Financial markets are volatile. Don’t expect graphs of historical market performance to immediately make your clients feel better.
- The most important thing you can do for your clients right now is to listen to their concerns.
- Empathize. Don’t minimize their feelings. Let them know you understand times like these aren’t fun for anyone, including you.
- Be realistic. Some clients’ anxiety may be more than they can handle. Regardless of your recommendations to them, you need to respect how they’re feeling and might want to proceed.
During this current market volatility, you’ve got to be sensitive when you communicate with your clients.
A couple of years ago on a Saturday morning, I was flying back from Dallas to San Francisco, and I was experiencing some of the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced (and I’ve flown a lot)! The pilot came on, and he said,
“We apologize for this rough air. It is no fun. It’s never enjoyable. . .
Right then and there he empathized with us.
That pilot could have come on and said,
“Hey, don’t worry about this, ladies and gentlemen. I have flown through much worse storms than this. In fact, I was a Navy pilot, and I used to land on aircraft carriers that were pitching and rolling in gale-force winds. Trust me, this is a piece of cake.”
He didn’t say that. He empathized with us. He showed us he was a dad. I’ll never forget the roar that went up when he got permission to change altitude and came back online telling us, “We’re climbing. We’re going home!”
Our clients are feeling turbulence right now. It’s not comfortable or fun, and you need to empathize with them. I’m getting weary of seeing graphs of historical stock market returns being thrown up on LinkedIn at the moment, with people saying, “Hey, after every massive dip, or every volatile time, look how the market’s come back!” That’s showing so much disregard for how our clients are feeling right now! As financial services professionals, we’re in this sound box of market performance and analysts’ reports. We’re hearing this all day long and have some perspective on the current volatility. Our clients aren’t immersed in this information and so don’t have the same perspective.
You need to be aware of how they’re feeling. They’re seeing headlines showing the war in Europe deteriorating, that things getting worse. They’re seeing headlines about staggering inflation that is hitting everywhere. They’re seeing gas prices go up. They’re seeing all of this stuff happening, and it’s unsettling. The thing they need most is not to be shown some graph pointing to this being the time to buy stocks and hear you quote Warren Buffet. Remember, you’re not Warren Buffet, and you’re not driving Berkshire Hathaway. Quoting heads of massive companies’ investing policies isn’t necessarily relevant for your retail clients in times like this. You need to reach out and connect with your clients. Listen to what they’re experiencing and show empathy for what they’re going through.
To do this more effectively,
- Listen. Listen to how they’re feeling. Listen to what they’re going through. Listen to where their concerns are.
- Be empathetic. Let them know you understand that this turbulence is not fun, just like that pilot did for us. He could have quoted his whole history of flying, but he didn’t; he showed us he also was not enjoying what was going on. He let us see he was a dad wanting to get home to his family, just like many of us on that plane.
- Listen to them and empathize with them.
- Be realistic. I’m not saying don’t communicate or show them the facts that markets do come back. You’ve got to show them that, but you’ve got to let them feel that you’re hearing them first. There’s a lot of lousy stuff happening right now all at once for them, and the thing they need most is to know they’re being heard.
Recognize and accept that ultimately it’s their money. Unlike in the ubiquitous pilot analogies used in our industry, where you can’t get off a plane at 35,000 feet, even if you want to, our clients can get out of the market if they really want to. Ultimately, it’s their money to do with as they wish. When our team was advising clients through similar volatile times, we would let them know,
“Hey, this is not fun. We are not enjoying this ourselves, and we do want to remind you that we’re aware that it is your money. We can move some to the sidelines if you’d like. We always are concerned about doing that because markets usually do correct and move back up. And oftentimes it’s trickier knowing when to get back into markets from an investment perspective, but we just want you to know you’re in control of this, and we will follow what you want to do to ensure you are sleeping soundly at night.”
That’s what you need to communicate. Listen first, provide your advice, help your clients.