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The Art of Conversation: 8 Tips for Successful Advisors

The Art of Conversation: 8 Tips for Successful Advisors The Art of Conversation: 8 Tips for Successful Advisors

Being a good conversationalist is a skill that many advisors seem to forget when they are with prospective clients. Here are 8 tips to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.


According to Steve Atkinson, executive vice president and head of advisor relations at Loring Ward, the “art of the conversation” simply means being able to put a client at ease, especially during the discovery process, which is not an “Inquisition” but a natural give-and-take process between the advisor and client.


The intuitive advisor is able to use the conversation as a way to understand both financial issues as well as “softer” life issues. But in Atkinson’s experience, these life issues are every bit as important as the financial issues and can have an enormous impact on the client’s financial plan and the advice you provide. This is why, a good discovery process involves what he calls a “360” conversation.


“Good conversationalists understand that they must be willing to share information about themselves,” he said. “You have to give in order to get.”


Source: Steve Atkinson, executive vice president and head of advisor relations at Loring Ward.

1. Share and share alike. 1. Share and share alike.

The conversation has to be a two-way street. For example, a prospect’s comment that she has a 10-year-old grandchild is an opportunity for the advisor to share, “I have two children who are 10 and 12. They sure are a delight at that age!”

2. Put them at ease. 2. Put them at ease.

Your prospective client has to feel comfortable enough to open up emotionally to you. That means you want to get them talking about their life issues so they don’t feel you’re going to focus in on selling them a financial product. (You aren’t going to do that anyway, but they don’t know that).

3. Provide some structure to the conversation. 3. Provide some structure to the conversation.

That way the prospect doesn’t feel like he or she has wasted an hour with meaningless banter. Open your discussion by saying something like, “Mrs. Jones, bear with me for a few minutes because I would like to get to know you a little better.”

4. Take your time, but don’t lose focus. 4. Take your time, but don’t lose focus.

Time flies by when it’s good, so make sure you’re engaged and focused. Remember time flies when we’re in an enjoyable conversation, particularly with clients 50 years or older for whom relationship building is everything. Once your clients feel there is some structure to the conversation, they won’t be thinking, “I wonder where this is going?”

5. Focus on your body language, eye contact, facial expressions, etc. 5. Focus on your body language, eye contact, facial expressions, etc.

Everything has to convey, “I am interested and care about what you have to say.”

6. Make use of “active listening” phrases. 6. Make use of “active listening” phrases.

They help get the client to expand on what they’ve just said so you understand better what they want and how best to help them. Some examples are “Would you tell me what you mean by that?” or “Would you give me some more detail on that?”

7. Take notes – but unobtrusively. 7. Take notes – but unobtrusively.

You can take notes as long as you say at the outset you’re going to “jot some things down so you don’t forget.” Do not let your note-taking or iPad tapping get in the way of the conversation.

8. Be a good listener and be intuitive. 8. Be a good listener and be intuitive.

Pay attention to what the client is saying but also to what the client is not saying. For example, a client might talk about needing to build a portfolio to get a better investment return but not tie this goal to an underlying life need. Not everything is as simple as clients make it, and you will often have to push harder to get at the real issue.


Also see:

5 Financial Advisors Caught in the SEC’s Crosshairs

9 Ways to Keep Clients From Overspending in Retirement

7 Top-Rated Investing Books

Being a good conversationalist is a skill that many advisors seem to forget when they are with prospective clients. Here are 8 tips to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

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