We’ve all been there. Sitting in a room with a couple, one of whom is actively involved in the conversation and driving most of the agenda.
I often refer to this person as the dominant spouse for all money decisions. Let’s face it, there often is one spouse who wants to engage more than the other. Sometimes, it’s the “good saver” vs. the “spender,” and sometimes, it’s the high earner vs. the partner who spends less time in the business world in order to handle other critical jobs like raising children. But, frankly, it’s more often the woman who will take a backseat in these meetings.
The “whys” can be varied, but the results are often the same for an advisory relationship. With 80% of widows switching advisors after the death of a spouse, not connecting with spouses early on can mean the early demise of what could have been a powerful and collaborative relationship. The worst part is that you might be doing all the “right” things when it comes to your responsibility toward their assets, but you still lose them because you lack that emotional tie that allows the other person in the room to feel you are connected to them too.
Over the years, I have heard many recommendations like “be sure you make eye contact.” This frustrates me even as I write it. It’s like saying: if you just smile at them, it will be alright. But, it’s not working for most advisors, and these relationships slip out the door even when you are doing the good work. So how to build a business where both partners feel equally valued in your business should be on your list of to-dos.
Evaluate your Strengths and Weaknesses to Include Both Spouses in the
- If you are providing print-outs in a meeting, do you provide a copy for them to share or a copy for each one of them?
- Do you know the unique interests of each person and what they enjoy together?
- If they have a child or children, do you know their name(s) and grade(s)?
- What if only one spouse comes to meetings? Have you ever had a direct conversation with the other?
- If you host an event, consider those that provide an opportunity to mingle with clients you don’t always see. One of our most popular events each year is a minor league baseball game. Bring the whole family!
Tips to Engage Both
- Consider events that include both spouses such as wine tasting, an educational dinner at a local observatory or museum, or another forum that allows for candid conversation. Sometimes it’s not just about recreation, but being thoughtful when it matters most.
- If a spouse is sick or injured, know enough about them or the nature of their ailment to help ensure their comfort. Some treatments may cause individuals to react poorly to certain smells or tastes so a magazine may be a better choice than flowers. And, consider restaurant gift cards for places located near a hospital when one spouse is there because the other spouse is too.
- There are many more thoughtful ways that you can connect better with the non-driver spouse in your room, but it doesn’t happen without a plan and the use of a strong customer relationship management system (CRM) to capture this information every time you learn something. You will want to have someone “in charge” of knowing when to send something and empowered to handle this for you, what is sometimes referred to as a Chief Experience Officer or WOW Czar. I’d suggest this person not be an advisor and be the client service coordinator, for example, or even consider part-time help.
In the end, what matters is that you’re acknowledging both spouses as valuable partners, even if one of them chooses to take a different approach to your conversations.
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