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How you communicate can be as important as the message

Investors today are more skeptical than ever about government, media and yes, financial advisors.

In his new column for Financial Planning, columnist John J. Bowen Jr. cites author and consultant Michael Maslansky’s description of our “post-trust era.”

To build trust in this environment, Bowen suggests these four principles of communication.

1. Be personal. Talk less about products and services and more about the client and their goals and interests. Sounds obvious, but there’s often a tendency for advisors to focus on business and numbers.

2. Be plainspoken. People want clarity more than ever. Do clients understand your jargon? Do they really know what correlation is? In the past, if someone didn’t understand you, they’d think you were smart. Now, they’re likely to just find someone else.

3. Be positive. Negativity may work in politics, but not in financial services. In a survey, investors responded more to the idea of “capturing opportunities” instead of “avoiding threats.”

4. Be plausible. If you ask someone to put their portfolio in an investment versus a portion of their portfolio, the interest is greater with the word “portion.” By reducing what you ask for, you gain credibility.

Remember, these days it makes sense to focus on how you communicate as much as what you communicate, so investors will engage and take your advice.