As someone who works with people, communication is vital to your success. While authenticity counts, there may be some areas where your communication skills are less keen than you would like. Just like any other skill, you can improve communication through self-reflection and practice. These skills are used not only in speaking with clients, but also when communicating with your staff, back-office support, your peers, wholesalers, and anyone else you come into contact with throughout your day. 

Part of today’s communication complication is the myriad methods available. Texting, email, phone calls, video calls, flyers, handwritten notes, sometimes spanning multiple methods, offices, and even time zones.  It can be challenging to remain consistent in messaging while also being flexible in utilizing a combination of these various methods to best service your clients. Because of the variance, the importance of good communication cannot be overstated to ensure that you are being efficient, responsive, and also maintaining your own standards of professional excellence. 

Consider these five ways you can improve your communication skills:

  1. Prepare ahead: You’ll always sound better if you know what you’re trying to say before you go into a conversation. Whether a client presentation or a call to a sponsor company with a request, take an appropriate amount of time to prepare yourself. This could mean creating an agenda for a client meeting, having account information on hand when calling a company to clear up an issue, or even preparing bullet points for a call to your compliance team about a case. This preparation should also include thinking ahead through the whole communication. Brainstorm likely questions and how you can answer them, prepare rebuttals to disagreements with your points that could arise, and be ready to back yourself up with evidence.
  1. Clarity and brevity: Being wordy will usually not help your case. When working to maximize your communication skills, aim for clear and concise language to get your meaning across. If this is a challenge to you, work to self-edit emails and remove sentences that are not directly to the point. A big vocabulary is great as part of your toolkit, but consider your audience before you pack a paragraph with ten-point words. Before any conversation or email, identify your audience as well as the goal of the communication. Use those to guide your word choice.
  1. Tone is important: It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Particularly in intense situations, check yourself to ensure that you’re not losing your focus. Calm in the face of challenges is likely to have a much greater impact on a meaningful solution. Likewise, remember that things that seem simple to you may not be to your clients who have not had as much financial experience and education as you have. Make sure that you’re not talking down to anyone when making explanations, even if you’ve had to explain it once already.
  1. So is non-verbal communication: In-person communication, as well as virtual meetings, bring in the element of body language. Above and beyond the spoken word, body language is something that humans read instinctively, and it can have a bigger impact than whatever is being said. Learn to read others’ non-verbal cues, which can include facial expressions, gestures, and even the way a person holds their body while sitting or standing. Look for signs of discomfort, such as crossed arms or an unwillingness to make eye contact. Understanding non-verbal communication will allow you to shift your own tactics to better suit the situation. Learn to monitor the non-verbal cues you’re giving out and adjust them as needed as well. 
  1. Practice active listening: When someone’s speaking, it’s important to engage with them rather than simply waiting for your turn in the conversation. The goal is to hear the actual message rather than just words. You can work to improve your active listening skills by giving the speaker your full attention, taking the time to listen throughout rather than already formulating a response, rephrase what you’ve heard when replying, and finally, asking questions that will draw more information from the speaker in an open-ended way.

Your communication skills are an outward show of the internal work you’re doing to improve as a financial advisor. This is about building your emotional intelligence as well, as you adapt to reading, understanding, and working with the emotions of those with whom you are communicating. It’s important to remember that everyone should be treated with the same respect, from potential clients to the person answering phones at the fund company you’re calling. 

Communication with others can always be challenging, as misunderstandings and difficult situations are bound to crop up even in the best circumstances. However, by mastering communication skills, you can take some of the guess work out of conversations and put yourself in a position to be more effective as a speaker, writer, and listener…all things that can help make you an exceptional financial professional. 

Mandy Szewczuk

More about the author: Mandy Szewczuk

Mandy works with advisors as the lead of Evolution Financial Advisor’s virtual assistant program and is part of the marketing and events team.