Financial advisors often communicate with clients from their own vantage point instead of seeing things from the client’s perspective, says Nadia David, communications consultant with Premier Consulting Partners in Mississauga, Ont.

“It’s natural,” she says. “Advisors try to impress upon clients what they offer in an attempt to convince them that [the advisor is] they are looking out for [the client’s] best interests.”

But talking about your products, your credentials and your track record could be going over the heads of your clients.

A more effective way to communicate with clients is to discuss situations your clients can readily relate to, such as planning for retirement or leaving a legacy for their children.

Here are some ways to shift your perspective and better understand your clients’ point of view:

> Listen attentively
Clients have their own stories, which are shaped by their unique experiences, David says. In order to hear your client’s story, you have to put your own expertise and experience aside and listen to what he or she is saying.

“Don’t make assumptions or be judgemental about what you are hearing,” David says. “Only after listening to clients can you take a step back and determine how you can help them.”

> Seek clarity
Ask both direct and open-ended questions to clarify your understanding of what you heard — and what you didn’t hear. Your goal is to find out everything about your client, not only about their financial life but their personal life as well.

Direct questions (“How old are your kids?”) will allow you to get specific information. Open-ended questions (“What are your retirement dreams?”) will invite your clients to share their goals and expectations. Ask for more information, if necessary, to enhance your client knowledge.

> Build confidence
Show that you understand your client’s situation.

“Here is where you can use your experience and expertise to explain how you can work with them, given their individual circumstances,” David says.

By presenting various scenarios from the client’s perspective, you will help the client understand how you can help them. At the same time, clients will be much more comfortable knowing that whatever advice you give them will be personalized.

> Establish a partnership
Make clients aware that they have a role in achieving their objectives. You are effectively making them a partner in the relationship, with responsibilities to ensure that it is successful.

“Encourage them to ask questions and be open about whether you are meeting their expectations,” David says. “Now the ball is in the client’s court, making communication a whole lot easier.”

> Define your role
Clearly articulate your role in the partnership. Explain how you make investment decisions, how often you will meet to review your client’s portfolio, how frequently you will communicate with them and that they can call you at any time.

“Ask what you should do to ensure you are meeting their expectations,” David says. By giving them a say in the partnership, you are helping to build trust and loyalty.