Recognising what soft skills you possess as an adviser is useful, but understanding how to use those skills appropriately during client meetings is the next step.
Using the same interpersonal skills across all your clients is not likely to work, as people respond differently to various approaches.
“We ascribe the same level of importance to interpersonal and behavioural skills as to the technical knowledge of our financial planners,” explains Marie Calvin, 1825 national academy manager.
“While technical expertise is clearly a crucial element of a good financial planner, interpersonal and behavioural skills help our advisers create the right solutions to meet our clients’ goals.”
For chartered financial planner Claire Walsh, of Aspect 8 Financial Planning, soft skills allow her to draw information out of her clients, rather than client meetings being a purely transactional process.
“What I’ve found is the more you can make people feel comfortable and empathise with them, the better you’re going to build a relationship with them and they’re going to feel comfortable opening up to you further,” she notes.
Reading between the lines
One of the challenges is being able to determine what it is a client has come to see their adviser about.
Ms Walsh explains: “One of the things I’ve noticed is people often have some explicit reason why they’ve come but there are other things at play and it’s often [about] trying to read between the lines quite subtly.”
Darren Smith, head of the Financial Adviser School, agrees it is as much about understanding what the client is not saying as what they are saying and suggests: “it involves reading their body language and listening beyond words alone”.
“This understanding can help engender trust, which is at the heart of financial planning,” he continues.
“Money is an emotive subject and people need to be certain that their financial future is in the hands of someone they can trust.”
Listen and learn
Listening skills are vital in a job like counselling – a career that financial advice is often likened to.
Tom Hegarty, managing director at New Model Business Academy, says one of the most important skills is the ability to listen to clients.
He explains: “We do surveys quite a lot and one of the strongest results that came back from the survey around soft skills was listening to clients and exploring exactly what they want.
“What it involves is an adviser genuinely listening to a client without any kind of fixed or pre-determined agenda or outcome, which is very difficult to do.
"Because when an adviser is sitting there and they speak to a client, a lot of the time they have their own agenda, in terms of they think they already know what the client wants, what the client needs and they already have an idea in mind of how to help that client.”