the future. Here is the part where asking the right qualitative questions will have a long-term impact on your revenue. You have the chance to understand not only your clients’ goals, but their motivations. You can dig beyond just their financial picture to find out how they think about money.

A generational shift

The latest Merrill Edge Report® highlights a generational shift in the motivation behind long-term saving. Traditionally, most people have saved with the goal being retirement – leaving the workforce. Most Millennials, by contrast, have their sights set on being able to fund a certain lifestyle. This shift in mindset might be the reason that Millennials are, on average, saving a greater percentage of their income than the generations before them. Try some questions like these:

  • How would you describe your relationship with money?
  • How do you picture your retirement?
  • What does financial freedom mean to you?
  • What are your biggest priorities right now?

This is why investors will continue to seek out financial advisors, even with the prevalence of low-cost robo advice. A good advisor understands more than just the numbers game. If you ask these qualitative questions and really seek to know your clients, you will have the power to increase your revenue. I will explain how:

  1. Clients are less likely to hold assets away from an advisor whom they trust. If you understand their goals and position yourself as a stakeholder in those goals, your clients will want you involved in the full picture.
  2. If you truly understand what motivates your clients, then you can better encourage them to make wiser, maybe even more aggressive, savings decisions.
  3. Rarely do people talk with their friends about how their advisor gained them a half percent on returns by reallocating their portfolio. They do talk about their goals, especially if they are making progress on these goals. If you are a key player in that progress, you can count on new referrals.

From the outset of a client relationship, asking the right questions will help you connect with the right clients and keep them engaged; it will enable you to differentiate your practice and build your brand. Knowing your clients is the best way to drive revenue growth. Take some time today to look at your onboarding process and consider what questions you really want to ask.

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