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Talking to clients about changes in your practice can affect your relationship with them in two ways: for better or for worse.

Knowing how to communicate change effectively is key to keeping good client relationships. Changes such as fee adjustments, shifts in investment strategies, or adopting new planning tools often happen during a client relationship. But many financial professionals worry about how clients will respond.

Fortunately, by sticking to four principles, you can communicate change in a way that strengthens the bond with your clients.


#1: Focus on Client Benefits

When considering a change in your practice, it’s natural to focus on how it affects you directly. You might anticipate gaining time, efficiency, revenue, or attracting new clients—clear benefits that align with the growth of your business. However, what might not be immediately obvious are the benefits for your clients.

For instance, let’s say you’re thinking about raising fees. While you understand the reasons behind this decision, you may not be entirely clear on how it will benefit your clients. Without a clear client benefit, you’ll struggle to authentically communicate the value of the change. Consequently, you may enter the conversation feeling less relaxed and less confident. People are remarkably perceptive, and your clients may sense something is off. They might wonder, “Why does he seem uneasy?” or “Why is he trying so hard to persuade me?”

Before communicating any change to your clients, take the time to ensure your mind and heart are completely calm and confident that the change is in their best interest.


#2: Know Your Talking Points

First, being authentic sets the tone. Then, it’s time to craft clear and compelling talking points to steer the conversation. This adds to your confidence, and clients will likely respond positively. This is like “Goldilocks” communication—not too much, not too little. It’s just right and feels natural.

To create Goldilocks talking points, cover the What, Why, How, and When:

  1. What’s happening (e.g., fee change)
  2. Why it’s happening (the purpose of the change such as enhanced services)
  3. Why it’s happening now (the background behind the timing)
  4. Specific client benefits of the change such as personalized strategies, better decisions, and greater financial security
  5. How and when the client will notice the change

Wrap up by summarizing the purpose and benefits.

Your talking points could go like this:

“Hey Mr. and Mrs. Smith! I’m excited to share some exciting news with you. You’ve seen how financial planning has evolved, right? Well, with all the advancements in technology and services, we’re now equipped to offer even more comprehensive planning options. By incorporating this new financial-planning process, we’re set to elevate your financial journey significantly. You’ll gain access to personalized strategies tailored to your goals, empowering you to make more informed decisions and achieve greater financial security. It’s all about ensuring you receive top-notch support and guidance every step of the way.”

Use these notes as talking points, and practice with a friend. Avoid being overly scripted as it may make you seem robotic. Anticipate potential objections from clients and prepare how best to address their concerns.


#3: Some Pushback Is Normal

How do you react when you hear, “We’re making a change about ...”? For many of us, our initial response is resistance. It’s a natural neurological reaction—we often assume change will bring added costs, inconvenience, or diminish the value we receive. Some resistance to change is expected and is part of the adjustment process. Recognizing this can help you effectively navigate resistance.

When clients resist, the instinct may be to immediately counter their objections. However, this approach typically intensifies their resistance. Instead, adopt a super-listener mode. Avoid interrupting, express gratitude for their concerns, and focus on addressing them. For instance, you might say, “I appreciate you sharing your concerns. Let me explain how these new tax-planning services will actually lead to better outcomes for you in the future.”

Some clients will adapt smoothly, while others may struggle with the change. Stay attentive and proactive in addressing any concerns. If you remain open, calm, and confident, your clients will find it easier to adapt and may even embrace your assurance.


#4: Ease Clients Into a Change

Nobody enjoys being blindsided by unexpected changes such as suddenly announcing, “Hey, we’re hiking our fees next week!” It’s better to initiate discussions about changes at least three months in advance. This time frame shows respect for people’s time, allowing them to digest the information, seek clarification, and voice concerns. It also gives you ample time to address any issues that arise.

Change Is Good (For Your Clients, Too)

When it comes to communicating a change, financial professionals often express their biggest worry: the fear of negative reactions from their clients. Nobody likes dealing with upset or angry clients, and this fear can spike anxiety levels; this makes it challenging for professionals to remain composed, confident, and genuinely persuasive. The solution lies in being firmly convinced that any change will genuinely benefit your clients. With this conviction, crafting a client-centered message becomes relatively straightforward, focusing on the what, why, how, and when. Armed with confident and concise talking points, the change can become an opportunity to strengthen client relationships even further.


Next Step

The next step is to put these principles into action. Identify upcoming changes, focus on how they benefit clients, prepare clear talking points, expect some resistance, and ease clients into the change gradually. By following these steps, you can confidently communicate changes and strengthen client relationships.

About The Author
Tim Owings

Barbara is a business psychology coach specializing in: Growth, Clients, Teams, and Leadership. She holds dual degrees in clinical psychology and post graduate specialties in coaching. In addition to coaching and speaking, Barbara writes the leadership column for Journal of Financial Planning and is the author of two books: The Top Performer’s Guide to Change and The $14 Trillion Woman: Your Essential Guide to Engaging the Female Client. 

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author, who is not affiliated with Hartford Funds.


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