How Financial Advisors Can Effectively Deal With Difficult People

By Beverly Flaxington, Principal, The Collaborative on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

If you work in the financial advisory business, chances are you have to deal with difficult employees, partners or even prospects and clients.  The fact of the matter is that difficult people are everywhere; and dealing with them is excruciating, time consuming and costly. But rather than avoiding or firing difficult employees, it is critical to find ways to work with them to change the difficult interaction into a productive interaction for both parties and clients and prospects can exhibit bad behavior and you might need ways to deal with it. Here is a guideline for financial advisors to effectively and efficiently deal with difficult people:

Define Difficult
Everyone has a different definition of “difficult”. Take some time to recognize what a person does that you don’t like. Some advisors find loud clients difficult to do business with, whereas a few of them consider individuals who are “too helpful” annoying. The list can go on, but take time to document it.

Analyze Behavior
Why do you find someone’s behavior difficult? Discover what negative emotions their behavior triggers within you. Get your whole advisory team together to go through this exercise. Different things trigger different people. Thus, there is really no universal definition of “difficult.” It is usually our experience of someone that makes them difficult to us. Having said that, that does not mean that your advisory firm doesn’t have a client that no one likes to deal with.

Question Filter
After identifying the reason that sets you off, you may question your own filter on the person. Ask yourself: Why does this person’s behavior bother me? Is it really the person’s behavior, or something that I or my staff need to take into consideration?

Differences in Behavioral Style
Often, difficulties arise due to differences in behavioral style. For instance, some people have a brusque communication approach, while others are more friendly and polite. Usually, people tend to see differences in style as “difficult” and not “different”. We get annoyed when the other person is not like us.  In financial advisory firms, it’s not atypical that a client gets along great with the portfolio manager. Their styles may “click” well, but if staff members do not have similar communication approaches, the client may turn someone else off (and vice versa).  When we connect well with someone else, we wrongly assume everyone does. This can be a fatal mistake, especially in a small firm.

Observe Style
In order to get through to someone, observe and match their body language, tone and words, whenever you can. The more you match them, the more they perceive you as being like them.

While financial services and wealth management business is often considered a numbers business, it is really about the people i.e. the clients, the employees, the prospects and firm leaders. Hence, practice the art of dealing with the ones you deem difficult. Challenge yourself and make a shift in your experiences of dealing with the difficult people around you. This will, ultimately, improve your financial advisory business by leaps and bounds.

Bev is the Co-Founder and Principal of The Collaborative, a firm that is an innovator in business growth through real world experience. The Collaborative has worked with thousands of individuals and businesses and has an impressive roster of client firms including Fortune 5000 firms, the world’s largest banks & investment managers, technology companies, Colleges & Universities, as well as other mid-sized to large businesses.


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