Financial professionals, like advisors, don’t always communicate well with female clients, particularly when women go to meetings with their spouses.
Male financial advisors often spend time in meetings talking to the husband and ignoring the wife, says Dr. Barbara Provost, consultant, educator, entrepreneur, and founder of Purse Strings. As a result, women end up at a disadvantage when it comes to financial planning and investment management.
“I’ve had women tell me, ‘I feel like prey’ and, ‘Professionals don’t even look at me.’ These are experiences I’ve heard over and over,” says Provost. “But sometimes women (or their husbands) will do business with that professional anyway.”
Globally, women performed an estimated $31.8 trillion in consumer spending in 2019, according to Catalyst. If you don’t effectively sell to women, you’re missing out on the female dollar — it could ruin your business.
Check out nine ways you can talk to your women clients (and their spouses) effectively.
1. Talk to the women at your table.
Do you ask women what they want for their financial future and address their wants — not what you think they need? Sell them on what they want.
For example, women and men are interested in different things when buying a car. Men are usually more interested in hard numbers and dig into factors like horsepower or fuel economy, according to CNN Money. Women tend to care more about factors including visibility, whether the family's luggage will fit nicely in the trunk or if the car will be easy to park in the garage.
You’ve got to sell to women, too — not pretend like they’re the second wheel in the discussion. Figure out which factors are most important to them.
2. Invite women to engage in the financial discussion.
Go further than just inviting and talking to women to the table. Engage them deeply in a discussion — yes, even when they’re with their partners.
“A woman who asks questions is often told, ‘Don’t worry about that,’ when all she wants to do is understand,” says Provost.
Provost suggests asking questions with genuine curiosity and genuinely invite them to be a part of the conversation. A few tips for conversation starters:
“What do you think?”
“How would you approach this idea?”
“How would you tackle this if you were to make the decision on your own?”
3. Don’t push a product.
Provost says that oftentimes, women feel professionals push products on them instead of knowing why they might need the product or how it serves them.
It’s a good idea to steer away from, “You need this, you have to have that.” It’s old news. You don’t hold all the knowledge and power in the relationship — especially now that, thanks to the internet, today’s consumers end up more informed before even entering a salesperson’s office.
It’s not about you. It’s about your customer and it’s rule No. 1 of sales training.
4. Don’t use industry jargon.
Provost said, “Professionals will use financial verbiage and bulldoze through a conversation without checking in to see if she’s following or has questions.”
Not only is getting rid of industry jargon a good sales tip for women, it’s just good advice in general. Get rid of industry jargon when you talk to people. In other words, get rid of those technical terms that make you “sound” like an expert but actually just leave your customer in the dark. Aim for eighth-grade language. The days of long-winded, feature-heavy company jargon-filled presentations are dead.
Avoid it at all costs.
5. Remember, women don’t have to choose you.
Gone are the days of women having to choose one “insurance guy” or one financial professional — or whatever your profession is — and stick with you for the rest of her life.
“We don’t want women to feel obliged to work with who her husband chooses or with who her dad, brother, brother-in-law recommends,” says Provost. “At Purse Strings, we want her to do her own due diligence and really interview people and ensure she is working with a financial professional who can be part of her team.”
Provost suggests orienting your business toward making sure you’re a go-to person — someone who helps women understand how to make the best decisions that will direct them toward their goals.
“Women want to do business with those who are knowledgeable and listen. As demographics of LBGTQI and many other groups define what they want, they want professionals who are like them,” says Provost.
While you can’t change your age or gender, you can still earn a reputation as that go-to person who genuinely cares about and who wants to serve women.
6. Check for understanding.
Do your clients understand you? How do you know? Pay attention to nonverbal responses and again, speak in eighth-grade language. Listen and force a summary response. Here’s how to do it kindly:
Pay attention to nonverbal responses. People give you a lot of information without saying a single word. Even if they say, “I’m totally with you!” their body language and tone of voice show otherwise. Just don’t take their verbal response at face value. Pay attention to what their nonverbal cues say.
Don’t speak the same way to everyone about everything. Not everyone thinks the same thing. Some people need logic, some need stories. Some just want you to go straight to the point. You can ask specific questions to get at this person’s communication style. Look into DiSC training to get more information about a person’s personality profile. Certain people lean toward being direct, goal focused, quick and decisive. Others are social, energetic and talkative. Some are reserved and prefer more time to make decisions — they want to be able to understand as much as possible before making decisions. Finally, others are analytical and reserved and want to know as many facts and data as possible to make the correct decision. Analyze your client’s preferred communication method first.
People will respond to things you say. Look and listen for it. Listen carefully to what the other person says back to you. Choice of words makes a big difference and can offer a pretty clear indication of how that person follows you.
Ask people for a summary — gently. Doing this too much during the course of a conversation may make you sound like a patronizing jerk but it’s the best way to make sure there's no question about what you’re communicating to your female clients.
7. Show warmth.
From the first handshake at the door (or elbow bump — isn’t that what everyone does now?) to the last wave good-bye, you want to exude as much warmth as possible.
Think about the type of people that draw others to them immediately. You’ve seen them — they’re the type of people that others want to hang out with. They make everyone feel important and special and you never forget them. Think of one person in your life that does this well and try to emulate that person. Be interested and curious and make everyone feel important. Shine the light on every single client that walks through your office.
8. Get rid of the ego. Women see right through it.
You shouldn’t think you’re superior because it won’t get women’s business. Be open to listening without judging so women really feel like you understand them. Say something along the lines of, “I’d really like to understand more about what you said about investing in ETFs and your aversion to stocks — can you explain your point of view more? I’d love to hear it.”
Don’t say, “In my experience, stocks are the only way to go and I’ve earned clients over $1 million in my career going that way.”
Be open and assume every client has something new to teach you — because they do.
Are you really listening to understand, not just waiting to respond? Listen to the last words your client says, then repeat the words or the feeling contained in her words.
If a woman says, “I’m too busy to make decisions about life insurance. I don’t even want to think about this right now,” try responding with something like, “You’re feeling crushed by the kids’ demands and keeping up with your job?”
Mirroring those responses shows that you “get it” and will invite a more in-depth conversation and even further disclosure. You can use these repetitive skills to make a woman feel validated. It’ll strengthen the client connection and reinforce the feeling that you’re an excellent professional and pretty awesome to work with.
How to Work with Women
When you understand enough of someone’s story, the way she sees the world usually starts to make sense. As a financial professional, you have the privilege of glimpsing someone else’s world.
“Financial professionals can make a lot of money (no matter how they get paid) and over the years it can be tens of thousands of dollars. It should go to a person who is helping her get an emotional and financial return on investment,” says Provost.
Ask questions that help you understand her perspective a little bit more and it’ll pay you back over and over again. Remember the words of Zig Ziglar, who said you can have everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want — this definitely works for women clients, too.
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