Why Financial Advisors Should Ask More Questions

Want to know a secret? There’s a fast and straightforward way for financial advisors to gain new clients and improve communication with existing ones. It’s so easy it should be obvious. Yet far too many wealth managers fail to take advantage of it.

Ask more questions.

The smartest, most successful people I know consistently do one thing better than others. They ask more questions. Why? Because they know questions are the passkey for getting inside the client’s head and heart. When you ask questions, the answers provide glimpses into what they are thinking or feeling and the forces that motivate those thoughts and emotions.

Questions invite the client to open up and reveal themself to you. That allows you to get to know them better as a person, leading to a more profound understanding of their goals as investors.

Asking questions also sends a powerful signal to the client. They realize, “Wow, this person is interested in me as an individual, not just how much money I can bring to the table.” That’s an essential step in developing trust, the bedrock upon which our profession is built. 

On top of that, it creates value in the investor-client relationship, too. The more value the client perceives, the more importance they place on it. And the easier your job becomes as well. 

As with anything else in life, how you utilize this essential tool goes a long way in determining the quality of results it can produce. Questions like, How’s your golf game these days? or Are you going anywhere for vacation this summer? are good conversational icebreakers. But they don’t create the entre to the insights you’re seeking. So, not all questions are created equal.  

For new or potential clients, I recommend starting with Opening Questions. The answers provide a quick snapshot of the person’s thinking. They include things like, What do you want this process to produce? What keeps you awake at night? What’s important to you about your money? Does your family have a budget? What goals have you set for yourself?

Once you have a better idea of where the other person is coming from, you can proceed to Professional Relationship Questions such as Have you worked with a financial planner before? Why did you choose me? Who else should be involved in this process?

Now you’re ready to move on to the next phase, the point where you turn potential clients into new clients. These types of questions include What’s your most pressing financial concern? Are you on track to meet your goals? Do you feel a financial planner working with you would make your life easier?

I could go on and on. There are dozens of questions that can prompt a revealing response.

Keep this in mind, too: Don’t be afraid that you’re invading the client or prospective client’s privacy. Believe it or not, you’re doing them a favor. Because while many people want to discuss their money-related concerns just to get them off their chest, they don’t have an outlet for doing so. You are creating a financial safe space where they feel free to open up and share their concerns, hopes, fears, dreams, and uncertainties with a caring, qualified professional. 

Many of us were taught growing up that talking about money is not polite. That attitude restricts far too many folks from learning the truth about wealth management and what they need to do to reach their personal financial goals. By initiating the conversation, you are helping them unburden themselves. And believe me, they appreciate it.  

But before that can happen, you’ve got to make the first move. It’s up to you to get the ball rolling. And once the conversation is flowing, you must keep it headed in a direction that will produce the information you need.

A parting thought: Conversing with the client is not a one-time project. It is an ongoing dialogue. It can be like peeling back layers of onion skin; as soon as you remove one, you find another just under the surface.

But it can also be rewarding and fulfilling for both the client and the advisor.

So, set a time to meet, pour a cup of coffee, and begin by saying, “I’d like to ask you a question…” They’ll take it from there.