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Why Is ‘Great’ a Terrible Response to ‘How’s Business?

As a financial advisor, when the market is volatile, you start getting certain questions more often. One of them is, “How’s business?” People ask because they know your way of working and are curious how you are doing in these volatile times. Is this a busy time for you? are you stressed? Are the customers going to cash in?

How you answer this “what is business” question is important, as it sets the stage for you to subtly showcase your professionalism.

The easy response is “Business has been good/great.” This is not a great answer. “Business is good/great” is a common response. It does nothing for positioning. It does not create further conversation. It satisfies his question, but that’s about it.

Even words like “busy” set the wrong tone. While it may feel good to show that you are in high-demand, we will take this for granted that you are proactive and in control. Think more along the lines of “productive,” which has a more positive connotation.

You can say something like this:

“It’s been a really productive time for us. With all this volatility, we’ve had a lot of client meetings, updated financial plans and looked for opportunities.”

Your objective is to establish yourself as a financial advisor who is customer-focused and proactive. This type of language also sets the stage for a follow-up question that can create a window of opportunity. If you’ve caught their attention in any way, use the following to open the dialogue:

“If you don’t mind me asking, who is your financial advisor?”

At the very least, you are gathering valuable insight into their situation. Are they working with a top flight competitor or do you have an acquaintance’s sub-par? The key is to be curious but not too curious. Questions like “what have they been telling you lately” are in range. Questions like “What one thing would you change about them” will make them feel uncomfortable.

This kind of conversation is unpredictable, but we hope you find a way to suggest a meeting between the two of you. You’ve already talked about your work with clients and their work with their financial advisor. Why not take it a step further by suggesting:

“Let’s have coffee one day next week and talk. It’s probably a good idea for me to share how we do things for you in case you or anyone else you know ever needs it.”

Whether you get this window of opportunity, and whether or not they accept your offer – you have positioned yourself as a trusted financial advisor who is there to help when you need it. Many of us take language lightly, but when you encounter similar conversations over and over, it helps to be prepared.

Stephen Boswell is a partner with The Ochsley Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry. @StephenBoswell

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