9.5 MIN READ
As a business coach with XY Planning Network (XYPN), I thrive on cheering on my clients. So much so that when I first joined the XYPN team, my colleagues joked that I was officially the “head cheerleader” for our advisor members. What started as a joke quickly became a reality as I fully embraced that title.
I was never the cheerleading type in high school. I was too tall, too gangly, and definitely more of a show choir geek. So how did I wake up 30 years later and embrace my new title as head cheerleader? It all circles back to my why. I love financial planners. I love cheering them on. I love supporting their mission, and I firmly believe that they’re saving the world (superhero style) one family at a time.
One way I cheer on my clients is by helping them live a life that inspires them. On our calls together, we tackle hard problems. But no matter how emotionally challenging our phone meetings may be, I never want them to leave a call feeling deflated. I want them feeling ready to take on the world, because I know they’re fully equipped to do so.
So, how does this apply to you?
As a financial advisor, you should take this same mentality when it comes to your clients. Declare yourself their biggest cheerleader because ultimately, their success is your success.
Being a “Cheerleader” is About Authentic Connection
I want to support my clients because I believe in them as individuals. Our coaching relationship is built on a foundation of trust, and the only way I can achieve that trust is through building an authentic connection with each of my clients. Financial advisors, as numbers-oriented as they may be, also act as coaches for their clients. You help your clients overcome negative financial behaviors and habits; you guide their financial decisions to align their actions with their values; you help them overcome barriers that block them from success.
You are so much more than your clients’ financial guide on this incredible journey. You are their coach, their cheerleader, and in some cases, their therapist (not to mention the millions of other roles you’ll play over the course of their lives). When they hire you, they’re hiring someone to fill this space, whether they realize it or not. So, position yourself as their cheerleader. Create authentic connections that draw your ideal clients in, and help you help them. It all starts with building a foundation of trust based on human connection.
How to Build Authentic Connections with Your Clients
Creating a genuine relationship with a client who ultimately is going to pay you for your services can feel uncomfortable. We get trapped in this concept of “selling” services. But that’s not what your clients want. Sure, they’re coming to you because they need what you provide. They understand that, for whatever reason, DIY financial planning isn’t for them, so they’ve sought you out. But they’re also coming to you with a deeper need. They need a cheerleader, a friend, and a money mentor. The work you two will do together can dramatically change their life for the better, and they need to know they can trust you.
Rather than focusing on selling your services, I suggest you start focusing on selling yourself to prospective clients. Sell the relationship you’ll have with your clients. Celebrate the connections you’ve already made with existing clients and show prospective clients what a typical engagement with you looks like. You are one of the biggest reasons clients buy into your practice.
Once you embrace the fact that your story and your personality are what ultimately sell clients on your value, you can start laying the foundation to create authentic, non-sales-based connections with new clients and prospects. It may not feel comfortable at first. After all, as much as your prospects don’t know you, you don’t know them either. It can feel awkward for some advisors to communicate honestly and authentically with a stranger. Luckily, there are a few ways you can draw in ideal clients who make being yourself easy from the top of your marketing funnel.
Start with Your Website
A website tells your prospective and existing clients so much about you. It provides a run-down of your services, your mission, and who you are. As you write your website copy, focus on telling human stories. Be honest with who you are and write from the heart. I often advise clients to include two or three anecdotes that resonate strongly with you. Make your story your elevator pitch.
Next, focus on creating a website where people can see themselves. Prospective clients want to know that as much as they were searching for you as their advisor, you’ve been searching for them too. A prospective client should feel immediately at home and should be able to tell whether or not you’re the right advisor for them when as they explore your website.
You can create this “homey” atmosphere on your website in so many different ways. Colors, fonts, and imagery all matter, so choose options that will resonate with your ideal client base. When in doubt, chat with a professional web designer about it. They’ll be able to help you communicate through design in a way that many of us struggle with.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: your messaging needs to be clear. This means you need to be clear about the services you provide, the way you charge, the people you help, and how you want to engage with a client. This starts with your website but also extends into your brand as a whole. From your blog to your social media posts, your brand needs to clearly communicate what your story.
The idea of sharing stories in your messaging comes up here again. The more often you can humanize your business and your service model, the more likely you are to gain someone’s trust and foster a connection. As humans, we crave honest connection, and stories help build that. Moreover, we crave being able to see ourselves in other people. That’s what inspires us to connect.
Your First Meeting
A prospective client has navigated their way through your website, connected with your content, and is ready for a consultation. Congrats! Your first meeting with them is truly your time to shine. I’ll circle back to what I said earlier: during this meeting don’t forget that you are what they’re here for. Be yourself and they’ll connect with you organically if they’re the right fit for your firm (remember, not all prospects are).
While your first meeting is a time for you to sell yourself, it's also a time to listen. The 80/20 rule works well here. Talk 20% of the time and let your prospective client have the floor the rest of the time. Don’t run the conversation in an attempt to sell them on your value. Listen to their concerns, take notes, ask insightful questions, and repeat back what they’re saying often to make sure you understand. The more a prospective client feels heard, the more sooner they'll realize you’re here to help them (not just take their money), and the more likely they’ll make the transition from prospect to client.
Take Notes on More Than Your Clients’ Finances
As you go through your first meeting—and subsequent meetings—with a new client remember to look beyond their financial situation. Ask questions to understand their financial background and behavior. Here are a few questions you can consider asking:
- What causes my client stress?
- What has happened in my client's past to make them feel financially unbalanced or unsafe?
- How does my client feel about money?
- Why does my client feel that way about money?
- How does money impact my client's relationships?
- What are my client's underlying values that are bigger than their financial goals?
For many of you, I’m preaching to the choir. But I think it’s important to revisit some of these questions, even with clients you’ve had for a long time. Remembering that your client is more than just a financial plan, and that they have very real histories and emotions is important.
Move the Relationship Forward
As your relationship with your clients grows over the years, you need to listen to maintain an authentic relationship. As they become more comfortable with you, they’ll likely start to share more. You’ll learn about their mom who gambled away her retirement, or their best friend who sent both of her kids to private colleges and is still managing to retire early (and the unexpected resentment they feel about it). As you continue to learn about your clients’ lives, give them the space to freely express their feelings about their finances, and help them overcome obstacles as you reach them.
Always remember your clients are human. They may react strongly when you strike a nerve when you bring up a particular topic, like a savings plan or an investment strategy. Even after you’ve known a client for years, occasionally you’ll find yourself in tense, sometimes uncomfortable situations.
My advice? Keep revisiting those uncomfortable financial topics, treading lightly on those sensitive zones and giving them grace when needed. If a financial subject is tough for a client to discuss, the greater the need to explore it further.
People, including your clients, like to feel important. So be human, and acknowledges life's little, and big, moments. Keep track of the milestones in their lives, including:
- College graduations
You also need to track the not-so-happy milestones in your clients’ lives. Things like deaths in the family. When you can, send flowers or a card. Pick up the phone and call them to see if they’re doing alright. You may be like me and worry that your response isn’t “good enough” and will somehow cheapen their grief. That’s not true. Small gestures matter.
There’s a family in my local town who lost their son to a car accident many years ago. In a park by my house, they have a bench dedicated to him. Every Christmas, someone puts a wreath on the bench. One year, there was no wreath and the “wreath giving” duty officially fell to my friend. When she’s out of town, she calls to ask me if I’ll pick up the wreath that year.
The wreath may not seem like that big of a deal; it’s $10 from the local grocery store. But it means the world to the family who visits that bench every year around the holidays.
Small gestures can make a big impact and help nurture your relationships with clients.
Bring on the Praise
As service providers, we often eagerly wait for clients to effuse praise. We want to hear how invaluable we are to them and how all the work, money, and energy we’ve saved them is helping them live their best lives and achieve their dreams. Who doesn’t want that kind of positive affirmation?
Your clients need that affirmation, too. They need you to remind them of how far they’ve come, and to tell them it’s okay if they feel fear, pain, or shame along the way. These are normal emotions to feel around personal finances. Sometimes, all a client needs to feel better is to hear from you—someone they have an authentic connection with—that they’re doing just fine.
Continue to validate your clients beyond the beginning stages of your relationship. When they first sign on with you, it’s easy to cheer them along. But that validation needs to continue even when you’ve been together for a while. There may be some things you can’t fix, like a constant financial worry or negative emotions about money. You don’t need to fix everything. Instead, assure your clients that you’ll never dismiss their feelings. Offer a solution to ease their worry or lessen their pain point and reassure them that they’re still making excellent progress in their life as a result of the decisions they’re making.
Finding Your Why
I work with advisors because I believe in their mission. I believe that financial advice can change more than just someone’s ability to retire comfortably—it can change their view of themselves. I believe the work advisors do is changing the world, and I love being able to empower them to do that work through my work. Because of this, donning my “Head Cheerleader” title at XYPN has been an honor. My “why” fuels my ability to cheer on all of you while being my most authentic self every single day.
Your why should fuel you to do the same with your clients. If you ever feel like you’re drowning in client work, or you’re just not clicking with your day-to-day rhythm, or you’re just plain burnt out—stop. Make a list of reasons you got into the financial planning profession. Why are you passionate about what you do? Why are you passionate about your clients?
Pin that list to your memo board or save it on your computer. Come back to it whenever you need a reminder. Then, pick up your pom poms, because it’s time to start cheering.
About Arlene Moss, Executive Coach
Arlene gets a kick out of helping financial advisors get over being overwhelmed and take on their frustrations so their businesses soar. Arlene works to ensure XYPN members are able to help their clients prosper while creating a sustainable business model. Through XYPN Academy and one-on-one coaching, members get the support they need to grow their businesses and overcome the challenges that come their way.