Change is upon advisors with a vengeance. Nothing personifies the impact this is having more than the two Macro Affluent Shiftsuncovered by our research: gender and relationship shifts. Both are a direct result of this lingering Great Recession.
Judging from the questions I’ve been receiving during question and answer sessions following my keynote speeches, it seems that many advisors are unsure of how to have meaningful communication with affluent women. Fortunately, in addition to identifying these gender shifts, our research uncovered specific “dos and don’ts” for interactions with affluent females. The following tips might help you improve your communication with today’s affluent women:
1. Personalize your communication:
Today’s affluent female is very sensitive to being talked down to by salespeople, particularly in regards to major purchases. If you doubt that, ask one of your affluent female clients about her last experience purchasing a car. You’re likely to get an earful.
Step back and reflect on how most affluent women of client households perceive how they’ve been communicated with by their financial advisor. Some of the feedback we hear has ranged from, “Yes, I’m invited to the annual review, but our advisor really only talks to my husband,” to “I never join my husband when he meets with our advisor because I’m not really involved and don’t feel comfortable asking questions.”
OK, you get it. The rules of engagement have changed. You have to develop professional rapport with the woman of every affluent client household. How so? You do this by making it a priority and being sincere in every aspect of your communication.
Ask sincere questions such as:
o “What areas of your family’s finances concern you most?”
o “If something were to happen to (name of husband), what, if anything, would you need me to help you with?”
o “Have there been any changes in your family’s goals?”
Make certain that you’re paying attention to non-verbal signals because you’re likely being challenged with the unspoken “are you really listening?” test. Always acknowledge what you’ve heard, ask a follow-up question, and then make a personalized suggestion. Also, avoid mechanical contact and industry jargon at all costs.
2. Understand their family’s financial goals, expectations, and needs:
This is important to both genders, but even more so for the affluent woman. In order to possess a deep level of understanding, you must have a healthy professional relationship with the female of the household. This goes beyond just a basic understanding of their expectations of you as an advisor. You need to be able to establish a level of personal communication that is so strong that you are privy to their deepest concerns: their children’s future, how they view their lifestyle, their real concerns about risk, and their personal passion points.
From this depth of understanding, not only have you established a strong personal connection, you’re now in a position to manage expectations and continue to strengthen your relationship.
You might want to make strategically-placed telephone calls to the woman of your affluent client households, just to touch base.
3. Earn their trust:
Mastery of the above will place you in a perfect position to earn the trust of your affluent female clients. Trust is built on a series of actions that are linked to your words. But this has a different progression than you might think. It begins with the affluent woman; you must listen to what is being said, process it, and let her know that you were listening. Share your interpretation of her message, to ensure you have the correct understanding. From there, you must explain what actions you’ll take, do what you committed to, and follow-up to communicate the outcome. You should make certain there is a clear understanding regarding the actions you’ve taken, and then begin the process of listening once more.
This might seem a bit over-blown, but it is really basic. You’ve got to follow the cycle; listen, do what you say you’re going to do, and make certain your actions are acknowledged. Trust is earned over time. It can’t be rushed. Trust requires paying attention to the little things. For instance, if you mention that you’re going to arrange a lunch date, arrange a lunch date. If you say ,“We’ve got to play golf this fall,” you’d better schedule a golf outing on your calendar.
4. Possess a healthy breadth and depth of professional knowledge:
Whether it’s because of that macho male ego, or something else, the reality is that affluent women ask more questions than their male counterparts. For many advisors, these questions make them uncomfortable, some to the point of being intimidated. It might seem counterintuitive, but answering these questions clearly without industry jargon requires a strong depth and breadth of knowledge.
These questions can come in the form of:
o “How does that work?”
o “I don’t really understand that, could you explain that to me again?”
o “What are we paying for this?”
o “How do we know this plan is going to work?”
o “What happens if we need to make a change?”
The questions are often basic. Yet being able to answer them naturally without being defensive or condescending requires a strong working knowledge of the industry.
Each of the communication points I’ve outlined are at the top of the list as “extremely important” to today’s affluent women. Remember, they are more skeptical and more demanding than their husbands, but advisors who are able to meet their expectations will have loyal affluent clients.
Matt Oechsli is the author of The Art of Selling to the Affluent. His firm, The Oechsli Institute, does ongoing speaking and training for nearly every major firm in the US. @mattoechsli www.oechsli.com