Imagine that history’s greatest financial guru came to your town to spill all their secrets. Would you be eager to hear this person speak? Of course you would!
But what if this financial advisor speaks only French and the extent of your French is ordering French toast for breakfast? This fabulous French advisor could stand at the podium and shout all the secrets to delivering a market-beating yield every year, but you wouldn’t understand a word because this person isn’t speaking your language.
Language Is More Than Dialect
To connect with clients, your words are as important as the numbers. Most people know they should watch their financial matters more closely. Similarly, most people know they shouldn’t eat hamburgers and French fries for lunch every day. Why do these people continue to neglect their finances and pass on the salad?
When clients listen to your advice, they may hear your exact words but interpret those words differently, according to Christine Whelan, best-selling author and professor at the University of Wisconsin. This is the concept behind Money Languages, a set of investor personalities created by Whelan’s team of interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners from a large-scale, national sampling of more than 1,500 adults that emphasized married individuals living in the same household.
Financial knowledge may not be enough, and facts don’t necessarily move the needle with investors. Two clients could be identical in many relevant ways — the same age, income, outflow, investment plans and target retirement date. However, their respective beliefs and values could be starkly different, resulting in opposite attitudes and behaviors regarding money. Thus, every client engages in a different behavior based on identical knowledge.
Determine Your Client’s Financial Personality
According to Money Languages, advisors can better connect with clients’ beliefs and values if they customize their communication approach based on how each client reacts to financial information. With a tailored approach, clients can better understand the reasons behind a financial plan and how that plan will help them achieve their goals. This doesn’t mean changing a client’s financial plan. Rather, this is about changing how you communicate the plan, and the first step is determining your client’s financial personality.
1. The Seeker: As a generous, optimistic and spontaneous investor, the Seeker experiments to find the best approach to financial planning. The Seeker understands saving is important but lacks attention to detail and finds new information distracting. Expect Seekers to look for an exit if you ask them to review a financial plan’s details.
If you want to capture the Seeker’s attention, keep the conversation forward-looking and focus on the big picture. Avoid digging too deeply into the details in the beginning. Focusing on future possibilities allows you to explore more investing strategies, which keeps the Seeker engaged.
Kick off the conversation on a positive note to better connect with the Seeker. Appeal to the Seeker’s adventurous spirit by saying, “Let me show you some exciting new options and how your plan can evolve over time.”
2. The Believer: The Believer generally is financially optimistic. To the Believer, the purpose of money is to make life enjoyable. The Believer is typically generous and creative. However, the Believer also has trouble grasping how today’s small actions can lead to tomorrow’s rewards.
To help Believers envision how a financial plan can help them reach those enjoyable life goals, ask, “When you imagine your financial future, what does it involve?” Not only does this conversation starter tap into the Believer’s creative line of thinking, but it also opens the door to discussing strategy in a way that’s relatable to the Believer.
3. The Worrier: As suggested by the name, the Worrier is cautious about finances and always on the lookout for potential problems. Tracking money is usually stressful — to the point that the Worrier avoids it. The Worrier is risk averse and can become agitated when it comes to investing.
For the Worrier, you want to create a calming conversational tone, which is best done by addressing all concerns head-on. Transparency is key to calming your Worrier clients. In addition to talking about their concerns, be prepared to discuss solutions to put any anxiety at ease. You can better understand what gives the Worrier anxiety by saying, “Let’s talk about the potential risks and how we can address them.”
4. The Tracker: Deeply aware of his or her finances, the Tracker knows how much is in their retirement account, in their savings account and even in their piggy bank. Splurging is not a part of the Tracker’s vocabulary. In fact, the Tracker is the opposite. Spending money on even a necessity makes a Tracker cringe.
Although Trackers are detail-oriented and on top of their current finances, looking at their long-term financial picture can be difficult for these clients. Help the Tracker feel in control while encouraging a forward-looking approach by saying, “Let me show you how you can track your progress toward these goals.”
5. The Planner: When it comes to finances, the Planner is confident and optimistic. The Planner understands money is a means to enjoying life, but investing is also necessary to ensuring a bright future. Planners are clear about their needs and wants, and they value planning to create a strong financial future.
Planners may have great saving skills; however, they tend to shy away from unknown growth opportunities. Planners are creatures of habit, but they could be missing valuable opportunities. To help Planners move out of their comfort zone and explore new growth options, open the conversation with “I would like to share some ideas on how we might enhance your existing plans.”
Perhaps you recognize one or more of these personality profiles. You may have one client who is a Tracker and another who is a Worrier. No matter how alike your clients may seem, each investor requires a unique communication strategy, depending on that person’s distinct values and beliefs.
If you can communicate and connect with your clients in a money language they understand, you’re more likely to build the kind of trust that won’t get lost in translation.