A recent participant on one of our coaching courses for advisers commented that his new skills would set him apart from the majority.

    It was music to our ears, as we’re strong advocates of using coaching skills to help build long lasting client relationships through improved communication.

    As an expert in your field, you’ll have the technical knowledge and qualifications to provide your clients with excellent advice.

    You’ll no doubt enjoy good relationships with your clients, and they may well admire your expertise in what to them appears to be the rather mystical world of financial planning.

    But there could still be a better way – a way more likely to lead to the long-term satisfaction and retention of clients. In turn, this allows you to create a strong and thriving client bank, and build a profitable business model along the way. Yet it requires a different approach to client consultations.

    Coaching is a method used to help others come to their own conclusions, to consider their position and decide on their own actions.

    This may seem at odds with your approach of sharing your knowledge and matching financial products and services with what you perceive to be your clients’ needs.

    But ask yourself this question – do you really know and understand your clients’ needs? And more importantly, do your clients really have a clear picture of what they want their financial future to look like?

    Person before problem

    Coaching is what I term a ‘person before problem’ approach.

    It gives your clients the time and space to delve deep into their thinking. It allows them to reflect on questions and consider what their life plan looks like, whether it’s achievable, and what they need to do to get there. Key to this process is your ability to ask questions, to refrain from providing answers, and to listen.

    It's worth stressing this process is not about you. 

    How often have you been in client meetings and found yourself doing most of the talking? You might be keen to share knowledge, to prove your expertise, or you may just want to be liked and to build rapport.

    These are common occurrences, and understandable too. But if you want to stand out as an excellent adviser, a client-centric approach works best – they’ll thank you for it in the end.

    Can you remember when someone last listened to you? I mean really, actively listened, without interruption, or cutting in to have their say?

    If you have experienced such a conversation, you’ll probably recall how good it felt to have the opportunity to talk, to explore your thoughts, and to be heard. Imagine if you could make your clients think like that.

    The art of good listening, of listening with intent, is not something we are all blessed with. This can be a key differentiator between being a good or an exceptional adviser.

    This video on the six levels of listening may help to identify where you are on this spectrum, and how to progress to a level called constructive listening.

    At this level, you are in control of the conversation. You are the one steering it towards a deeper understanding, yet without taking on a major speaking part. There are words and phrases you can use to guide conversations at this level, and to reach meaningful conclusions that your client is committed to and owns for themselves.

    Only when your client has reached this level of clarity, can you be in a position to offer the best and most appropriate advice. I’ll vouch too that you’ll have a closer, more meaningful adviser-client relationship, one that is more likely to endure.

    I discuss this more in this talk, Experts – are you listening?, where I expand on the merits of a professional level of listening to provide a more rewarding and meaningful client service.

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