If you're a financial planner, you've probably had a lot of experience advising men. The reason is that the financial services industry was founded by men for the male wealth creator. However, with the rise of women as a major economic force, one question remains. Are you prepared to meet the needs of your female clients in your financial planning practice? It is not safe to assume that the manner in which you have always operated with your male clients is sufficient for interactions with your female clients. The "rules of the road" for navigating the female culture are often different than the ones in a man's world and to be successful you need to know them.
Women are seeking financial advisors at unprecedented rates. They currently control the majority of wealth in the United States and are estimated to receive 70% of the $41 trillion in intergenerational wealth transfers over the next several decades, noted the March 2001 article, "Women's Views of Wealth and the Planning Process: Its Their Values the Matter, not Just Their Value," in Advisor Perspectives. Advising women requires a different kind of expertise and knowing the rules of the female culture helps. Here are six guidelines to help you better understand and feel more comfortable operating in the world of women.
Rule 1. Women need to tell their story. To be effective attracting, connecting, and advising a woman, you need to listen to and understand her experience. You can do this by carefully listening, by asking curious, open-ended questions, and by doing your best to put yourself in her shoes. Not only are women socialized to share, they gets a biological boost in doing so as the pleasure centers in her brain light up when she does, according to the book, The Female Brain, by Dr. Louann Brizendine.
Rule 2. Women get personal quickly. The best way to observe this phenomenon is to set up a networking appointment with a female and a male colleague for the same day. Notice how much time he spends proving his expertise and how much time she uses to talk about what you two have in common. Neither way of networking is better than the other, but this example does highlight how female clients want to know that you have something in common with them.
Rule 3. Women communicate using feeling words. Now don't fret if you are a male advisor and think you simply can't or don't want to discuss feelings. She will do most of the talking and emoting; you just need to listen, validate her feelings, and show empathy. Why do women do this? Because women connect through discussing their vulnerabilities and not through sharing activities the way men typically do. For example, if I kayak with a girlfriend, we share secrets and insecurities while paddling. With a male companion, we talk about the tide and the wind, and challenge each other to a paddle-off.
Rule 4. Women define success as being "indispensable." Women love to help and be seen as the go-to person for assistance. Men typically prefer to be independent and define success in terms of doing it alone. Make sure you mention how your female client is a valuable and an indispensable part of the financial planning team because it is important in the female world for her to be seen as helpful.
Rule 5. Women remember details and read body language. Women excel at reading facial expressions and body language, and remembering details. Some people surmise that this is due to a woman's natural instincts as a mother. She is wired to read facial and body cues and to respond quickly to make sure her newborn baby remains safe. Whatever the reason, making eye contact, communicating interest through nonverbal communication, and paying attention to details are very important in the female culture. A male client might not care if you follow up after each meeting with a note to say thank you, but doing so with a woman may mean the difference between keeping a client and losing one.
Rule 6. Women are loyal. Once trust is established, women are extremely loyal friends, employees, and clients. Because being in relationships is what defines them and brings them pleasure, women work diligently to establish, maintain, and preserve their personal and professional relationships. This loyalty is why women refer more friends, family members, and colleagues to financial advisors than men do. According to Delia Passi, author of Winning the Toughest Customer: The Essential Guide to Selling to Women, a female client is likely to refer to a financial advisor 26 times in her lifetime, whereas a man is likely to refer to a financial advisor only 11 times in his lifetime.
By learning these six rules of the feminine world, you will connect, communicate and advise female clients more effectively. Take the time to ask your women clients to tell you more about their worldview and listen carefully. By being curious about their world, your female clients will feel appreciated and cared for, and they will know you are truly interested in them as people, not just assets.
Kathleen Burns Kingsbury is the author of How To Give Financial Advice To Women: Attracting and Retaining High-Net-Worth Female Clients just released from McGraw-Hill. Kingsbury is the founder of KBK Wealth Connection, and a wealth psychology expert and behavioral change specialist. She teaches financial services professionals how to connect, communicate, and collaborate more effectively with their clients to increase client retention and improve profitability. For more information, visit www.kbkwealthconnection.com.