How to make the fee conversation go away

I recently attended a one-day course on “Coaching skills for financial planners”, run by Jan Bowen-Nielsen from Quiver Management. While the course is designed specifically for financial advisers, I wanted to find out how interpersonal skills and techniques used by professional coaches could help planners and their clients and also if there were takeaways for my own personal development.

While I promised Jan not to give too much away – you’ll need to sign up for one of his courses to get the full story – here are some of the key points that stood out for me:

  1. The old model of ‘advice’ and the newer model of ‘coaching’ are often in direct competition:
  • Telling versus asking – a coach will never tell you to do anything
  • Fact-finding versus exploring – the types of question you ask are vital
  • Selling product vs service – understanding the person your client is will enable you to offer far more value than simply selling products
  1. Be a good listener. Some advisers can be poor listeners because they’re looking to provide a solution too quickly. There are two main aims of listening:
  • Understanding the person
  • Understanding their reality – this is often different from the actual reality

Jan has three top tips to becoming a better listener:

  • Talk less – sounds obvious but often hard to do
  • Think ahead before speaking
  • Allow gaps in conversation – give yourself and your clients time to think
  1. Make your questions count:
  • If you’re doing the right amount of listening you may only get to ask 10-15 questions in an hour meeting
  • Keep your questions simple (and short)
  • Create a toolkit of questions that you have proven work with clients but always mix them up rather than rely on the same two or three
  • Let your client know they always have the ability to stop. If they understand that they have an out but choose not to take it, you know you can keep pushing to find out more
  • It’s not a bad thing if you don’t get all the answers in the first meeting. Leaving the client time to think will often reveal some key motivations


Memorable statement

The course went into lots of detail that were engaging and fascinating so I’d recommend it to any planners looking to improve their skills in this area.

Perhaps the most memorable statement made on the day. This should be music to all financial planners’ ears:

“If you can help clients to meet their life goals, they will never ask you about performance or fees”

I’d say that was worth the cost of the course alone.