Initial conversations with clients can make or break the financial advice process. Here’s how to engage the client and gain their trust from the start.
As a Practice Development Manager at Count, Malcolm Hills spends much of his time coaching accountants in how to start those crucial first client conversations about the advisory process. Based on his extensive experience on seeing what works (and what doesn’t), here are his five top tips to get you started.
1. Build on your strengths
As an accountant, you come to the advisory business with some natural advantages that advisers without your background don’t have. Your clients probably see you as the adviser they’re most likely to trust — and research suggests that clients place trust above all else in the advice process1.
With this trust in place, clients are likely to be more open to hear what you have to say about advice than someone without your background. What’s more, you’ll also have a clear head start as far as data collection goes.
“Financial advisers can take most of the first two interviews with a client to gather the needed data,” explained Hills. “Accountants will already have most of their client’s data on record, so they can get into the advice discovery process more quickly.”
2. Leave space for emotional conversations
That being said, some of the skills you probably value the most as an accountant could hinder you when it comes to the advice process. For instance, as an accountant you’ll be used to working in shorter time frames, and finding solutions quickly. As an adviser, you’ll need to put this approach aside and adopt a slower discovery mode.
“Financial advice is about discovering the emotional anchors for the client — for example it could be leaving a solid legacy for their children,’ Hills says.
“This can only be discovered by having a conversation about their objectives, needs and desires. Conversations around product solutions should come last.”
3. Start with your most supportive clients
Once your firm decides to add advisory services to your offerings, you might want to approach your long-term accounting clients with whom you have a good relationship, and ask them if they are interested in receiving financial advice. Such clients are often your best advocates as you build your advisory practice.
“Be open with them and explain that you’re about to introduce advisory services,” Hills says. “Encourage them to be active participants, feeding back to you what benefit they received from the process — and what they think you can do better.”
4. Don’t try to oversimplify the process
Clients are far more likely to appreciate the value of your advice if they understand the time and effort that goes into it.
“Creating Statements of Advice can take weeks — and clients may not realise how much work goes into them,” says Hills. “Typically, accountants tend to downplay complexity. But once they start the advisory process they find out that it’s not that easy.”
So it’s important to explain what’s involved — and to avoiding overpromising on timeframes and outcomes, or you can end up disappointing your client.
5. Use the conversation to identify your ideal client — and have a plan for clients that you can’t help
Financial advice won’t be right for everyone. So take time early in the relationship to find out if your client is open to the financial advice you have to offer. If they’re not, Hills stresses that you don’t need to leave the advice process empty-handed. For instance, they can still benefit from ongoing educational material that you provide for them.
1. Forbes (2014) In a financial advisor, clients place highest value on trust, ethics.