How to build strong client bonds in stressful times

Bonds that are built or reinforced during stressful times are often the strongest ones.

If clients feel connected to their financial advisor during stressful times, those clients are far less likely to leave when things improve. They’re also much more likely to refer others to you. Furthermore, these clients may be more willing to take your advice.

By applying the principles of emotional intelligence (EI), which is the ability to understand yourself and others and then adapt your behavior accordingly, you’ll strengthen bonds with clients, friends and family as well as become a better leader. 

I spoke with Jessica Worny Janicki, MBA, an executive/career coach certified in two different emotional and social intelligence tools, for a few pointers on building your EI muscles.

 “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.” — Dale Carnegie

Start with yourself

Understanding your own emotional state is a core concept in emotional intelligence. If you know that you are emotionally in the dumps, center yourself before talking with clients. Janicki suggests a quick 10-minute meditation, going for a walk or pounding out a quick exercise session. Do what you need to do to get more grounded.

Empathetic communication

When you check in with clients, prioritize listening. See how they are really doing. If you are comfortable, ask how their family is doing. Don’t bring up their financial products or portfolio at first, unless it’s urgent. If they are concerned about it, they will bring it up on their own.

 As the conversation progresses, use reflective statements to let the client feel heard. Use their own words whenever possible. According to Janicki, the following phrases can go a long way to helping clients feel heard:

  • “It sounds like you are feeling (sad, mad, glad, scared, angry, frustrated)” or
  • “I’m hearing that you want to (talk about this)” or
  • “I think you’re saying (this), is that correct?”

Ask if you’ve understood them properly. The client may go into more detail or tweak what they were saying. If that’s the case, go back to reflective statements until you’ve built a solid foundation of understanding.

Emotional safety

Janicki says, “Emotionally safe environments are those where a person feels heard, accepted and free from judgments by other people. Accept the other person “where they are” rather than where you might hope they would be.”

Express acceptance of their points of view the way they are, without qualification. For example, Janicki recommends something like:

  • “That makes sense” or
  • “I’m right there with you” or
  • “I can see how you’ve arrived at that”

Ask how they are feeling about specific things that have come up in conversation so far. You are looking for an indication that the client is feeling encouraged and heard, which is necessary to move toward rational decision-making. 

Once they’re in a calmer mental state, you can shift to a more typical discussion you want to have about finances. If you hear agitation, frustration, fear or anger creeping in, then go back to using reflective statements and express acceptance until they appear calm again.

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