Winning new business can be hard enough for financial advisors. The landscape is tough and prospective clients have a lot of options in terms of seeking financial advice. The rise of online financial advisors (a.k.a roboadvisors) adds even another dimension to this equation.

Keeping new clients happy and engaged is a challenge for financial advisors, and frankly, for any provider of professional services. Clients are looking for sound guidance and advice from their financial advisor. But building a relationship of mutual trust also takes some people skills. At the end of the day, clients are more likely to seek another financial advisor based on issues that have nothing to do with their investment results. Here are a few tips for financial advisers on talking with new clients and prospects—on breaking the ice, so to speak.

Key Takeaways

  • While financial markets can come off as a cool and calculated numbers game, being a financial advisor is all about human relationships and communication.
  • Finding new prospects or keeping up with existing clients means that you'll often find the need to break the ice and start a generative conversation.
  • Here we list some creative ice breakers that advisors can rely on, from conversation starters to probing questions that can open them up to say the first words.

What’s on Your Bucket List?

Some financial advisors like to ask prospects what their top five “bucket list” goals are. Not only is this a light-hearted conversation it helps the client to articulate their dreams and aspirations for the future.

While some of the items listed might be just good fun, much of what the advisors hear will often be rooted in the client’s visions for their future. A conversation like this can help the client open up as to what their hopes and dreams are and what’s important to them.

What Do You Want this Money to Do for You?

This is the ultimate question that financial advisors should always ask clients. This is a great way to break the ice when the relationship is new and it is a question that should be asked over and over throughout the span of your relationship with your client.

Most clients really don’t care about whether small-caps are undervalued or if you feel that emerging markets stocks are poised for gains. They probably don’t want to know the details behind your asset allocation suggestions, though they do want to feel comfortable that you understand them.

Clients are concerned with meeting their financial and life goals. Asking about what clients want their money do for them and their families and then really listening to the answers is the ultimate icebreaker in that it shows the client that their needs and desires are driving the relationship.

I Don’t Know if this Relationship Will Be a Good Fit

This is a great icebreaker in meetings with prospective clients. And if you are a successful financial advisor this should be a sincere statement. A client relationship has to be a good fit both ways.

Explaining this to a prospective client immediately builds trust and confidence that you are concerned with being able to help people who you take on as clients.

Have Something Interesting in Your Office

If you have a particular interest or even some sort of toy or gadget in your office this might be a conversation starter. One adviser has a Lego calculator that is always a conversation starter.

An interesting poster or wall hanging, sports memorabilia or other such things can spark the interest of clients and prospects and work as icebreakers to get the conversation started.

Do Your Research on the Prospect

In today’s online world, financial advisors can easily do a Google search on a prospective client or look up their LinkedIn profile if they are on the social network. It’s not about being nosy but rather about knowing something about a prospect before meeting them.

Your online inquiries might reveal people that you know in common, schools or employers that you share in common and certain other information to help you get a feel for who the client is.

Certainly, most prospects are checking you out online as well. Information learned online can be a good icebreaker in a meeting so long as you don’t come across as being creepy or a stalker. In fact, I would think that a prospect would be impressed that you took the time to learn about them.

Tell Them Why You Do This

Showing prospects that you are passionate about helping clients by telling your own story can be a powerful icebreaker. While it is always better to do a minimal amount of talking and focus on having the client do most of the talking, sharing your story with clients will draw them in.

This type of insight into your professional passion and aspirations can work towards your goal of having them open up to you and to share their hopes, dreams, and fears regarding their money with you.

The Bottom Line

Whether courting a prospective new client or starting a relationship with someone who has decided to become a client, financial advisors need to find ways to break the ice and build rapport. This is really no different than any sort of business or personal relationship in that sense. What is a bit different is that financial advisors are asking their clients to trust them to advise them on critical financial issues that will ultimately impact their quality of life.

People tend to do business with people they like and it’s OK to show clients who you are. Ice-breakers can serve to start conversations on a lighter, more comfortable tone, making it easier to transition to the more serious issues of helping clients make critical financial decisions that will impact their lives.