Financial advisors are industry experts who help clients plan their lives, their families' lives and help achieve personal goals. However, any successful financial advisor knows that market knowledge and planning expertise are only a part of the job. The other part is relationship management skills.

At the end of the day, no matter how great of a financial advisor you are, clients will leave if they feel unappreciated — even if they’re making money on their investments. There are hundreds of thousands of financial advisors out there. Just take a minute and think about where your office is located. Are there other financial planning firms in the building, on the street or in the neighborhood? The answer is probably yes. The truth is clients have options and the question financial advisors need to ask themselves is, why would a client choose to do business with me over the next advisor? The answer is because they like you. 

Clients want to feel like they’re your only client and that can be a hard task where there are phone calls to return, emails to answer and trades to place for other clients. It’s definitely a balancing act — one that has taken me several years to master in my own financial planning practice — but if you want to be a successful financial advisor, it’s important to provide the whole package of relationship plus portfolio management.

I’ve learned over the years that there are just some things you shouldn’t say to clients. Even if they’re true, clients don’t want to hear them because they don’t want excuses, they just want tasks done. For the sake of good relationship management (and your bottom line), avoid these phrases when communicating with clients. (For related reading, see: Are Your Clients Financially Literate? Probably Not.)

"I Have Another Client Coming in."

Whether you have a phone call, an email or another appointment, clients don’t care. They are paying for personalized advice and that’s what they want to get. While it’s unreasonable for clients to think that a financial advisor can live off the revenue from one client, sometimes reality is jaded. Instead of telling a client that your next appointment is in the waiting room, politely wrap up the conversation with a recap and list of follow ups. Then shake their hand and kindly escort them out of the office. It’s the professional way of letting the client know that their time is up.

"You’re on My List of Things to Do."

Let’s be honest, we all have a daily list of things to do and some of those tasks probably carry over to the next day, but clients don’t want to hear that. Prioritizing tasks is the key to efficiency in your busy day. Although investment trades need to be placed by a certain time, clients should be the priority — especially if there's a situation that needs to be fixed. 

Contacting clients should be a priority in the day because we all know that when left unattended, problems can escalate and no one wants that. If a client call goes unanswered, it can lead to several more calls and each one can get more hostile. Don’t put clients on your list of things to do — just contact them first. (For related reading, see: 4 Top Online Marketing Tips for Advisors.)

"I Don’t Know, But I'll Find the Answer."

This is a red flag for any client and possibly a reason to send over a transfer-out form. If you don’t have information requested by a client, don’t tell them that you don’t know the answer — you’re the expert. Clients are paying you to know. If you don’t have the information on hand, tell clients that you’re working on it and you’ll get back to them by the end of the day (or another reasonable time frame). Whatever you do, don’t tell clients that you don’t know the answer because it makes you look unprofessional.

The Bottom Line

Keeping clients and steadily growing your customer base can be tough these days, given all the competition and a shifting up-and-coming demographic. Knowing how to communicate effectively with clients—which entails knowing what not to say—should be one of your top priorities. (For related reading, see: Using an Opt-In Box to Grow Your E-Mail List.)