December 28, 2021

3 Questions To Open Up Clients

Pankaj Gera
Founder, Gera Wealth Creators Pvt. Ltd.

The journey to a lifelong relationship with a client begins with our first interaction, just as in a marriage, both parties– prospect and planner – evaluate each other with the objective of establishing a lifelong relationship.

Typically, in product sales, it is said that sales happen in the first 5 seconds whereas in our profession we need to understand each other and build trust. Unlike product sales which are one-off transactions, our job involves not only understanding the financial situation of the family but also the relationship with money. It is of utmost importance for the prospect to open up and share the information. It is said if you wish to know a person, handle his money. Hence, we need to create space for prospects to open.

Financial planning is best achieved when both partners are involved. Typically, we observe that we deal with one partner only. Both partners manage their money individually. We mostly can capture incomplete details during data collection. While our financial plans are built on financial cashflows (income & outflows), goals of the family (children education, retirement, corpus for the house, etc.), etc., our recommendations are built on our understanding of the prospects. Hence it is of utmost importance to have an in-depth meeting and be able to comfort the client to open.

There is no pre-defined formula for the first client meeting. Collecting data on financial position is done by asking mostly close-ended questions for example: What is your cash inflow, or how much is are your expenses, etc? The prospect may not be comfortable in sharing such information till trust is established. Various planners use various processes for establishing trust. Mostly it comes from a person who has referred the prospect or from the testimonials the prospect has gone through or through the planner’s social media/online presence. However, this usually is not sufficient to make prospects open in the first meeting.

I personally have found the Three Question of Life Planning to be most useful in opening the prospects. These have helped me to help prospects to set up meaningful goals in their life. Over time, I have been trying to improve my listening skills. The most important aspect in administering these questions is the use of silence and asking the question “Anything else” after every response. This helps prospects to open. The best results are achieved when both partners are present together and answer independently.

The three questions are:

Question #1 © George D. Kinder 1999, 2010

I want you to imagine that you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. The question is how would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go.
Don’t hold back on your dreams. Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours

Question #2

This time you visit your doctor who tells you that you have only 5 – 10 years left to live. The good part is that you won’t ever feel sick. The bad news is that you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in
the time you have remaining to live? Will you change your life and how will you do it?

Question #3

This time your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself:

  • What did I miss?
  • Who did I not get to be?
  • What did I not get to do?

The last question is probably the most tricky and can move the prospect tears. Listening to prospects will help in establishing meaningful goals. The collection of numbers (financial data)becomes an easy task. I have shared the excel sheet with prospects prior to the meeting expecting them to fill in the information, however, mostly I have found it convenient to guide the prospect in filling the data since most of the prospects are doing the exercise for the very first time. Even the structure of asking questions must be in a manner that helps in opening prospects and I have a positive result by asking questions like name, DOB, place of birth, etc. prior to asking any financial details like cash inflows.

It is not uncommon for prospects to miss out on financial details and we believe in the saying “God lies in the details”. Hence, we try to break down the details into bite-sized pieces. For example, while asking for cash inflow, we specifically ask for details like monthly salary received, reimbursement (mobile, travel, etc.), rent received, quarterly/yearly bonus/incentive received, agricultural income received, etc. to know the person’s inflows. Similarly for cash outflows, we ask for all sorts of expenses that a family can incur. While the cash flow helps us to identify the monthly surplus the family is generating, their balance in saving accounts not only helps to confirm the same (typically family will hold 6 to 8 months of the surplus in saving a/c) but also helps to understand the client’s relationship with money. High saving account balance indicates either need for the psychological comfort of the client or inertia in prospect to initiate action or some emergency funding which the prospect has missed out.

Developing a financial plan is combining art with science so that we can assist our clients to paint their beautiful future. All this begins with the first step of Data Collection.

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