8 phrases for tough conversations

By Bryce Sanders | June 2, 2014 | Last updated on September 21, 2023
3 min read

People who bluntly say what they mean may be considered rude. The advisor’s dilemma is often how to get her point across without sugarcoating, while at the same time not seeming harsh. Here are some examples of how it’s done.

Read: Clients demand more communication

#1. “We’re all in this together”

Useful when the market experiences volatility and clients are losing money and confidence.

Instead of: “Don’t blame me.”

Why: Clients sometimes see the stock market as a giant casino and advisors as cheerful croupiers who make money for the house regardless of the market’s direction.

Your point: Obviously you don’t make a living if all your clients leave. You must do a good job for them and provide appropriate advice. You’re on the same side of the table.

#2. “I’m a retail investor, just like you”

Clients hear news stories about the big bonuses traders and executives earn. They confuse traders, investment bankers and advisors.

Instead of: “I’m not making money while you lose yours.”

Why: Clients may assume you get offered deals the public never sees, and that you don’t eat your own cooking.

Your point: You buy the same stocks, bonds and mutual funds you recommend to clients. You use some of the same money managers. You enjoy the same highs and endure the same lows.

#3. “I don’t need to tell you…”

Or, “You and I both know….” You’re introducing a point of view and putting your client on the same side of the argument.

Instead of: “Here’s what I want you to think.”

Why? You are assuming a degree of intimacy and familiarity with the client.

Your point: You and I share the same opinions and values.

#4. “Let me explain how we make money”

A sensible transition to the fee conversation.

Instead of: “Here’s what I charge.”

Why: Prospects and clients want to know what they are being charged, but it’s awkward to ask.

Your point: You’re taking a step back and explaining how the firm builds pricing into products. It’s very professional.

Read: 10 ways you’re repelling prospects

#5.What have you heard?”

A company you recommended is having problems. Your anxious client calls and asks about it. You often blurt out your rehearsed rationalization and defense. This may get her even more anxious by introducing factors she hadn’t considered.

Instead of: “I can explain everything.”

Why: Draw her out. If she has concerns, identify and address them. Don’t guess.

Your point: You’re letting her do the talking. Get the concern out in the open before you respond.

#6. “I hear you”

Or, “I understand where you’re coming from.” You’re not agreeing, but still acknowledging their concerns.

Instead of: “I don’t agree.”

Why: People who are complaining want you to see the issue from their point of view. You have, but you’re not committing yourself to agreeing.

Your point: You want to build rapport when tackling a difficult issue that will require a compromise.

#7. “You make a good point”

Useful in meetings or in conversations where others are listening. You’ve shown the other person respect.

Instead of: “Your point of view doesn’t matter because I disagree.”

Why: If you want the other person to treat you with respect, acknowledge the points they make.

Your point: You’re taking the high road and affirming it will be a civilized discussion.

#8. “I don’t think you have all the facts”

A polite way of laying the groundwork for your point of view.

Instead of: “I think you’re wrong.”

Why: You have a point of view based on facts. They have a different point of view. You’re making the assumption they don’t have the information you have. If they did, they’d agree.

Your point: Gently saying you disagree.

Read: When your friend (and client) is losing money

Bryce Sanders

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