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Key strategies to ask purpose-driven questions
Key strategies to ask purpose-driven questions

Dec 20 2022

Key strategies to ask purpose-driven questions

Asking purpose-driven questions is key to discovering your clients’ unique needs and wants while building trust. MDRT member from Singapore Vincent Gan shares his best strategies to craft the right questions and deliver them in the right manner to nurture quality advisor-client relationships.

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“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This mindset serves as the cornerstone for Vincent Gan, a 13-year MDRT member from Singapore. He believes that a crucial part of the fact-finding process as a financial advisor is to ensure that your clients are aware that you genuinely care for their well-being. To do so, Gan emphasizes the need to ask purpose-driven questions; these help to uncover what matters most to each of your clients, and in turn build quality relationships with them.  

Throughout the entire financial advisory process, Gan regards the initial stage as the most crucial part to ask purpose driven questions. He shares this is the most vital stage where advisors need to take note of two key areas: clearly defining the client-advisor relationship and expectations, and fact-finding client data, including financial goals, aspirations, and preferences. Asking the right questions will be essential for advisors to determine the most appropriate next course of action in helping clients achieve their goals. Gan describes five main domains of questions he consistently uses when building that initial rapport with a client. He explains how each domain coincides with different fundamental aspects of the advisory process, in turn enabling you to uncover your clients’ unique needs and wants while creating trust.  

1. What are your expectations? 

a. This domain delves into the expectations your client has towards you as an advisor and the financial advisory process. It also aims to find out more about any past experiences your clients had with other financial advisors (if any).   

b. Sample questions: 

i. What does financial planning mean to you? 

ii. What do you expect from your financial advisor if you chose to work with one?  


2. Where are you now? 

a. This domain examines the background and current financial position of your client. This includes things such as age, gender, marital status, family background, as well as personal interests. Here is also where you would want to get a full picture of your clients’ income(s), expenses, assets, and liabilities.  

b. Sample questions 

i. What do you do currently? How long have you been doing this? Tell me more! 

ii. How is your income and cashflow position? Do you keep track? 


3. How is your journey so far and who else is involved? 

a. This domain explores the money habits and obligations of your clients, from their saving/spending pattern to financial obligations and risk appetite. 

b. Sample questions 

i. Do you invest? (If yes, why and what drives your decisions? If not, any reasons?) 

ii. Are you the sole decision maker in your finance? If no, who else is involved? 


4. Why and where do you want to go? When do you want to get there? 

a. This domain helps to identify your client’s financial and non-financial goals. Gan separates financial goals into four main categories, namely – (i) Assuring income, (ii) Building wealth, (iii) Controlling expenses, and (iv) Distributing wealth. 

b. Sample questions 

i. What are the current financial goals that you are working on? 

ii, What do you consider to be the major challenges to your financial goals?  


5. What have you done so far? 

a. Lastly, this domain collates the client’s existing portfolio so that you will be able to review their role and purpose; from there, offering advice on how to close any gaps. 

b. Sample questions 

i. What have you implemented so far? Do you have a portfolio summary document? 

ii. When was the last time you reviewed your existing portfolio? 

To better make sense of these five domains, Gan draws a parallel between them and the human anatomy. “We start with the heart and that represents the client’s expectations and desires. The legs represent where they stand in terms of their financial position while their hands signify what obligations and financial habits they have. The head is always thinking about where they want to go and that represents their financial goals. Finally, the body tells us what plans, or portfolio they have equipped so far. This overview serves as a simple guide during meetings with clients,” he shares.  

But in order to make the most of these purpose driven questions you’ve crafted, Gan shares another tip to frame the view and intent of your questions more tactfully. Referring the C.A.F.E. model shared by Harvard Business Review, Gan offers his insight on how advisors can tap on it to master the art of asking questions.  

“This model simply classifies questions into a two-by-two matrix. The horizontal axis represents the spectrum of the intent – either to affirm what we know or to discover something new while the vertical axis represents the view of the problem – either a narrowing in or widening out perspective of the issue. On the bottom left, we ask clarifying questions to better understand what was said and help us avoid making false assumptions. Above it, adjoining questions help us explore related aspects of the topic of discussion that may not yet appear. These questions also help us balance between the immediate task at hand with the broader consideration of the future. Funneling questions are used to understand clients' decisions and their personal values and beliefs that drive those decisions. Last but not least, elevating questions helps both the clients and us to zoom out and better see the connections for all things that they want to achieve, before finding a more effective solution for them,” he shares. 

These strategies have helped Gan be more mindful in the questions that he asks his clients and the manner he delivers them. But most importantly, Gan stresses that, “people like people who like them and who are like them”. He believes that as advisors, one should always seek first to understand, before trying to be understood. 

Contact: MDRTeditorial@teamlewis.com