What women need in a planner

Women’s empowerment advocate Stacy Francis has some top tips to ensure women choose you when they’re shopping for a financial planner. (While this article was written in the context of women looking for a financial planner, most of these principles can also be applied across the board).

Congratulations – you’ve built a business as a financial planner and devoted countless hours to get to this point. But just because you’ve hung your shingle doesn’t mean the hard work is over. Your next step should be getting more clients through the door and ensuring your name is the one they call back after your first meeting.

So, how do you market yourself?

Start by putting yourself in the client’s shoes. For them, finding the right financial planner is a lot like dating – they need to feel that spark or connection before ultimately choosing their ‘Mr or Ms Right Financial Planner’. In other words, they need to like you and trust you, and they need to feel understood.

Granted, these aren’t difficult concepts to grasp and most of us probably know these things already. But knowing these in theory and putting them into practice on a daily basis is what separates the financial planners who have hundreds of female clients from those who are still struggling. Here’s how to make sure you’re the financial planner who always gets the callback.

You inspire trust

When my company conducted a study of divorced (and divorcing) women, we found some interesting takeaways on what women look for when choosing their financial planners. The most important factors these women considered when assessing a potential financial planner were the planner’s ability to look out for her best interests (74%) and their honesty (70%).

In other words, women want an impartial expert who can be wholly trusted, not someone who’s getting paid extra for selling certain products or services, or someone who’s going to be on the phone with their next client before they’re even out the door.

When you meet with prospective clients, make it clear that you’re a fiduciary – a financial planner who’s legally responsible for putting the client’s financial best interests ahead of your own. Much has been written lately about the dangers of working with a planner who is not a fiduciary, so it’s a question you should address with your clients upfront to help set their minds at ease.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to take time really getting to know them and letting them get to know you. Share personal stories. Tell them about your family or your recent travels, and ask them about theirs. Nothing will help endear you more to your clients than forming a truly personal bond – one that can exist outside the nine-to-five office environment.

Your years of experience are also a key factor when it comes to rising to the top of the heap. According to our study, 62% of the women surveyed said experience was a must when choosing their financial planner. And many people may look to hire their planner in the same way they hire an accountant, lawyer or contractor – with recommendations from friends. This is great news for you.

Once you’ve got the referral, it’s time to showcase your certifications. For example, if you’re a Certified Financial Planner, mention to your clients that this designation means you passed a comprehensive exam, took an extensive course load of finance classes and must secure continuing-education credits every two years. Likewise, if you’re a certified divorce financial analyst, you can explain to your clients that you passed an exam and have extensive knowledge of tax law, investments and financial planning that will help you achieve a best-case divorce settlement on their behalf.

In other words, don’t be afraid to talk to your clients about what you’ve learnt and accomplished. Most people outside the financial planning world don’t fully understand what our professional designations mean, and a quick rundown from you could turn a hesitant client into one who’s ready for a lifelong relationship.

You listen more than you talk, and you ask questions based on what you learn

Nearly half of the women in our study said good listening skills were a crucial attribute of their ideal financial planner. Women are interested in getting holistic financial advice. Of course, this requires frequent and open dialogue between financial planner and client.

When you’re the one doing all the talking, it’s impossible for your client to feel they have the permission (or the time) to ask their questions or to understand the concepts they’re looking to you to break down for them. So the next time you meet with a client, look them in the eyes and ask them what they’re curious about. Their questions might just take you down an exciting new path – a path that only good listeners get to follow.

If a female client base hasn’t been a priority for you in years past, that needs to change in the years ahead. While less than half of baby boomer women report being in charge of their family’s financial planning, that number jumps to 72% for millennial women.

Additionally, just 41% of millennial women say their spouse has influence over their wealth planning, which means the majority of them are serving as the sole decision makers when it comes to their investments – and as the oldest millennials head towards 40, more of them will want relationships with a trusted financial planner.

Standing out from the herd is a challenge in any industry, but with these tools and a little practice, there’s no reason why you can’t be the go-to financial planner for countless financially savvy women.

This article, written by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA®, CES™, appeared on the Forbes website. Among other titles, she’s the founder of Savvy Ladies™ and empowers women to achieve financial independence.