Self-Assessment: It Isn’t Just for Beginners Anymore
As financial advisors prepare to increase their share of the ever-expanding female market segment, there’s no lack of evidence for a wide divide between conventional wisdom and the needs of these potential clients. Husbands still receive more attention than wives and new widows fire a disputed—but indisputably alarming—percentage of their advisors. Clearly, the “getting to know you” conversation with women is a bridge too far for some advisors.
“What do women want?” This is the ground-zero question when it comes to money. But before you get to their hopes and fears, look in the mirror. Have you given much thought to how you come across to women as a professional?
If not, it’s time to start. Because I’ll guarantee one thing: Women WILL assess your willingness to work with them. And, without a doubt, most will notice if the way you portray yourself online doesn’t match reality.
Every day, the probability of potential clients checking you out online—before they meet with you in person—ticks upward. Call that general likelihood n. With women, call it 2n. In fact, you might as well accept that to be referred is to be Googled.
This means your Web presence has to be tethered firmly to the truth of who you are. This includes:
Appearance. Most of us know about attachments to those flattering photos snapped 10—or 15 or 20—years ago. But if you’ve gone gray or threadbare, or no longer sport quite so trim a figure, at least compromise with a photo that does not contradict the truth. No one will blame you for having lived a few years; however, they may be put off by what they perceive as a lack of honesty. And in this business, that’s the equivalent of a new business exit ramp.
Interests. I’m not a runner, but I was impressed by the level of commitment to marathons I saw on the website of an advisor who wanted a consultation with me. I didn’t expect an Olympian in person, but the difference between the Google depiction and the reality I shook hands with was jarring. And I drew back. Keeping it real instills confidence in potential clients—particularly women.
The (Long) Look in the Mirror
Once upon a time, when you were breaking into the business, you might have practiced your pitch with an equally green colleague. A trip back to Square One isn’t necessary, but have you evaluated how new clients—specifically female clients—might receive your presentation?
Despite the huge majority who work (and the growing number who earn more than their husbands), women still consider how financial decisions will impact their families more than retirement or any other concern.
You don’t need to turn your office into a nursery; there’s a fine line between welcoming and hokey. Still, if you have a family, make sure there are pictures in plain view. Even before the “hellos” are exchanged, communicate that your office is a place where kitchen table issues are just as important as portfolio rebalancing.
Once the talking begins, keep the following in mind:
- Are you asking enough questions? Curiosity doesn’t help just you. Questions, and a clear willingness to listen to the answers, are going to win points and build trust in female clients. They want to be heard and it’s all too easy for them to feel that they aren’t.
- Spell out the concepts before the details. Your initial questions should help you gauge your client’s financial sophistication. Dumbing things down is NOT the way to reach beginners. Talk about the big picture instead. Focus on the foundational goals of an investment strategy, and speak to those goals.
- Ease up on the jargon. Unless you’re dealing with a seasoned financial thinker, you will not win points by talking the inside game. When that’s unavoidable, look for a relevant metaphor or example to illustrate your point.
- Cut the condescension. You might not intend it, but expressions like “do you understand?“ or “do you follow me?” are off-putting 99 times out of 100. “Am I making sense?” puts the burden of explanation back on you.
Rigorous self-assessment can be uncomfortable. Some of us manage by telling ourselves it’s not personal, we’re just being professional. But I think that’s a false divide. When you work with people, it’s always personal. And it takes work to ensure that your best side is the one that engages.