In my last article, I presented the first step in a comprehensive three-step process to help you identify and implement the right solutions and approach to your business when it comes to better serving female clients: determining your at-risk assets. The goal of this first step was to help you highlight total assets and specific client relationships that could be at risk.

Now that you have identified the risks and opportunities among your female client base, I’ll introduce the second step: taking action to better serve female clients. In doing so, I’ll outline four key strategies to consider.

Strategy #1: Implement a Disciplined and Repeatable Approach to Sales and Planning That Targets Women’s Needs and Experiences

Whether you are working with a potential client or a long-standing one, it’s important to recognize the unique needs of women. As a service provider, it is your responsibility to understand the needs of your clients and adapt your approach to meet their needs.  By being aware of the life-experience and gender-based differences that exist at a broad level between your male and female clients, you’ll be better equipped to adapt to differing client perspectives and needs.  Any disciplined approach should be easily repeatable across your client base and easily used by other financial advisors in your practice. Your approach should encompass all phases of the process: pre-meeting activities, strategies and questions to ask during client meetings, and post-meeting activities.  As Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, author of How to Give Financial Advice to Women, says, “Creating trust with a client is not a one-time event.”

Consider enhancing your prospect and client interaction in these ways.

Give Women Time

Make sure you allow your female client or prospect enough time and information to make important decisions. Women clients may need time to process the advice you’re providing, and may feel stressed – and ultimately unable to make a decision – if they feel they are missing crucial information.

Give Women Multiple Perspectives

Female clients and prospects may seek input from different people and perspectives when contemplating a big decision. Use narrative cases to illustrate how you’ve helped other clients like her, demonstrating outcomes with other clients and centers of influence. Be sure to include these case studies on your web site and in your first-meeting package.

Give Women Proper Attention

Your female client or prospect may likely value a financial advisor who pays attention to the details, demonstrating that you truly care about her unique needs. Be sure to understand her family dynamics, including the names of her children, close siblings and other people who are important to her. Keep track of her details in your CRM system, and ask about these people and issues when you talk to her again.

Give Women the Chance to Talk

In all of your conversations, ask open-ended questions. Give her the chance to open up. Make sure, however, that your questions remain part of a defined process. Remember that you are the advisor, and she is looking to you to lead her through the discovery process.

Give Women Straight Talk

In verbal communication, limit the use of jargon and “Wall Street Speak.” Don’t talk down to your clients, but use regular English and descriptive sentences to get your point across.

Strategy #2: Use Multiple Listening Techniques to Build Credibility and Uncover Needs

Make effective listening a priority of your job. Your goal when working with female clients is to listen more and talk less. Doing so will help you better understand their needs and give them a forum to ask meaningful questions, so that they can make good decisions about their wealth and their future. You should recommend solutions only after you’ve demonstrated that you understand their situation through proper listening.

Here are several approaches to try:

Listen for Understanding.  During the conversation, summarize and repeat back what you think you are hearing: “So what I’m understanding from this conversation is…” This technique can help you clarify what you hear, confirm understanding of both parties, and demonstrate sincerity.

Focus on Relationship-Building Questions. There is a difference between fact-finding and relationship-building questions. Try using more of the latter with female clients. For example, instead of merely asking “How many children do you have?” ask “What are your greatest hopes for your children and grandchildren?”

Ask Clarifying Questions. Get to the root of the concern that your client is expressing to help her most effectively solve her issue. For example, if your client expresses, “My grown kids are too reliant on me,” recognize the statement as an opener for you to begin a meaningful discussion on how to best address her concerns.

Strategy #3: Create a Welcoming Environment for Client Meetings

With a goal of putting your female clients at ease and enabling a better connection on a personal level, consider using some of the following ideas:

Display photos and personal mementos, as well as magazines and books in your office. These items not only create a comfortable, yet professional feeling, they allow clients to find ways to start a conversation that establishes similarities or common interests.  This may strengthen your relationship with female clients and help engender trust. 

Create an inviting environment that is conducive to conversation for meetings. Consider a tastefully decorated office that includes a sofa, comfortable chairs, end tables and coffee tables. Add a small round table with upholstered chairs off to the side for reviewing and signing documents.  A comfortable, yet professional environment may put clients at ease and create a better atmosphere for having constructive conversations.  

In your conference room, include magazines and books on topics of interest to men and women.  Consider removing the financial trade magazines from your lobby, and replacing them with lifestyle, travel, and local publications that speak to the human side (rather than the financial side) of your clients.

Strategy #4: Provide Ongoing Education to Engage Clients

Research shows that women are more likely to report a lack of knowledge about investments and money management, and a lack of financial confidence in themselves than men. Provide your female clients with ongoing education. Take time in meetings to educate them on financial topics, hold educational events, or provide books or resources for clients to read between meetings. In doing so, you’ll not only provide clients with essential skills to manage their future, but you’ll also demonstrate a true understanding of their needs. What’s more, encourage them to share the educational materials you provide with their friends and to invite their friends to attend your educational events.

Again, the goal of this second step was to consider specific ways to enhance your prospect and client interactions to better meet the needs of female clients. In my next article, I’ll reveal the final step in the process, which focuses on strategically preparing your practice.

Laura Kogen is vice president within the Practice Management & Consulting organization of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services (IWS), a Fidelity Investments company and a leading provider of services to registered investment advisors, trust institutions and third party administrators. 

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