Communication skills

In these early meetings the client may be hearing information and thinking about investment and financial concepts of which they were previously unaware. Your communication skills have an important part to play in helping clients feel comfortable and continuing to build rapport between you and the client.

Here are some tips for the investment advisor to follow:

Avoid using jargon. Every industry has its own particular terms and phrases. Clients need to understand every step taken and advisors should use plain English.

Understand the client’s level of experience. Each client will likely have different levels of experience and it is your role to understand the level of experience and to communicate appropriately.

Use examples. Taking clients through an example can go a long way to help them gain sufficient understanding and properly assess how a proposal suits them.

Be visual. Many people see things visually and a picture can be worth a thousand words.

Practice. You need to demonstrate your confidence and practice can help them gain certainty and a smooth flow of information and dialogue with clients. Presentations need to be adjusted to suit different clients and you need to know your material well in order to do this.

Questioning. There are two types of questions to be aware of in effective communication. Open questions are designed to have the person being questioned open up about what is being asked. They usually begin with: what, why, how. Closed questions aim to elicit just a few words in an answer, often just a yes or no or a simple factual answer. As a general rule, open questions are designed to have the clients tell you more about themselves, their preferences and their rationale for making decisions. Closed questions are better able to get a definitive response to a specific idea.

It may, therefore, be useful to ask open questions at the beginning of the interview, when the aim is to learn as much as possible about a client and to use closed questions towards the end of the interview when the aim is to come to an agreement about the next steps of the process.

By way of example, the open question; ‘What is your experience with property investment?’ enables a client to take their answer in any direction and can provide information about their feelings about their experience, whether they have invested in property previously and, if so, how many times, for how long, was it successful for them..

Listening. People don’t always say what they mean. For example, a client may keep saying how well their father has done in the property market, which is why they are considering investing. It may be that this person holds unrealistic expectations of the potential return on the investment based on their father’s experience and you should ask more questions to see if this is the case.

Also, the way in which we listen can tell others a lot about us. The term active listening is now used.  Active listening provides a way to demonstrate to clients that they are being listened to. Some techniques to consider are:

  • Taking notes
  • Acknowledgements such as nodding, saying ‘Uh huh’, ‘OK’ or ‘right’.
  • Paraphrasing; clarifying what has been said by repeating back the essence of what has been said.

Body language tells us much and we need to learn to read it. Clients sitting with crossed arms, seemingly closed up, indicate that they are not receptive to the information they are being given. The aim is to enable clients to feel sufficiently comfortable to sit back, arms unfolded, smiling and nodding as they are speaking.

It is equally important for you to be aware of the messages your body language sends to clients. A couple of key pointers are to show interest by leaning slightly towards the client and to maintain eye contact when not making notes.