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Why 'Great' Is a Terrible Response to 'How’s Business?'

Don't take language for granted.

As a financial advisor, when the markets become volatile, you start to get certain questions more often. One of them tends to be, “how’s business?” People ask this because they know your line of work and are curious how you’re doing in these volatile times. Is this a busy time for you? Are you stressed? Are clients going to cash?

How you answer this “how’s business” question is critical, as it sets the stage to subtly showcase your professionalism.

The easy response is “business has been good/great.” This is not a great answer. “Business is good/great” is a throwaway response. It doesn’t do anything for positioning. It doesn’t create further conversation. It satisfies their question, but that’s about it.

Words like “busy” also set the wrong tone. While it may feel good to showcase that you’re in high-demand, we’d rather get across the point that you’re proactive and in-control. Think more along the lines of “productive,” which has a more positive connotation.

You might say something like:

“This has been a really productive time for us. With all of this volatility, we’ve had plenty of client meetings, updating financial plans and looking for opportunities.”

Your objective is to position yourself as a financial advisor who is client-focused and proactive. This type of language also sets the stage for a follow-up question that could create a window of opportunity. If you’ve gotten their attention in any way, use the following to open up a dialogue:

“If you don’t mind me asking, who’s your financial advisor?”

At a minimum, you’re gathering valuable insights into their situation. Are they working with a top flight competitor or someone you know is sub-par? The key is to be inquisitive but not too inquisitive. Questions like, “what have they been telling you lately” are in bounds. Questions like “what’s one thing you’d change about them” will make them feel uncomfortable.

Conversations like this are unpredictable, but our hope is that you’ll find a way to suggest a meeting between the two of you. You’ve already gotten to the point of talking about your work with clients and their work with their financial advisor. Why not take it a step further by suggesting:

“Let’s grab a coffee one day next week and talk. It’s probably a good idea for me to share with you how we do things, in case you or anyone else you know ever needs it.”

Whether you get this window of opportunity, and regardless of whether or not they accept your offer—you’ve positioned yourself as a confident financial advisor who is there to help if needed. Many of us take language for granted, but when you’re faced with similar conversations over and over, it helps to be prepared.

Stephen Boswell is a partner with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry. @StephenBoswell

TAGS: Marketing
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