While working with female clients sometimes feels like there is a minefield of potential missteps that any advisor should avoid, you should take heart. Women are not looking for perfection. They are looking for advisors who are sincere and authentic.
Here are 4 important ways to succeed with female clients:
Listen with heart
Women want you to listen to them. There’s no pretending here. Either you really listen to clients and focus on them or you don’t. There is little point in asking questions only to continue on your “canned” spiel.
You may be used to seeing your client as “just” another investor, but women are far more than just investors. Most likely they would describe themselves as many things ahead of being an investor. You have to be sensitive to that.
To keep your female clients and/or attract women, you need to take the time and make an authentic effort to learn about them and build a relationship so you can respond with financial advice that makes sense for her.
Speak her language
A recent article sited research in which male and female participants were asked to create a collage of their investment goals using images. The women produced pictures of family, beaches, life experiences and aspirational views. The men showed things like hot cars, graphs and dollar signs.
That alone says a great deal about the “language” women use in relation to investing. It should also offer a pretty good clue as to language not to use – do not focus exclusively on charts and graphs and performance. While at the end of the day it may be useful information, it is not the way women tend to think about money.
Once you get down to discussing their finances and you are making recommendations, talk about context for the investment you are considering for them. How does it fit in with their life views? How do the things you recommend connect to what’s important to them? Remember, for most women, investing is a means to an end, not the end in itself. So talk about what the money will allow them to do with/for other people important to them.
One would think that it shouldn’t be necessary to tell financial advisors to be “polite and respectful” but there appears to be quite a gap between how men and women interpret this concept.
The male advisor says, “I was on time, I shook hands, presented my materials in an organized business-like fashion – I even made sure to wipe my feet!”
The female client says, “He never once asked me a question about my job, he was patronizing when I asked him about risks, he seemed to want to rush me into decisions, and he didn’t even remember that I had three, not two kids,” and so it goes.
Respect for women means meeting her intellectually where she is, rather than expecting her to find her way to you.
Build her confidence
Notwithstanding that women have made undeniable progress in their personal and work lives, a confidence gap persists when it comes to investing.
This does not mean that you should treat them like children. Lacking confidence in their financial investment capabilities does not mean women are clueless – not by a long shot.
While a male client is likely to be disinclined to admit he doesn’t understand something and you may be able to ‘gloss over’ certain details – a female client will hold your feet to the fire. She wants answers. She is more interested in learning than in appearing to know it all.
According to research, half of the women surveyed want their advisor to “make me a smarter investor.” But it doesn’t mean hauling out the power point presentation and launching into complex discussions about “betas” and “alphas” and “P/E ratios.” It means answering her questions. It’s about helping her understand, where she is now, where she is going and how she is going to get there.
Women want to understand the whole process; they want a sense of context for investing. What is their role in the relationship? What is your part? What comes first and next? And finally, what does success look like? Be careful not to simply site returns.
These four points to succeeding with women are a great beginning but old habits are hard to kick on your own – to truly take advantage of the huge emerging female market and catapult your practice to the next level – consider taking one of our courses.