The roots of the financial planning industry are an eat-what-you-kill sales environment, when financial advice existed to facilitate the sale of a product, and initial survival (and eventual success) was predicated on the ability of an advisor to convince clients to buy whatever financial instrument they were selling. Which necessitated not only knowing the features and benefits of any given product, but also learning how to overcome every single objection that prospects could possibly throw at the advisor. In today’s world, though, advisors increasingly are focused on financial advice itself as the value proposition, are paid for the advice directly, and ‘just’ have the obligation to determine the best possible advice to give that helps the client achieve their goals (and keeps the advisor working with the client). Yet in practice, many advisors still think in terms of “overcoming objections” when a client doesn’t want to implement the advice they’re being given.
In our 42nd episode of Kitces and Carl, Michael Kitces and client communication expert Carl Richards discuss the key shift in mindset that advisors must go through when it comes to addressing client objections in an advice-based world, and the necessary strategies to reframe conversations by asking more questions in order to better understand a client’s needs and situation, instead of trying to overcome any resistance to taking an advisor’s advice or engaging their services.
The key to making that shift in mindset starts with understanding that a client’s (or prospect’s) objection doesn’t stem from not understanding how great the advice is that they’re getting, but rather is an indication that the advisor must be missing something important or miscommunicating somewhere along the way. After all, if the whole point of advice is to help someone achieve their goals, then a client who objects to that advice is effectively saying “that’s not going to get me to the goals that I really want to achieve… and so I’m objecting to the advice!”
Yet by taking responsibility for misunderstanding some key bit of information, the advisor can take a step backwards to start asking more questions instead, which starts back at exploring the assumptions that defined the client’s original “statement of financial purpose” (upon which all of the subsequent recommendations were based). From there, questions around what brought a client in on a particular day, or if there’s a specific thing that has changed in their lives to make them reassess their goals, can help move the conversation forward and further uncover any mid-course corrections that might need to be made. Which can even end out shifting the entire context of the conversation to figuring out if the advisor really is still the best fit for the client and their needs.
Ultimately, the key point is that the more “traditional” approach for overcoming objections was built for people that had a thing to sell (and objections to overcome to get it sold), whereas the ongoing shift towards a more collaborative advice-based client/advisor relationship means clients should naturally want to take the advice if it really gets them to their goals. Which means the starting point to overcoming an objection is digging deeper by asking more questions in order to better understand what the client’s goals – even and especially the unstated ones that may be blocking the advice process – really are in the first place.