4 Questions All Financial Advisors Need to Ask

In the crowded financial advisory world, clients have many choices when it comes to hiring the investment professionals they entrust to manage their assets. It’s therefore essential for advisors to do everything in their power to cultivate a deep dive understanding of prospective clients’ needs, in order to win new business.

That starts with listening more than talking, and asking the right questions that will give you a window into your prospective clients needs. Financial advice is about a lot more than making investment decisions. It's about holistic financial planning, so prepare to learn everything about your clients lives as it relates to money, and help them find the right solutions that align with their values.

Key Takeaways

  • When meeting a client or prospective client, a good financial advisor asks the right questions in order to serve them best.
  • Cultivate a deep understanding of prospective clients’ needs, in order to gain trust.
  • Prepare several routine, but personalized questions to learn more about your clients and how you can help.

Here are four questions that can help you win over even the iciest prospective clients:

1. "Can you tell me about yourself?"

This open-ended question puts clients in the driver’s seat, letting them naturally articulate the most important elements in their lives, whether it’s career, children, or hobbies. They may discuss things you have in common, which might organically lead to a deeper conversation.

This should be an enjoyable exercise for you. After all, this is a customer service business, and if you’re not interested in learning what makes others tick, consider a career change. Knowing about a client's family, professional, and personal life can help you pinpoint just where you can help. Do they own a business? Then maybe legacy planning or tax minimization is a conversation to have. Do they have children? Maybe talk about life insurance.

2. "How can I help you?"

Now is the perfect time for potential clients to identify their chief motivations for seeking you out. It’s also an ideal time for you to explain your breadth of services, and describe how our skill sets differ from other advisors.

Remember, advisors are in the business of advising clients and putting their goals before your own - that might mean putting them in a less expensive product with lower commissions or a mutual fund with a lower sales load. It may even mean turning them away.

When you know how to help them, make sure to stay focused and not try to up-sell them on unnecessary products or services that may not directly help them - or may even put them in a bind.

3. "Are you currently accomplishing your goals?"

This question helps you take a prospective client's temperature and manage their expectations moving forward. Spouses may disagree, which is perfectly fine, as it invites them to process their thoughts in a healthy and constructive setting. But no matter what their stated goals are, you should explain that you understand their perspectives, and that you're eager to help. It’s wise to parrot their concerns back to them, to let them know you were paying close attention.

For example, you might say: "I understand your portfolio is underperforming its benchmark, and that you’re worried that you’ll be unprepared for retirement." Then give a hypothetical example of how you can help remedy their concerns.

4. "What would you like the next step to be?"

No matter they say, you should complement their suggestion with an idea of your own—even something as innocuous as: "I'd like to suggest that we meet again and go over some details of ways I may help." And then book the next appointment, then and there.

Finally, shake hands, hug, or do whatever feels comfortable, before you and your new client say goodbye.

The Bottom Line

Before you meet with prospective clients, you’re essentially a stranger to them, and trust must be built from the ground up. This can be achieved by engaging with individuals in a sincere and thoughtful manner, where both parties are given an equal voice.

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