You can improve your relationships with financial planning clients by encouraging them to communicate honestly with you from the very beginning.
This is the main lesson I took away from Shari Harley‘s presentation on “How to Say Anything to Anyone: Paving the Way to Powerful Working Relationships” to the annual conference of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts.
Ask for honesty
Harley suggested that audience members achieve this by saying, “I want a great relationship with you. If I do anything that violates your expectations, frustrates you or causes you challenges, please tell me. I promise I will say thank you.”
Assuming that your client says “yes” to your request, then you can add, “I hope I can do the same with you.” This sets the stage for two-way communication. If it works, you’ll never be surprised again by a client defection.
I asked Harley what she’d recommend saying after “thank you” when a client gives negative feedback. Don’t say anything other than “thank you” right away, she suggested, because you’ll feel defensive. Go away and think things over. You can follow up later.
Follow up with questions
Don’t stop with your initial agreement to be honest with each other. Follow up with questions that help you to understand your client better, said Harley.
Here are some of her suggested questions:
1. Who was the best service provider you ever worked with?
2. What made him/her the best service provider?
3. What are your pet peeves?
4. Do you prefer email or voicemail?
5. What do you wish I would start, stop and continue doing?
I can see how these questions would benefit me as a service provider and a client. It’s time to rev up my courage and start asking more questions.
I believe Harley’s approach could benefit you in your professional and personal life.
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