In my book, In My Wildest Dreams: Living the Life You Long For, I challenged women to answer one of the most important questions they could ever ask themselves: "If absolutely anything were possible, what would I love to make happen in my life?" The book, and that question, struck a powerful chord not only with in general, but also with Oprah, who invited me to be on her show.
On the show, we asked audience members to consider "if absolutely anything were possible," and what that looked like in their own lives. One woman said she'd provide college educations for her grandchildren. Another envisioned buying a house in Tuscany where her whole family could come for vacations. Still another talked about starting a non-profit organization to help change the world.
These marvelous women let go of the constraints they'd put on themselves, got in touch with their "wildest dreams," and embraced an unshakeable determination to turn them into reality.
Asking your female clients to answer the question, "If absolutely anything were possible..." will focus their attention on the future: a future of their own design, where they, with your ongoing encouragement and positive reinforcement, can actually accomplish their wildest dreams.
Going Further in Understanding Female Clients
Wendy Brown, a financial professional with Merrill Lynch, has a client base that is approximately 50 percent women. She offers related, and solid, advice for how financial professionals can connect with and inspire their female clients:
- Let them speak! Women connect better when they're allowed to voice their thoughts, fears...and dreams.
- Women want their concerns to be acknowledged, and they want to be spoken to with respect and compassion.
- Women prefer a collaborative approach. Some female clients have chosen to work with me over previous male financial professionals because the male financial professional made them feel dumb and that their opinion was not important.
- Women need to be convinced that they should drop their old theories and beliefs that they are not good with, and don't know how to handle, money. Encourage them to take pride in the fact that they are embarking on the first step (teaming up with a financial professional) toward becoming both knowledgeable and secure.
One more tip from Wendy that I particularly love: "Invite your female clients to monthly birthday lunches." Wendy invites her female clients who have birthdays in the same month to come together, share their investment and life experiences, support each other and celebrate what's going well in their lives. "They love it!" Wendy says.
In my work, I know that when women feel comfortable and at home with a situation or a person, they're much more likely to stick with them.
Don't Discount the Financial Acumen of Women
A friend of mine, Jeanie Knigin, a financial professional with Morgan Stanley with a practice comprised mostly of women over 50 who are divorced or widowed, sent me some fascinating research from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI). A key finding is that women have a high level of financial acumen. They're virtually as knowledgeable as men: 35 percent of women and 39 percent of men passed the CTI financial literary assessment. But only one in five women felt confident in their financial knowledge, whereas four in five men felt confident.1
Clearly, helping women's "financial self-esteem" be commensurate with their "financial knowledge" is key to increasing their comfort with, and ongoing interest in, investing.
Jeanie also suggests that when you're meeting with women, it's important to begin with a conversation, not a sales pitch or a list of what they need to do. "Warm them up," she says. "Look around at the pictures on their desks, know about their children and other family members; know their dogs' names! Get involved!"
"In the end," she says, "advising women clients isn't as much transactional as it is personal." By the way, she adds, "This type of easy relationship works well with men, too."
- To inspire a female client to action and to persuade her to commit, encourage her to think about a powerful "wildest dream" that she's committed to bringing to life.
- Be mindful of how best to communicate and connect with women when talking about financial issues and investing. As we all know, they are wired differently and respond differently than men do.
- Work with your female clients to create a step-by-step financial plan. That means creating an actionable list of the "whats" and "by whens." These are the things that need to be done over the next weeks and months (or years) to deliver the dream on time and on budget.
In my next piece, I'll introduce you to a simple, compelling visual device to use with your female clients. Called "The Mountain Top," it will help them stay focused on their goals — and celebrate their ongoing progress.