If I Were To Ask You…

AdvisorBlast – Quick Tips to Accelerate Your Practice

In this issue: Simple ways to start meaningful conversations.


Do you love or loathe end-of-year client review meetings? What about when you know they’re holding something back, but they just won’t fully open up to you and show you their deep concerns or weaknesses, even though you are sure you could help, if you only knew the real situation?

Whether meeting with long-time clients or having an initial exploratory session with a prospect, one of the most effective ways to get people to fully open up to you is to provide them with an emotional safety zone. It’s as simple as prefacing what you want to ask with, “What would you say if I were to ask you….”

By framing some more sensitive questions hypothetically, people can subconsciously feel a little safer and answer a lot more honestly. For instance, if you ask “Who’s better at handling money, you or your husband?” you will probably get an answer something like “I’d say me. I handle all our family finances.” It’s accurate and it’s loyal to her husband, but it doesn’t tell you a whole lot about how the couple interacts in regards to their finances.

If instead you asked, “If I were to ask you who’s better at handling money, you or your husband?” you’d probably receive a dramatically different and more enlightening response. You’re likely to hear a more emotional answer, along the lines of “Are you kidding? There’s no way he’s getting near the check book! I handle the finances!”

Why the difference? Simply by framing the question hypothetically, you have given your client a safety zone from which to respond. After all, you didn’t actually ask the direct question, and so, subconsciously they feel safe to be freer in what they say because they’re not really answering a specific question. When talking this way, people worry less about image or impressions and tend to be more comfortable expressing what they really think, which can give you, as an advisor, important insight into issues that would be beneficial to both of you to explore more deeply.

Putting it into practice

By asking sensitive questions in this delicate way, you can put people at ease. They will often feel like they are being gently counseled and share deep thoughts, fears and longings, rather than shutting down in the face of direct questions that may otherwise feel threatening.

Here are some more helpful ways to frame questions at your end-of-year or exploratory meetings:

  • “If I said to you …, how would that make you feel?”
  • “How would you complete this sentence: To me, having financial security looks like…”
  • “How would you complete this sentence: To me, having financial security would feel like…”
  • “Complete this thought: As a child, I saw my parents treat (view) money like…”
  • “If I asked you to name what you consider to be your biggest financial mistake to date, what would it be? Why?”
  • “If I asked you to think about your greatest financial regret, what would it be? Why?”

By pressing deeper in response to what your client says, you can lead the conversation by saying things like:

  • “You mentioned XYZ with a certain tone of hesitation; tell me what thoughts came to mind when you said that.”
  • “You said you feel XYZ; can you flesh that out a little more for me please?”
  • “You said XYZ. That’s an interesting point; tell me some more about why you feel that way.”

The questions are open-ended and non-threatening. By framing the very things that your clients have said back to them for more information, they will feel more comfortable with you and more fully express exactly what they’re feeling and thinking. You will gain fuller information to make better recommendations, plus they will know you are really listening and be more open to your suggestions about what to do next.

If you’re feeling really brave, see what kinds of meaningful conversations you can start in this way with members of your family these holidays!

Wishing you some peace during this hectic holiday season. Merry Christmas!

Copyright Paul Kingsman 2011

As a motivational speaker and executive coach, Paul Kingsman helps financial services professionals successfully grow their businesses by taking practical daily steps to achieve outstanding long-term results. Combining his experiences as an Olympic medalist and his background as an adviser, Paul understands how to stay focused over the long haul, as well as the unique business challenges faced by advisers. Through his professional speaking and executive coaching he equips them to overcome distractions so they can get the money they need, the clients they want, and the time to do what they love.

To find out more about how Paul can equip you or your team to achieve outstanding results, visit paulkingsman.com/coaching or email him at Paul@PaulKingsman.com

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