Some of the best advice I’ve received was Last February, at the PFS’s Power Live event in Sheffield. Steve Martin of the FP Training Academy explained that financial planners need to develop their own style with clients when asking more meaningful and emotional questions. After numerous failed attempts to take my client relationships to the next level, this was exactly what I needed to hear. Here’s why.
Expect to Fail
When I first tried to ask the deeper lifestyle financial planning questions I had heard so much about, it wasn’t even with a client. I tried out Bill Bachrach’s method on a friend and it quickly emerged that neither of us really understood what I was getting at. My subsequent flirtations with George Kinder’s 3 Questions were a little more successful, but I was still having very little traction with clients.
These setbacks made me far too happy to regress back to the safer territory of pensions and investments, rather than delve deeper into the more emotional side of financial planning. But developing my own way of working, rather than sticking to a prescribed formula, finally afforded me the freedom to work out what I really wanted to know from my clients. I could finally ask the right questions in my own way. And once my clients’ own apprehensions had been addressed they were more than happy to provide genuine, emotive responses about what matters more to them than anything else.
Personal & Professional Development
Developing your own style isn’t as simple as it sounds. It’s crucial to know what you’re doing and understand what you’re trying to achieve. Confidence has been a huge factor in my more recent successes. I simply wouldn’t have the self-belief to know I’m approaching this in the right way without all my experiences over the last few years.
My advice to any aspiring financial planners would be to immerse yourself in all of the fantastic content that’s available to you. There are so many resources out there to help you to broaden your horizons, increase your knowledge base and improve your skillset. Countless books and podcasts were all part of my journey and the natural next step was learning what my own questions and method should be based on what I was trying to understand about my clients.
And be sure to seek out the leading lights in our great profession and start interacting with your peers. I’ve found that the best way to do this has been via Twitter where there is a wonderful community of the UK’s top financial planners. This is really where my journey into ‘proper’ financial planning started to generate some real momentum, the first domino to fall that led onto everything else.
The Final Puzzle Piece
Once all the other pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place, you will hopefully have the confidence to simply sit and listen to your clients without worrying that you’re not ‘doing anything.’ Nothing underscores to a client just how important our role is than the perfect follow up question that shows that you heard exactly what they were saying. Listening is one of the key skills an adviser needs to really help their clients get the most out of their lives.
As I’ve said before, not all of your client meetings will go to plan. Expect a degree of resistance from clients before they are willing to discuss what’s truly important to them. However, it’s important to push yourself to keep trying with every single client. Like any other skill, this takes time to perfect. Be resilient when meetings don’t go quite how you would like and try not to be too disheartened. Approach every meeting as a learning opportunity and the hard work will soon pay off.
I’m still learning and am far from the finished article but I’ve had more tears, hugs and breakthroughs in the last 6 months than in the preceding 6 years. And more than anything else, I’m now enjoying my job more than I ever have before.