What's more vital to your success and happiness as a financial advisor, your technical skills or your people skills? Tough question? Not really. It's your people skills. Hands down. No contest.

How do you know that your people skills are more crucial to your success and happiness as a financial advisor than your technical skills? 1) It's your people skills that get you hired in the first place. 2) Everything technical can be outsourced or delegated, and nothing "people" can be outsourced or delegated.

You can hire technical experts to write the financial plan; do the asset allocation; manage the money; assess risk and recommend appropriate insurance; do the tax planning and prepare the tax returns; and do the legal work.

But none of your people skills can be outsourced. You can't hire someone else to be charming for you, ask good questions, listen with empathy, be trustworthy, build rapport, give advice with confidence, provide leadership or hold people accountable to implement.

I'm not suggesting that you can be a financial moron and be a successful financial advisor. What I am suggesting is that you invest more time in your people skills than your technical skills because it's your people skills that get you in front of prospects and your people skills that get you hired. It's your people skills that manage your clients' expectations. It's your people skills that help you help your clients manage their emotions during turbulent times. It's your people skills that generate referrals and convert referrals into clients.

People skills are like muscles and fitness. They can be developed to be strong and productive and they will decline if you don't consistently work to keep them sharp and strong.

One of the best books ever written about effective communication is You've Got To Be Believed To Be Heard, by Bert Decker. Bert is a leading authority on communication. (To learn more about The Decker Communications Course go to www.decker.com. Enter promo code "Iknowbill" for a $200 discount off the regular $1,495 tuition.)

My favorite quote from this great book is, "The most important language in effective communicating is an almost unspoken language, the language of trust." How do you speak the language of trust? I believe it boils down to three things:

1. Know the right questions to ask, when to ask them and how to ask them.
2. Listen with empathy.
3. When it's your turn to talk to be able to make an offer or give advice that is relevant for them, with confidence and conviction, and in a way that tends to inspire action.

First, I'll explain each of these three things and then I'll give you an example for putting it all together. What are some of the right questions to ask? In the beginning of a potential business relationship, the questions are open-ended and about things that are meaningful, important, significant and compelling to the client prospect. Questions like: