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One of the most common questions you’re asked is how business is going. The right kind of answer can put you in a good light; the wrong response can mean a wasted opportunity.

Read: How to lose referrals

The first of three likely responses is the one-word reply—“Good” or “Great.” Sometimes we say “Unbelievable” or “Challenging” because it could be interpreted either way. We avoid “Terrible” or “I’ve got to find another job” because no one wants to hear us complaining.

You’ve answered the question adequately but haven’t given the other person a reason to stay on the topic.

Another approach is to respond from the client point of view: “Extremely good for clients who bought into the healthcare sector in January. Through late April it was up about 19%. Some clients are considering taking profits.”

You’ve told a success story. If the person asking was looking for free advice, your answer told them where they should have been but hasn’t revealed what to buy now.

There’s also the reflective answer: “Things are going very well for clients invested in the broad market. Major indices were up over 11% in late April. But enough about my business—it’s yours I find fascinating. How’s the real estate business working out for you?”

You’ve shifted the focus away from you and onto the other person. You get her talking and learn additional information.

A fourth approach is to read the question as, “How have you helped a client recently?” Answer with a short, anonymous story.

Read: Charm wealthy prospects

“Thanks for asking. I have a client who has all her assets invested with us. She couldn’t stand her job so I would suggest she take a nice vacation. She won’t because of her modest lifestyle.

“She came in for her portfolio review. I reviewed her spending and noticed it doesn’t change much year to year. I put together a budget and said, ‘If you can live within this budget and we realign your portfolio towards income you could quit your job tomorrow.’ She did. It’s been about six months now. Her life began when she left that job and started volunteering.”

People hear how you helped a person. You solved a problem and made her dreams come true. You aren’t a “broker” anymore. They start thinking about themselves or people close to them in similar circumstances. Could you help?

The drawback is obvious: You don’t have life-changing stories every week. So here’s something more common: you helped someone avoid making a financial mistake. The client wanted to do something and you explained why it was a bad idea. You also offered an alternative. Your listener starts to think about someone she knows who is about to make the same mistake. She would be doing her friend a favor by referring him to you.

Answers to avoid

Definitely avoid answers like, “I’m having my best year ever!” and “I’m so busy I don’t have time to cash my paychecks.” These can imply you’re doing well while your clients aren’t or that you’re making money at their expense.

Read: How to handle insults

Bryce Sanders is President of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, PA. His book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon.com.
Originally published on Advisor.ca

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