Questions Financial Professionals Should Ask Clients

Last Edited by: LPL Financial

Last Updated: April 13, 2023

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A little advanced planning will go a long way toward maximizing the effectiveness of your client meetings and ensure you accurately gather the information needed to help each client pursue their financial goals.

Better financial questions lead to better client relationships

Quality client relationships are the cornerstone of a successful business, and financial practices are no different. Your clients have to put a great deal of trust and confidence in you, but building that type of relationship can be challenging because risk tolerance, personal values, and financial goals are unique to each investor. A little advanced planning will go a long way toward maximizing the effectiveness of your client meetings and ensure you accurately gather the information needed to help each client pursue their financial goals.

1. Plan ahead, per client.

Before each client meeting, take some time to review what you know about them. Are they a potential client, a new client, or an existing client? Were they referred by another client? Did they respond to a specific outreach campaign? Has it been a while since you’ve spoken with this client about their overall investment portfolio? The answers to these questions will reveal any crucial gaps to address and help you compile a list of specific questions to ask during the meeting. 

Here are three examples that expand on this idea:

Example #1: You’re preparing to meet with a potential client, referred to you by a current client you’ve worked with for years.

  • Your question: How do you know [current client], and what do you feel made them suggest our advisory firm?
  • Their answer: Our kids are in the same class at elementary school. I’m thinking of leaving the company I’ve been with for a while and opening my own business. I was told you helped [current client] plan for their financial future as a business owner.
  • What you’ve learned: This potential client is a parent with at least one child and is seeking a more entrepreneurial career. From here, you can ask more specific questions that help you understand their values even more.
  • Follow-up questions: How will their role as a business owner be different from their current job? What do they feel needs to happen before starting their business? Have they started a college fund for their child?)

Example #2: You’re preparing to meet a new client, gained through a financial literacy seminar hosted by your firm. 

  • Your question: What financial questions or concerns motivated you to sign up for our recent seminar?
  • Their answer: I was never really taught how to manage money and now that my income is growing, I want to make sure I’m not making the same mistakes my parents have made. The seminar seemed like a great place to start learning about money management and planning for the future.
  • What you’ve learned: This new client hasn’t had the most positive experiences with money and is proactive about preparing for their financial future. From here, you may pivot into a conversation around money fears and what the client feels they most need to prepare for (e.g. caring for aging parents and/or determining how much they will need to live in retirement). 

Example #3: You’re preparing to meet an existing client who recently received an unexpected inheritance and wants to know how this effects their current financial plan. 

  • Your question: How has this recent experience and unanticipated inheritance changed, or reinforced, your financial goals?
  • Their answer: I’ve realized I want to slow down and spend more quality time with family and friends. I still want to be prepared for the future, but have more freedom to live in the present when possible.
  • What you’ve learned: This current client has been through a major life event that shifted their values and they want their financial plan to reflect that. From here, you can follow up with more personal questions about their changed perspective and apply those answers to individual financial planning.
  • Follow-up questions: What do they consider to be quality time? What needs to be sacrificed to allow them to “slow down”?

2. Ask open-ended questions.

Avoid asking too many closed-ended questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” You want your questions to bring depth to the conversation by stirring up more detailed answers. Asking your clients open-ended questions allows you to:Get to know your client on a deeper level, more efficiently.

  • Get to know your clients on a deeper level, more efficiently.
  • Give your clients time to elaborate and reflect on their answers.
  • Create a more personalized, friendly environment for your clients.
  • Show genuine interest and find emotional connections with your clients.

The following example demonstrates how much more you can learn about your clients just by changing a closed-ended question to an open-ended discussion. 

You’re meeting with a prospective client and want to learn about their investment background.

  • Closed-ended question: Have you worked with a financial advisor before. 
    The client will likely respond with a simple “yes” or “no” answer, which doesn’t tell you much about their previous experience or what brought them to you.
  • Open-ended alternative: Tell me about your previous investing experience and what’s motivating you to meet with me today.

Regardless of how a client may find your practice, whether through word-of-mouth or your digital marketing efforts, prospective clients need to feel confident about choosing you. If you find you’re in the hot seat when it comes to questions, embrace it—and utilize it.

Listening for clues in the conversation

Your client’s questions can give you clues about their investment mindset and financial philosophy. Depending on the status of your client (whether potential, new, or current) you can reference their questions from earlier conversations to build a better dialogue.

Here are some examples of how common client questions can be reworked to reveal even more insights: Your client recently inquired about your firm’s familiarity with ESG investing. You could ask: How does sustainable investing reflect your current lifestyle and values now and for the future? Learn more about sustainable investing at LPL Financial.

Your client wants to know how often they’ll receive investment portfolio updates. You could ask: What are your biggest concerns around long-term, recurring investments strategies? Learn about LPL Account View’s 24/7 client portfolio access.


3. Avoid financial industry jargon.

While certain terms and acronyms may be common to you as a financial professional, clients may find them confusing and frustrating. It’s best to avoid complex, financial lingo as much as possible.

Be sure you’re clearly communicating during your client discussions by:

  • Setting aside time prior to the meeting to review your working list of questions.
  • Pin-pointing any terms or acronyms that may need more clarification.
  • Finding opportunities to supplement more relatable language without sacrificing expertise.
  • Asking clients if they need more clarity following complex questions.
  • Being ready to provide applicable examples or definitions as needed.
  • Educating your client to empower their own financial acumen and boost their investor confidence.

Like any relationship, clients want to have positive interactions with their financial professionals. Stay in tune with clients’ common questions and concerns to make sure you’re staying a step ahead of the competition. And, don’t feel you need to simplify everything in every meeting. Over time, your client will feel more confident in asking for clarity when needed.

4. Stay attentive and engaged.

Clients appreciate valuable information and insights that pertain to their unique financial goals, but also appreciate financial professionals who actively listen to what they need to know. Regardless of the questions you ask, or the answers your clients provide, you won’t create a valuable interaction unless you listen.

You can help your clients feel respected and heard, by:

  • Asking follow-up questions that allow them to expand on their last answer. By adjusting your next question based on what they’ve just shared, you’ll pull more valuable insight and create more conversational flow.
  • Paying close attention to how they answer. How clients deliver their responses can indicate whether they are unsure or confused. By staying engaged, you’ll be able to pick up on the nuances in body language and facial expressions of your clients and respond accordingly.
  • Ask for clarification when necessary. Apart from allowing you to take better notes, it may give them a chance to reflect on or revise their perspectives on short- and long-term financial priorities.

5. Ask one question at a time.

Today’s investors are more complex than yesterday’s. Knowing this, you may need more information to create a financial plan that fits your clients’ dynamic needs. Although you may want to get as much information as possible during your client meetings, moving too quickly may set a negative tone.

It’s essential for clients to thoroughly digest what’s being asked. You can help them have a better experience by:

  • Giving them adequate time to respond to each question and reassuring them that it’s okay to not have an answer right away (embrace the awkward, but valuable silences).
  • Avoiding compound questions when possible (bundling three questions into one will only muddle the conversation and overwhelm your client with complexity).
  • Not interrupting (don’t jump in with new questions or comments that derail the conversation).
  • Taking a pause (this helps your clients feel unhurried and free to fully express their thoughts at their own pace). 

6. Avoid leading language.

Asking questions with “leading language” may make clients feel uncomfortable and lack confidence in your objectivity. While clients want to know their personal values and plans are heard, it’s best to remain neutral, avoiding overtly positive or negative language.

Here are some examples of questions with leading language and how to reframe them in a more objective way for clients:

  • Instead of asking: Wouldn’t it be great if you could retire in five years?
    Ask: What do you envision yourself doing in five years? When do you think you may want to retire?
  • Instead of asking: Where do you think your business plan went wrong?
    Ask: How could the business plan and process have been improved?
  • Instead of asking: What college will your children attend?
    Ask: What options are your children considering after high-school?

7. Respect your clients’ time. 

As a financial professional, time is one of your most valuable assets. Chances are that the same can be said for many of your clients. There are many ways to show your clients that you value their time and appreciate their business (or potential business), including:

  • Accommodating for your clients’ scheduled.
  • Arriving on time and remaining focused.  
  • Asking questions that benefit the conversation and help inform financial planning.
  • Being adaptable to client preferences (i.e., virtual meetings and preferred client communication).
  • Providing clients with your most up-to-date contact information.
  • Setting expectations and timelines for follow-up conversations.
  • Building a cushion into your schedule at the end of client meetings to allow for overflow if the conversation is going well. 

Remember to take note of the amount of questions clients still have at the end of the meeting. Observe whether they seem at ease or overwhelmed by the process of making financial decisions. Use those insights to adjust your approach accordingly for next time.

The one question all financial professionals should ask themselves. 

If you get stuck when preparing for a meeting, or have trouble getting started, try switching things up. Instead of creating questions for your clients, answer this one for yourself: 

What do I want to discover in this client meeting?

By answering this question you’ll have a better idea of the gaps in your client knowledge and find opportunities to develop questions that offer deeper client understanding into their life or financial picture

.Keep in mind, some of your clients may not realize the importance of sharing new developments with you and how those changes may impact their overall financial plan. This means they may be missing out on ways to adjust their plan for new challenges or opportunities. It’s a good idea to have an optimized communication plan in place for existing clients so you can stay up-to-date about (or remind them to share) major life events as they arise

Asking better questions leads to better answers.

With better answers, you’ll have a deeper understanding of where your clients are, where they want to be, and how you can help them confidently pursue their financial goals. All while building their trust and confidence in your experience at every interaction.

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The views and opinions expressed by LPL Financial Advisor(s) may not be representative of the views of other Financial Advisors and are not indicative of future performance or success. Neither LPL Financial nor the LPL Financial Advisor can be held responsible for any direct or incidental loss incurred by applying any of the information offered.

For financial professional use only.