Hone your conversation technique

By Barry LaValley | February 21, 2005 | Last updated on February 21, 2005
2 min read

(March 2005) Most advisors have a basic level of knowledge about their clients that comes from the “Know Your Client” information gathered at the outset of the working relationship. But over time, you can augment this “hard” information with “soft” information that can only surface in conversation.

To hone your conversation technique and to develop deeper, more trusting relationships that uncover the factors that truly influence your clients’ decisions, here are some pointers:

1. Ensure the conversation has “give” and “take.” In other words, you have to be able to share personal information. For example, if an older prospect comments that they have a 10-year-old grandchild, you may respond by saying, “I have two children who are 10 and 12. They sure are a delight at that age!”

2. Make your prospect feel comfortable enough to open up emotionally to you. In your initial interview, get them talking about their life and life issues before they start to anticipate that you are going to focus in on selling them a financial product.

3. Add structure and expectation to your conversation. Initially, your client or prospect needs to feel that the conversation has some structure and that you just aren’t going to spend an hour creating meaningless banter. To avoid this, you will want to open your discussion by saying something like, “Mrs. Jones, bear with me for a few minutes because I would like to get to know you a little better.”

Remember that time flies when you are in an enjoyable conversation. This is particularly true of your 50-plus client or prospect, for whom relationship-building is everything. Once your client feels that there is some structure to the conversation, they won’t be so quick to wonder where it’s heading.

4. Be aware of the message you’re sending. Pay close attention to your own body language, eye contact and facial expressions. Everything you do has to convey that, “I am interested and care about what you have to say.”

You should also make use of “active listening” phrases that get the client to expand on what they have just said. Here are two examples of such phrases:

  • “Would you tell me what you mean by that?”
  • “Would you give me some more detail on that?”

5. Don’t let your pen interfere. You can make notes as long as you state at the outset that you are going to “jot some things down” so that you don’t forget. This also adds to the structured conversation feel. However, be careful not to let your note-taking interrupt the flow of the conversation.


Barry LaValley, EPC, is a partner in The Life First Approach along with Kirk Lowe of Freedom Marketing. He has taken his life planning methodology and incorporated it into effective tools for North American financial advisors who wish to adopt the approach. You can reach him at barry@lifefirstapproach.com.

Barry LaValley