You choose your words carefully, but sometimes the wrong expression slips out. Make a point of ensuring you avoid these ones.
1. “It’s not about performance”
A client complains her portfolio’s lagging the market.
Why: For clients, it’s simple: “I’m paying, so I should be getting performance.”
Instead: “It’s about results, not performance. If you buy a plane ticket from Toronto to London you expect the airline will get you there on time and safely. Your plane doesn’t need to be faster than all the other planes if it involves more risk.”
2. “My minimum? I don’t touch accounts under $1,000,000”
You give great service because you work with a smaller group of clients.
Why: It’s arrogant. No one wants to hear they’re too small.
Instead: “We find we’re of greatest value to clients with investable assets of $1,000,000 or more for the following reasons…”
3. “My minimum? Do you have a pulse?”
You don’t want to turn away business or offend anyone.
Why: People are paying to invest. They want some exclusivity and you sound desperate.
Instead: “I work with about 250 clients who average about $400,000 in assets. The smallest is $100,000 and the largest is $4,000,000.” This lets them see where they fit.
4. “I own this in my own account”
You want the client to feel it’s a really good investment.
Why: Suitability. You and the client are different. It also implies other recommendations weren’t as good because you didn’t buy them yourself.
Instead: “This is a good fit because we are underweight in this sector and our analyst recently raised her opinion…”
5. “Okay, maybe just this once”
The client and his wife are going on vacation tomorrow. Both signatures are required but she’s working late and they want to buy some stock. Can he sign for her?
Why: The exception becomes the rule. If something goes wrong he can say the action was never properly authorized.
Instead: “Let’s find a way to do this correctly. If not, you’re breaking the law and exposing yourself to liability.”
6. “I wish I could help you, but it’s firm policy”
You want to remain the “good guy” so you blame the firm for fees or procedural delays.
Why: You are the firm in your client’s eyes. It creates loyalty; but when you step back and blame the firm you aren’t being an advocate.
Instead: Learn the rationale behind procedures. “When we sell a stock the firm needs time to confirm we’ve been paid by the buyer before we release the funds. It’s probably the same in your business.”
7. “I can’t predict the market”
The client sold and the market went up. In her eyes, it’s your fault.
Why: When clients work with full service firms they expect to benefit from the analytical expertise made available to institutional clients.
Instead: “We focus on the long term. We own good companies and try to maintain a balance across the portfolio. When a stock runs up it often makes sense to lighten up and add to sectors that haven’t made their move yet….”
8. “It’s not a loss until you sell”
The market declines and the client’s upset because their statement values are down.
Why: We take credit when ideas work and stocks rise. So why doesn’t the same rule hold during downturns?
Instead: “We own solid companies with good management. The stock’s down 10%, so is the market. Are the managers 10% dumber? I don’t think so. The dividend is paying you to wait. If the fundamentals are intact we should be asking: ‘Should we buy more?’”
9. “I’ll make this right”
Something went wrong. The wrong stock was sold or an order entry was delayed because of an oversight. The client’s angry.
Why: Problems rarely go away. If it explodes people will ask: “What did you know and when did you know it?”
Instead: “I’m going to bring our manager into the conversation. This will take a few minutes…”
10. “I can do better”
A prospect shows you the portfolio she holds with a competitor. The market’s up 16% YTD, but she’s not. You want her to switch over to you.
Why: You don’t have all the facts. Did the prospect shoot down every suggestion made by their advisor? Did the client choose her own stocks?
Instead: “The equity portion of your portfolio underperformed last year. There may be room for improvement. Tell me more. Did your advisor recommend these investments or did you choose them?”