As an adviser you’ll have met a wide range of clients and you already, consciously or subconsciously, adapt your interview techniques to increase the likelihood of achieving a mutually beneficial outcome.
For you, this outcome means gaining a new client that you can accompany on the path to achieving their financial and lifestyle goals. For the client, it means finding a trusted partner who can persuade them to make the behavioural and attitudinal changes that are often necessary for them to achieve their goals.
Every adviser has tales of woe when a client interview has gone from bad to worse. Tricky interviews such as these are probably unavoidable from time-to-time, but with the right techniques it is possible to transform a client interview that starts as an unconstructive, mutual waste of time into a successful long-term partnership.
To build rapport you must adapt your natural communication style to suit the client. This will come naturally most of the time, but sometimes you may need to adapt your approach if the rapport between you and your client is not developing smoothly.
Imagine an interview with an academic aged 59 compared to an interview with an ex-rugby league player aged 35. Now think through how you will communicate with each of them. You are likely to shake hands differently but after that you’ll adapt based on the clients behaviour and not their appearance – it may be that the academic is the classic delegator and is not at all interested in facts and figures while the rugby player wants to dive straight in to detailed asset class return assumptions.
Don’t be rigid or communicate in the same way with everybody as that will impede the essential process of building rapport.
Sensitivity versus getting the facts
If a client begins to shut down when you ask questions about a particular topic, you should make a note and try to circle back to the topic later in the interview. This can make the interview more complicated but it ensures you keep the conversation flowing.
Once a client has completely shut down they are likely find questions on the same topic irritating and will simply want to end the interview as quickly as possible – a poor outcome for both of you. One way to think about this is to think about how you’d behave if you were having a conversation with an old friend and asked a question that they avoided.
You would probably make a mental note that there’s a problem, but you wouldn’t plough on and keep asking them about it. Client interviews, while obviously different, still need to be approached with the same sensitivity.
Getting the basics right
You will already be familiar with the basics; a firm handshake, making eye contact and adopting an open and pleasant expression, however, it’s also important to eliminate body language that could be construed as negative. You should avoid the following actions: don’t lean back, cross your arms, fidget, touch your face, check the time, speak too quickly or impinge on a client’s personal space.
Authenticity is vital
While it’s important to adapt your behaviour to suit your client, don’t make the mistake of overdoing it. Clients who sense that you’re not being authentic are more likely to conclude that you are untrustworthy, reducing the prospects of them becoming a valued client.
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