Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.Dan Richards

For client meetings and phone reviews to be effective, you need a specific objective … even if that objective is to have clients walk away reassured that their portfolio is the right one and that no changes are required.

And to achieve that objective, you have to engage clients in conversation. All too many client conversations are monologues, with the advisor talking and clients listening. Even when you ask if clients have questions, they say “no.” 

Here are four ways to engage clients in discussion about your recommendations and to increase the chances of buy-in as a result:

  1. Link your recommendations to client needs

    Years ago, I interviewed a top-selling real estate agent for a video series; she shared how she starts every showing to potential buyers – her career took off when she began using this approach.  Here’s what she says:

    When we met last time, you said your top three priorities in your next house were a good school in walking distance, a park nearby and a big backyard for your dog. Have I missed anything or has anything changed?” 

    When her buyers say that nothing’s changed, she continues: ”Great, I’ve picked three houses to show you today that I thing deliver on all three of those. “

    Consider spending the time before making recommendations to reaffirm key client objectives – and then link those recommendations back to the needs clients have identified.

  2. Ask direct questions

    A second way to engage clients is to ask questions that clients are forced to answer.

    One advisor uses simple charts and graphs of long term performance in his presentation – but rather than just pointing to numbers, has circled key years and then asks, “And what do you think took place to make this happen?”  He uses that as a jumping off point for conversation about historical parallels to where we stand today.

    Another tactic is to take a blank piece of paper with six or eight lines on it and draw a vertical line down the middle. Then say to clients, “I’d like to talk about the things that make us positive and the things that make us concerned about the outlook for the economy in five years time. Let’s start with the things that cause us concern.”

    Once he and his clients have filled the right hand side with concerns, he then engages them on the left hand side to talk about the positives. After a while they warm up and become quite animated discussing the reasons to be positive and negative about the future.

    This approach can be used with many issues – the pros and cons of owning gold, bonds, specific industry sectors or stocks as a whole.