Most financial advisors believe that their success is largely tied to their level of knowledge. While I do not discount the pursuit of knowledge, many advisors’ success stems from their ability to garner clients. One area that could improve the success of all financial advisors is better communication. Individuals tend to communicate in a manner that is comfortable for them; consequently, there could be segments of the population that don’t hear them well.

So how does a financial advisor reduce their chances of not being heard? The secret is understanding what are considered the Four Temperament/Personality Types. According to this philosophy, the four types are:

  • Driver (a person who is assertive)
  • Expressive (a person who is emotively expressive)
  • Analytical (a person who is driven by numbers)
  • Amiable (a person who is compliant or agreeable)

When working with couples, it is critical to be inclusive of both spouses, so that buy-in occurs from everyone. It may not be easy to identify the personality type in one meeting, but the FA should actively process this information to assess their client’s personality as they do the client’s finances. (For related reading, see: How Advisors Can Break Into the Women's Market.)

The Four Personality Types Among Clients

Since many salespeople are Drivers, let’s assume that the financial advisor has this personality type and has a client-couple where one is also a Driver and the other is Expressive. In this scenario, the FA would have to deliberately focus on the Expressive personality type to be sure that they remained engaged throughout the conversation. The FA would not be able to dive right into the facts or hit the highlights because the Expressive personality type needs time to engage. The FA would tend to have good results by beginning the conversation with questions about the couple as people (if it is the initial meeting) or about their lives since their last meeting. The Expressive-personality spouse would appreciate the opportunity to share and that engagement would lead to a willingness to listen to the FA’s presentation.

In a second scenario, let’s keep the FA as a Driver, but change the couple so that one spouse is a Driver and the other is Analytical. In this scenario, the FA would have to deliberately focus on the Analytical personality type to be sure that they remained engaged throughout the conversation. The Analytical person could quickly become frustrated if the FA did not spend time on the details. The primary inclination of the FA who is a Driver is to talk at a high level and get the group to a decision as soon as possible because it makes sense. However, the Analytical-personality spouse is not as interested in the bells and whistles as they are into hearing about the nuts and bolts. Using the iPhone as an example, we all know it has great camera features, but the Analytical wants to know what allows the phone to zoom from 1x to 6x and how the panoramic mode works.

In a third scenario, let’s keep the FA as a Driver, but change the couple such that one spouse is a Driver and the other, an Amiable. In this scenario, the FA would have to deliberately focus on the Amiable personality type to be sure that they remain engaged throughout the process. The Amiable personality type might buy-in to the decision because their spouse is in sync with the advisor, but when they have a chance to make their own decision, they may not be so compliant. The FA must intentionally make the Amiable-personality spouse feel valued even if he or she personally feels more comfortable with the Driver-personality spouse.

Lastly, if the FA is a Driver, and the couple has personality types that aren't a Driver, then the FA really has to work on being heard. It’s essential to create a balance in giving each of the spouses the level of contact that they need for them to remain engaged.

Even more interesting would be a FA who has an Analytical or Expressive personality. They could be too detail-oriented that they miss the client’s buying signals or too talkative that they annoy the client into changing advisors. I am sure that a FA who has an Amiable personality type could be successful, but they would certainly need to monitor themselves as they engage clients. (For related reading, see: The Pros and Cons of Partnering With a Broker/Dealer.)

C.W. Copeland is a Professor of Financial Services at The American College of Financial Services, a non-profit, accredited, degree-granting institution in Bryn Mawr, PA that has educated one in five practicing financial advisers in the U.S.

Want to learn how to invest?

Get a free 10 week email series that will teach you how to start investing.

Delivered twice a week, straight to your inbox.