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Want to Know Your Clients' Communication Preferences? Just Ask.

A simple questionnaire can help you easily pinpoint your clients' desired modes of learning, listening, and communicating.

Helen Modly and Tommie Monez, 05/10/2012

It's important, we do it every day without thinking, and we could be doing it better. Here are some effective communication ideas that don't require going to a workshop, retreat, or writing a big check. They only require you to ask and listen.

The first financial planning class I took, oh so many years ago, focused on client communication. I learned how to ask open-ended questions, ask for referrals, ("I get paid in three ways…"), make an assumptive close, spend more time listening than talking, and model body language. We all learned that there were certain cues we could use to tailor our presentations to the particular person. Over the years, I realize that some of us are better than others at deciphering subtle clues.

Recently, I discovered a tool that can greatly improve client communication and streamline the process of finding out what a client's or prospect's learning style might be.

Just ask.

Susan Bradley of the Sudden Money Institute has developed a simple questionnaire for clients that clearly brings home the vast differences in styles of learning, listening, and communicating. She gives her clients a list and asks them to circle the communication preferences that appeal to them. Here are some of the items on the list, along with how you--the advisor--should interpret them:

Encourage my input: Your client is telling you to solicit her opinion during the conversation, rather than assuming agreement in your rush to the close.

Be an active listener: Give the client your full attention. Restate, clarify, summarize, and be attentive to the feelings behind the words. Concentrate on what is being said to you rather than focusing on formulating your response.

Remember my need for control: The need to control the situation may be the way your client manages anxiety. Allow them to help set the agenda. Discuss their expectations regarding your relationship and the amount of detail and frequency of information that you will provide. Be patient in answering their questions.

The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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