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Simple talk
Simple talk

Nov 01 2023 / Round the Table Magazine

Simple talk

Explain complex topics with clarity while keeping a client’s individuality in mind.

Topics Covered

As a financial advisor, knowing volumes of information about financial planning and risk mitigation is a benefit for clients. Yet, as you’re talking and talking about all you can do for them, you may not be impressing prospects as much as you think. Instead, they may give you a confused, glassy-eyed look and tell you, “I have to think about it.” Whether you realize it or not, that meeting didn’t go well. Here’s why.

“When communicating to clients, especially for younger advisors who are flush with all of this knowledge they’re excited about, there is often a tendency to dump their bucket,” said 52-year MDRT member and 2000 MDRT President Brian H. Ashe, CLU, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, USA. “They want to tell the prospect everything from point A to point Z.” You don’t want to dump information on people when they’re still trying to get their arms around concepts. Instead, focus on simplicity and less jargon, he said.

Communication cornerstones

What separates the good from the great advisors, however, isn’t a mastery of jargon or complicated visuals. Instead, the differentiator boils down to good communication skills and caring about clients.

“When we talk to clients, they don’t want to know how clever we are. They want simple, clear answers to their problems, and they want to know that we care about them,” said 12-year MDRT member Jeremy Mark Wellington, Dip PFS, Dip CII

Good communication and caring also mean clients feel fully seen and heard. There are four crucial parts to good communication, said Wellington, of Truro, England, UK. 

1. Listen well. “Unless you hear properly, which is intently listening to understand rather than listening to respond, you will not be able to get to the root of the client’s issues. You will not be able to answer them properly,” said Wellington.

2. Answer clearly and concisely.

3. Be honest and transparent with clients. “If you don’t know something, tell clients you don’t know, and you’ll find the answer. They will appreciate it in the long run, and you will gain their loyalty and respect. Besides, they will see through any lack of confidence,” said Wellington.

4. Practice patience. “They’ve sat through a long meeting; we’ve sat through several meetings that day. We want to finish. But if we rush now, we run the risk of losing their loyalty and understanding. We also risk giving them bad service. Be patient. Two extra minutes at the end of a meeting is all it takes to calmly summarize, relax and allow them the space to answer and to understand. Then you’ve got a loyal client for life,” Wellington said. 

Considering different learning styles

Most clients are not as familiar with financial topics as you. They need your expertise, but they also need straightforward information that focuses on what the product or plan will do for them, not the minutiae about how it works. It’s the same concept as wanting to know the time, not how the clock works. People also have different ways they learn and process information, so it’s important to also take that into consideration when presenting information.

“Some clients are very visual,” said 14-year MDRT member Chee Hong Gan, ChFC, CLU, of Singapore. “In working with these clients, we provide more visuals and more materials that they can look at. If you’re working with somebody who is more auditory, we tend to put away the visuals and just have a conversation.” 

Thoughtful uses of analogies

Analogies are a useful communication tool for helping clients understand the concepts you’re discussing with them. Not all analogies work for all clients though. Clients have different backgrounds and different frames of reference, therefore, certain analogies may not connect well with them. For example, analogies about growing cycles may resonate with someone with an agricultural background,but for others, golf analogies would spark a quicker understanding.

It’s also critical not to use analogies based on stereotypes, such as those regarding age, gender, religion or ethnicity. Doing so can offend prospects or clients. For example, analogies about cooking or children may not resonate with all women, and analogies about home repairs or sports cars may not connect with all men. If clients feel that you are not seeing and hearing them, you might lose their trust or their business as a result.

“Using a language or communication style that is familiar to clients increases our ability to communicate complex ideas much quicker to clients,” Gan said. 

Simple illustrations

A favorite advocate and teacher for many MDRT members about the idea of keeping communication simple was the late John F. Savage, CLU, an MDRT member from Toledo, Ohio, USA, who liked to explain topics by using one of the easiest illustrations to draw: circles. 

Ashe shared that Savage would draw a circle and explain, “Here are the people who save.” He would draw another circle and say, “Here are the people who spend and then save what is left over.” Then he’d say, “The amazing thing is that the people here who spend and then save always wind up working for the people who save and then spend. Because when you’re spending first, there’s almost never the possibility that anything goes to the bottom line.” With those two circles, Savage would sell 200 to 300 contracts in four or five months, Ashe said. That is effective simplicity. 

“John Savage was a superb teacher,” agreed 50-year MDRT member and 2008 MDRT President James E. Rogers, CLU, CFP, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. “I learned from him that you’re not going to impress clients with big words. When you’re talking to potential clients, you need to talk their language.” 

Watch “Selling millions in life insurance a month” on MDRT’s YouTube channel at https://bit.ly/mdrtjohnsavage for an excerpt from John Savage’s classic MDRT Annual Meeting presentation. “Suit up, gang — You’re starting” is the full presentation that’s available in the MDRT Store at mdrt.org/suit-up.

You can find more videos from Ashe, Gan, Rogers and Wellington on mdrt.org.