“Early in my career, I used to get very excited whenever clients came in for a consultation or review meeting,” said Kyle Walters, an L&H CPAs partner and author of The Personal CFO. “I really thought they were coming in to learn about all the latest developments I was following in accounting, tax and personal finance. It took me about 10 years to understand from their body language that they were just zoned out, waiting patiently for me to finish my lecture so they could ask the only relevant question—“What does this mean for me?” added Walters, a longtime HB client and regular columnist for Accounting Today.
Walters said it’s like taking your car to the mechanic and having to spend hours listening to him explain the details of what’s wrong with your crankshaft or carburetor. Unless you’re really into cars, you probably don’t care. Walters said that for years he was like Tony, the overzealous mechanic from the Seinfeld show. “My wife would hear me on a call and say, ‘You shouldn’t talk so much; they don’t care as much as you think they do.’”
Don’t talk down to clients
According to Walters, you don’t want to overwhelm clients with how much you know, and you NEVER want to talk down to them (or worse, talk down to their spouses). That’s not only arrogant; you’re implying they’re not smart enough to understand a tax-related subject. Chances are they’re smarter than you, which is why they have the means to afford a professional CPA and other financial advisors.
No offense, but they’re just not interested in taxes, asset allocation and Monte Carlo simulation. They’re coming to your office to get advice—not a jargon-filled finance lecture about RMDs, NOL, EBIDTA and Alpha.
By the way: The spouse who talks the most in the meeting with you is very often NOT the financial decision maker in a married couple. On the elevator down to the lobby, guess who’s giving the thumbs-up or thumbs-down sign? Hint: It ain’t the husband. And who is most likely to switch advisors after her husband passes away. Right again!
Clients appreciate simplicity, not complexity
Again, too many advisors think clients are impressed by how much they know about the new tax reform, or Modern Portfolio Theory or estate tax laws. In reality, they will be rewarded if they can simplify all of a client’s financial issues and say: “Here’s what all this means for you and you’re going to be OK if you do the following things. These are the next steps,” Walters added.
This is where advisors have a really hard time: Clients don’t want to pay you for data. They’re paying you for advice and educated recommendations so they can make smarter financial decisions.
If you’re still in doubt, use the “What / So What / Now What” filter……Don’t just give clients The What (i.e., data and information). You need to give them the So What (i.e., What does it mean for me?) and the Now What (i.e., What Do I do About it?). They’ll be glad you did and so will the people they refer you to.
What’s your take? Please share. I’d like to learn more
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