Question Mark on ArrowsOne of the things I find tough as a financial advisor is listening. It’s not that I’m not a good listener, it’s just that I tend to talk too much in my interviews and not listen enough.

I’ve been on those sales courses that tell me I should spend 80% of my time listening and only 20% talking. And I agree with that concept, I just find it hard to put into practice. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

Over the past few months I’ve used a few questions in my interviews that have made the clients pause to think of an answer. I love questions like these – ones where the clients say “No-one’s every asked me that before” or “I’ve never thought about that”. Questions likes these are a great way to take control of the interview but also to get the client thinking about things that are really important.

So here are a few of the questions I’ve started using with my clients.

Question : I need to know, who is my client today? Is it the ‘you’ of today, or the ‘you’ in twenty years time about to retire?

Meet the future youI got the idea for this question from a book called ‘Questions Great Financial Advisors Ask…And Investors Need To Know‘ by Alan Parisse and David Richman. The premise is simple – most clients have conflicting priorities. Do they do the things (and spend the money) that meets their short term needs, or do they save for their longer term needs.

The thing that is good about this question is that you’re presenting them with the thought / vision of themselves in the future. I read somewhere else that this is one of the most effective ways to get someone to take action – show them a picture of themselves in the future.

Of course the client cares about themselves, but which self?

This question gets them thinking about how they’ll feel in the future of they don’t do the right thing now.

Question : Is this money available to be used in your financial plan?

Don’t ever assume that all the money a client has is available to be used in a financial plan. Years ago I met with a client who needed to save for retirement. Amongst her investments she had around $200,000 invested in shares in a couple of companies. Rather than assuming this could be used for her retirement planning, I asked the question. And I was glad that I did.

It turned out this money had come from an inheritance from her mother’s estate. The shares were the same shares her mother had held for over twenty years. They were special to her. And she didn’t want to use them for her retirement. In fact she didn’t want to use them for anything, preferring to hold on to them so they could be passed on to her children.

She understood there were some risks in this strategy, and she knew it would mean she had to save more money for retirement, but she was okay with that.

So don’t assume all of a client’s money is¬† available for investing, and if a client receives an inheritance, ask them this question. Many of them will be fine with investing the money, some won’t, and some won’t have thought about it until you asked the question and they’ll appreciate the fact you bothered to ask.

 Question: How important are ethical considerations when it comes to investing your money?

I’ve noticed that more clients are interested in where their money is invested. And by ‘where’, I mean in which companies, and how ‘ethical’ are those companies?

I asked this question to a lady last week, and she stopped and thought about it and told me that it was important to her that her money was invested in an ethical manner. She said she’d be happy with a lower return if she knew it was invested in companies and investments that sat well with her.

You’ve got nothing to lose by asking this question. If it is important, your client will be happy you asked. If it’s not important to them, they won’t mind.

Question: We’ll spend an hour together here today. What are the important things that you’d like to make sure we talk about in this appointment?

Financial Planning ChecklistWhilst I control the agenda and flow of the appointment, it’s important for me to know exactly what the client wants to talk about. So I ask them. And I write down their answer.

Sometimes it’s not possible to answer their questions in one meeting. But that’s fine because they understand that to answer it properly, I need to do some more research. So we’ll meet again and I’ll ask the same question at the start of that meeting.

Importantly, at the end of every meeting go back to the answer to this question and ask them whether they’re happy that it’s been answered (or will be answered). It’s a great way to reinforce that you’ve listened to them and dealt with the important things they wanted from the appointment.


So there they are – four questions that will get your clients thinking and strengthen your relationships with your clients. Feel free to use them in your interviews – there’s nothing original here!

  • If you use these questions with clients, leave a comment and let me know how you go.
  • Are there other questions you use that you’d like to share? Write them out in the comments section.