How to Stop Taking Client Objections Personally
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Here are tips for handling prospect objections and how every advisor can improve client meetings.
Do client objections ever feel like a personal attack – like a client’s pushback brings your technical expertise into question?
It’s far too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because a client doesn’t jive with your recommendations, they don’t like you either.
I struggled with this for years – it wasn’t until I started looking at client objections as questions that my meetings began to flow, and I could deliver more value to my clients.
We hear industry experts talk about how advisors should push through objections. But “objections” are a misnomer. What many advisors label as a client “objection” is just a misunderstanding in the communication.
At some point during your conversation with your client, you missed each other. Rather than taking their questions as a personal attack, force your ego to take a step back and respond to their questions with genuine curiosity.
It’s taken some practice – and even today, it's something I sometimes catch myself forgetting. Recently, I had a newer client going through my onboarding process. This client was getting a little hung up on asset transfers.
We hit a little snag, and I started getting emails and calls from the client who told us they only wanted environmental social governance (ESG) investments. But these aren’t the sort of investments we make in my firm.
After reading the client’s last email, I made a mental note to graduate the client and move on. This client wasn’t a good fit, so I didn’t worry about their situation further.
When I saw this client on my meeting roster sometime later, I realized that I had entirely checked them off mentally. I was about to enter a meeting ready to graduate (fire) the client instead of delivering massive value.
I paused at my desk, and did a mental reset to walk into that appointment with an open mind and genuine curiosity about their situation.
Now, I wasn’t about to rework all my processes to accommodate one client, But I needed to be genuinely curious about their questions. Deciding to fire a client over a random email attachment had been immature on my part – it’s my duty to hear them out.
My client had a question about ESG investing because they read an article somewhere that triggered their concern. That was it.
When it’s all said and done, nearly all client objections boil down to this one question: Will I run out of money and die broke?
This is a genuine and valid concern that demands our empathy – our clients only have one chance to retire. And they’re trusting you with everything thing they have.
Early in my onboarding process, I had given this client (and every client) explicit permission to push back should they ever feel my recommendations didn’t align with their goals. And, as we had a bit of trouble with a $5 million asset transfer, in my client’s panic, they pushed back on my advice – just like I told them to.
You see, our clients trust us with their entire life savings; they sure as hell can push back against us if they feel like our recommendations go against their financial goals – it’s their money – their life savings at stake.
If you feel your hackles being raised or triggered by client pushback, your ego has come into play. Instead of being interested in the client’s concern, you’re going on the defensive.
Take a deep breath and remind yourself that client questions aren’t an insult to your knowledge or your intelligence – they are just questions.
Every question should be treated with genuine curiosity and as an opportunity to deliver massive value.
Often, financial advisors who are experiencing pushback in client meetings haven’t yet found their balance with client communication. You have all this technical knowledge, and you know the finer aspects of financial planning, but you haven’t mastered your client presentation.
When working directly with clients, your technical prowess and ego must take the backseat so that you can use your communication skills to lead the conversation.
You could overcomplicate your client interactions by pouring over body language and matching energy levels, but client meetings should be as simple as having a good conversation. Be excited to see your clients, so they look forward to coming in to work with you.
The three Ps
Before a prospect can become a client, they must be personable, profitable, and productive. If a prospect isn’t personable, the other two Ps don’t matter.
It is an immediate red flag if I see a name on my calendar, rub my forehead, and think, “Aw crap. I don’t want to meet with Bob and Sue again.” I can’t bring my A game into any meetings that will be tedious.
This is the lens I use to evaluate all my client relationships, and I tell my clients that they should feel the same way. If they’re not excited to see me, they won’t tell me what I need to know to improve their financial situation.
Sometimes, clients may push back on advisor recommendations because the advice feels wishy washy.
If you’re struggling to walk into the conference room brimming with confidence, are you doing the things you’re recommending to your clients?
Budding advisors lacking confidence need to follow their own advice. You’ve got to know deep in your soul that what you’re recommending is the very best thing your clients can do.
You’ll never develop that level of faith if you haven’t done a personal Roth conversion or followed your own cash-flow advice.
I didn’t learn how hard it was to name a trust until I had to name my own.
There’s nuance in your recommendations that you’ll only learn by going through the process with your own money.
Review your last several prospect meetings and identify any objections you faced. Write down these objections and pull on that thread to discover what your clients were trying to ask.
Maybe they objected to your fees, your meeting schedule, or your onboarding process. Whatever it was, remember that the objection wasn’t a defense but a question you had left unanswered.
Write down how you could address this question in your next meeting.
Micah Shilanski, CFP®, is a financial planner who achieves the impossible. Micah is recognized as a leader in the concept of lifestyle design for financial planners and has spoken at conferences across the country. Micah is an advisor with Shilanski and Associates, a founder of Plan Your Federal Retirement, and a co-founder of The Perfect RIA.
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