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How Successful Financial Advisors Ask Great Questions

By ClientWise | October 18, 2012

What does it feel like when someone asks you a really great question?
I’m talking about the sort of question that stops you in your tracks and prompts you to think, “Whoa! Nobody’s ever asked me that before!”

[On the other side of the coin, have you ever been in an overwhelmingly lopsided “conversation” where you were not asked one single question about you? How does that feel?]

Successful financial advisors know that the art of asking questions is a critical communication skill. Great questions lead to many good things for financial advisors, including the following:

  • Stimulating the other person’s thinking (i.e. prospective client) and encouraging dialogue.
  • Encouraging the prospective client to discuss their financial life and “hot-button” issues, and how these concerns might be addressed and improved.
  • Allowing the prospective client to discover for themselves what their real needs, wants, concerns, aspirations might be.
  • Demonstrating empathy.
  • Creating understanding and trust.
  • Inspiring conversation and dialogue and building the relationship.

As importantly, great questions from financial advisors (a) acknowledge the prospective client in a way that invites the communication to continue, and (b) provide limited, but encouraging input to the client’s thinking, allowing them to carry their idea(s) one step forward. Asking great questions is one of the more demanding aspects of communication, and is also one of the most rewarding.

Moreover, great questions allow the financial advisor to test what they've heard as well as minimizing the chance of distortions, misinterpretations, or mistaken assumptions.

Here’s the thing. We have observed most successful financial advisors of today share some common characteristics. These common traits are decidedly not: the perfect sales pitch, the “killer close”, the impeccable wardrobe, or the 1000-watt smile. What today's top-performing financial advisors do have is such an in-depth understanding of their clients’ financial and personal aspirations, wants, and fears that it is almost proprietary knowledge. With this profound understanding of their clients, successful financial advisors are able to serve their clients like no other.

One of the core underpinnings of being able to obtain this exclusive understanding and knowledge is the ability to ask great questions.

One more point. At the end of this post, we’ve included a link to 99 different Discovery Questions that financial advisors might ask their clients and prospective clients. As we have implied, there is no single “perfect” question. Please use this list to recharge your professional approach, and develop your own list of unique discovery questions. What is more important for financial advisors is to build upon a trusting dialogue that leads to probing and personal conversations that reveal the client’s deep-seated feelings about money and their financial lives.

Understanding your clients’ unique investment personality is what will ultimately determine your ability to add new clients, as well as generating passionate advocates who will further help your business grow.


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