Another category of questions is implied questions. While we’ve already discussed some nonverbal cues that show active listening such as maintaining eye contact and nodding, implied questions are a verbal way of demonstrating the same.
Implied questions are useful for expressing interest in what your client is sharing, as well as reiterating a point they’ve made. Implied questions begin with phrases like:
- “I wonder…”
- “It sounds like…,”
- “You must be…,”
- “I’m curious about….”
These types of questions are subtle and can help you gauge client response or hear more about something they’ve mentioned without sounding too patronizing or aggressive.
Implied questions are one of the best tools for demonstrating active listening, synthesizing information, and building trust. These can be very useful in meetings with prospects where you’re trying to learn as much as possible.
- “It sounds like you haven’t had great experiences with financial advisors in the past.”
- “We had a pretty detailed discussion about your home buying goals today. You must have some questions.”
- “It seems like you learned a lot about personal finance through self-education. I’m curious what you’re looking for in an advisor.”
The next category of questions that’s useful to employ are projective questions. Projective questions can help clients visualize different scenarios, which in turn can unlock subconscious thoughts, desires, and fears.
That mind sound a little “woo-woo”, but consider that people often have unmentioned histories, hopes, and nerves surrounding their ideas around finance and money. Beginning questions with, “If…,” or “What about…” can help a client envision and understand new possibilities.
Projective questions, which help clients imagine new possibilities, are great for new and established clients alike.
- “If money were no object, how would you spend your time?”
- “If you did choose to move closer to family, what would change?”
- “What about vacation?”
The last category of questions we’ll talk about is called scaled questions. These are handy for investigating a client’s level of interest and concern. Scaled questions are generally framed as, “On a scale of x to y, how do you feel about….” They are non-threatening and can reveal a client’s anxieties, plus they provide the set-up to a great follow-up: “Tell me what went into that score.”
Scaled questions encourage a client to interrogate their own feelings about a topic, and can help you create a metric for your own notekeeping. Maybe a client rates their confidence in the market as a 3, but a couple months later they are at a 7. What led to that jump in score? Scaled questions apply a bit of analytics to your conversation and are very useful for tracking changes in any direction.
Scaled questions are an excellent tool for tracking a client’s feelings about or understanding of a topic, especially over time.
- “Markets have been all over the place these past few months. On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you feeling in the plan we laid out when things were a bit less volatile?”
- “We’ve covered a lot on the estate planning front today. On a scale of 1-10, how well do you feel like you understand the nuances of what we discussed?”
- “You’ve mentioned in the past that you wanted to better understand your monthly cash flow. If you had to put it on a scale of 1-10, how well would you say that understanding has become after the work we’ve done together?”
What not to do
When trying out the questions we’ve discussed, it’s extremely important to maintain professionalism and respect throughout the process. It can be tough sometimes to build rapport without being too casual. Remember to focus on your client, avoid jargon, and, for lack of a better term, read the room! Practice active listening or pay attention to your client’s expressed comfort and unique needs and concerns.
Asking great questions is one of the best tools in your kit when it comes to building rapport. Having a strong foundation of trust and comfort with your clients will help you make more effective decisions on their behalf and maintain long-term, productive relationships.
As you take these strategies into your practice, remember to work with empathy, compassion, and patience. Pay attention, pause often, and recap your client’s answers in order to let them know you’re not just great at asking questions, you’re great at hearing the answers.