Client led conversations are at the heart of the Financial Life Planning process. In order to develop a comprehensive financial plan that aligns with your client’s true values and priorities and supports their life goals, you must create an environment that allows for an open and honest dialogue to bloom.
To begin the conversation, start with a few simple and open-ended questions about the client’s experience completing the tools. Here are a few examples:
- How was this exercise for you?
- Were there any surprises?
- Did you have any insights or thoughts that stemmed from the questions?
The client’s answers to these questions can be very informative. Here are a couple things to watch and listen for:
Level of Engagement: Most clients will have found the exercise to be fun and informative and will be eager to share their experience and the discoveries they made about themselves. Occasionally you may encounter a client who seems a little reticent to sharing and, typically, this is for one of two reasons.
The first and most common reason is simply a lack of understanding of the purpose of the tool. They may not see a clear connection between the questions being asked on the exercise and how it relates to the financial planning process. Providing a simple explanation of the purpose of the tool and how it informs the financial planning process and the resulting recommendations is usually enough to bring clarity and deeper engagement. The Inquiry Category Introductions and the individual tool guides included in your M.Q. Practice Management Resources can provide some useful language in explaining the purpose and benefits of each tool.
The second and far less common reason is a lack of readiness or openness to explore these topics. If the purpose of the tool in the financial life planning process has been made clear, and the client continues to be reluctant or reserved about sharing, it might be best to keep the depth of conversation at a surface level by using only the “fixed-response” format tools. These tools require less self-disclosure, however, will still provide a lot of important information and insights. Once the client seems more comfortable and open to the process (possibly a year or two into the relationship), more of the tools can be introduced.
Indication of Priority: When you start with an open-ended question (such as those listed above), you are allowing the client the opportunity to take the lead and share any aspect of the exercise that was important to them. The first area or question the client chooses to discuss is an indication of a high priority or interest. It is often a specific concern but could also be an aspiration, value, or simply a new insight or realization that changed or enhanced his/her perspective. Whatever the case may be, it will be important to make note of this priority area and spend a little time exploring it more. The easiest question to use to continue the conversation around this priority area is, “Tell me more!”
Financial Life Planning is a matter of broadening the conversation from asset management to life management. It is not about having all the right answers; it is about asking the right questions. Your clients and prospective clients will connect with a financial professional who possesses the skills to connect their money to their lives, and who is a partner, guide, and educator.