13 Questions for Financial Advisors to Build Rapport with Prospects

13 questions for financial advisors to build rapport with prospects.

Do you want to close more business as a financial advisor? Building rapport with customers and prospects should be #1 on your to-do list. Building rapport, unfortunately, is not always as easily done as said.

Lucky for you, we prepared a list of 18 effective rapport building questions financial advisors can ask prospects or clients. We also discuss how each question engages the prospect and what valuable information the advisor gets as a result.

These aren't in any specific order or anything. Feel free to pull from the list as you like and try a few different ones out. Just be sure to pay attention and engage your active listening skills when using these questions. You'll be getting a ton of valuable data that you won't want to forget.

1) "What does financial success look like to you?"

They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. While true, it's probably a good idea to know what direction you're going at least before you start traveling.

In the financial planning world, not everyone's journey ends in the same place. The concept of "financial success" varies wildly from person to person.

One person might feel successful if they're able to retire in the same place they've always lived. A lot of people, however, might require a move to Maui in order to feel good about their retirement.

Asking this question gives you information that's essential to being able to provide excellent service. It also validates a client's goals, which makes them feel seen and heard. Finally, it shows that you're here to help them achieve their goals, whatever they are.

All of that is essential if you hope to establish rapport and build mutual trust.

2) "What financial goals have you set for yourself and/or your family?"

This may sound like a redundant rewording of the first question—it’s not. 

Yes: asking about specific financial goals achieves the same purpose as asking about what success means. It ensures they know you care about them and are working towards their success. 

It also helps you understand some of the specific destinations along their specific road map to success.

Just like visions of success, individual goals will be wildly different from person to person. Some folks may need to save for children's education. Others may not have kids, so they may prioritize being able to work remotely, traveling, buying a home, etc.

It's also possible that a person has no goals whatsoever. Discovering this is essential for you to do your job as an advisor well.

Someone who doesn't even know what goals they should have will benefit immensely from the advice you can give them. Discovering their lack of planning will unlock another way that you can be of service to this client.

3) "What are your biggest financial concerns or worries?" 

A person's major concerns and worries can be a bit of a sensitive subject, so you may not want to begin your chat with a prospective client with this question. And yet, our worries are often better indicators of our short- and long-term goals than the goals themselves are.

So, once you've begun building rapport with a client, asking this question will not only further that goal, but give you excellent information as well.

While it might be uncomfortable or awkward to openly discuss such personal questions as financial concerns, doing so is a great way to show a client that you have empathy for them and care about their wellbeing, not just their money. 

Asking about concerns or worries is also a great way to help clients who don't know what their goals should be start thinking about just that.

If someone is worried that they won't be able to afford to pay for their kid's college, you can provide a plan to address that. Boom: goal created. Same thing goes for being afraid of having to work until they're 80 or never being able to travel outside the US.

Asking about client concerns will give you the opportunity to solve their problems—sometimes problems they didn’t even know they had. 

4) "What are some financial mistakes you've made in the past?"

Similar to asking about major financial worries, asking about big mistakes a person has made might not be the best way to open a conversation with someone you haven't begun to build rapport with. However, once you're a bit more comfortable with each other, this question will yield excellent information and show that you're there to help them grow on a personal level.

For some clients, this question will offer an important opportunity to reflect on some behaviors that might still be getting them into trouble. For others, it might be a way to look back and appreciate how far they've come since making a big mistake.

In either case, you'll learn a lot about how they interact with money and what they struggle with from a decision-making standpoint. Understanding this will help identify exactly what support they'll need in order to be able to actually stick to a financial plan and ultimately meet the goals you set together.

5) "How has your financial situation changed in the last five years?" 

This question does more than give you a sense of a client's source of income. It also answers an important question about the overall nature of their income stream: is it dynamic or consistent?

Asking about recent shifts in their financial situation will likely uncover all sorts of good information: career changes, windfalls, investment decisions, major life events, etc.

What's more, this question can  help build a strong customer rapport, as it invites the client to share stories about themselves, and who doesn't like talking about themself? Doing so will make them more engaged in the planning process, and help them feel like you understand them beyond the numbers in their bank account.

This is also a question that will give you valuable insight into some of the decision making processes that influence how your client interacts with money, and give you clues as to what support they might need.

If a client has recently inherited a lot of money may need help understanding how to manage it appropriately; a client who lost a job or experienced some other financial setback will need to know how to navigate those murky waters.

6) "What's one thing you wish you knew more about when it comes to finance or investing?" 

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but as a financial advisor, it's your most powerful weapon.

If you can get potential clients engaged and excited about the process of financial planning, you've done most of the hard work of earning their business already.

Asking directly what topics would ignite that curiosity will feed multiple birds with a single scone: not only will you learn how to engage their curiosity and keep them interested in the process, but you'll also show them that you have a genuine interest in serving their specific needs, which will earn you many loyal customers.

Finally, this question will also help you to understand the level of knowledge a prospect or customer has about financial topics. If a potential client tells you they're curious about what a stock is, even, you know you have a lot of education you can — and probably need to — provide them.

On the other hand, if they tell you they're interested in learning more about the nuances between ETFs and Index Funds, you know you can probably skip Investing-101-type information.

At the end of the day, if you can offer education on top of financial planning services, you will be able to serve clients better and therefore build good rapport with more of them.

7) "What are some life events or changes you anticipate in the next 5-10 years?"

This is another question that will help you get a sense of the road map you'll need to build in order to help a client arrive at their final destination: comfortable retirement.

More specifically, it will give you advance notice of all the rivers and mountains you'll need to account for when doing the road building that is financial planning.

It also demonstrates to potential customers that you've got the foresight to account for what's important to them, whatever it may be: getting married, having kids, buying homes, etc.

Finally, it shows that you're in this relationship for the long haul. If all you wanted to do was sell this client some life insurance or an annuity to get a commission check, you wouldn't care what their future plans were.

Knowing you care about their long-term financial health will do leaps and bounds of good in terms of building rapport.

8) "What legacy would you like to leave behind?" 

This question serves all of the same purposes as the previous one, and has the added benefit of helping you understand what a client's needs are in terms of how much money they have left over at the end of their lives.

A couple with three kids that wants to leave each one enough money for a down payment on a house, for example, is going to have very different needs in terms of cash on hand at retirement than a single person with no kids who only needs to worry about living well until the end of their life.

Of course, a childless couple may want to be able to donate some money to a charity or other relative once they pass on, so assuming that just because there are no kids in the picture you don't have to think about legacy is a bad move.

Regardless of how a customer answers this question, merely by asking it you demonstrate empathy and caring for more than their money.

9) "How involved do you want to be in the financial planning process?" 

Someone who is practically financially illiterate may want to have nothing to do with the investment decisions you're making on their behalf, or in creating a plan for how they're going to allocate the money they earn throughout their life.

A hobby-level investor, on the other hand, might want to be kept abreast of what's going on with their investments and even give some input into how their money is invested.

Either situation is fine, but asking the question is important because it will tell you what your customer needs from you as an advisor, which will allow you to serve them better. Plus, giving them the option to be as involved as they like will be quite helpful in building rapport.

10) Other than return on investment, what factors would you like to consider when choosing where to invest?

Certain clients may only be interested in your advice as it relates to how to make the most money possible over their lifetime so they can be assured comfortable retirement.

Others might have ethical concerns and not want to support industries that don't align with their values.

Either way, asking this question will help you learn how you can better serve your customers.

It will also build rapport in that you could very well teach a client something they didn't know: it's quite possible they weren't aware there was anything else to consider other than ROI when making investment decisions.

Empowering customers in this way is good for more than just establishing rapport — you could very well open a whole world of understanding to them that invests them more in the planning process.

11) "What would you do if you received a sudden windfall?" 

Beyond the fun associated with the overused icebreaker "what would you do with a million dollars," asking customers this question can actually give you some valuable information about their values and priorities when it comes to financial planning.

Clients will enjoy responding to this question because everyone loves to dream about possibility. What's even better, is you get a great rapport-building tool from their response:

Depending on how they answer, you can make suggestions for carving out some money in their budget to save up and make those dreams a reality. Telling someone their pipe dream is, at least on some level, achievable, will make them very excited indeed.

When a person says they'd quit their job and travel the world, you learn travel is important to them. While you may not be able to help them quit their job immediately, you could probably set them up to have room in their budget to go on a vacation every year or two.

12) "How do you budget and track your expenses?" 

This question gives you great information about a client's current financial literacy as well as some habits that might need breaking.

Depending on their answer, you'll know whether or not you need to teach them how to make a budget and stick to it, or if you can simply make edits to one they already have.

There's a lot of value to be gained from the conversation this question will spark as well. There's nothing that makes you confront your bad spending habits than having a financial professional point out exactly how much money you're spending every month on Uber Eats...

13) "What financial goals have you achieved that you're most proud of?" 

Who doesn't like to look back on and reminisce about their greatest successes?

At the outset, asking clients this question will put them in a good mood and motivate them to continue whatever success they've had. Whether they've paid off their student loans, saved for and purchased a home, or started their retirement fund before they're 65, acknowledging and celebrating their successes is a great way to get a conversation off on the right foot. 

It also gives you some information about where they don't need your help, which is actually important to know. Nothing is more annoying than being told information you already know, and so knowing how to make conversations more concise and targeted will improve their experience working with you markedly, which will be helpful in terms of building rapport.


How do financial advisors build rapport with clients?

In order to develop rapport with customers, financial advisors need to demonstrate empathy, practice active listening, and, overall, show they care about the customer as a person, rather than a potential sale.

Specific ways to build customer rapport would be to ask open ended questions using a warm and inviting tone, listen actively to their answers (and take notes), and demonstrate genuine curiosity about the customer as a human being (so, ask follow up questions and share your own stories when appropriate).

What are common questions clients ask financial advisors?

Savvy financial advising clients will have a lot of questions for their advisors, but two of the most common ones are "are you a fiduciary?" and "how do you get paid?"

Customers want to ensure that you'll be operating in their best interests, rather than simply trying to sell them a financial product to make a commission.

So, getting certified as a fiduciary will do you a lot of favors in terms of alleviating skepticism on the part of your clients.

If you have control over how you get paid, setting a fee-only or percentage of AUM structure (as opposed to a commission-based one) would also improve client's mood considerably at the outset of your relationship.

If you can't make those changes yourself, then you'll need to rely on building customer rapport in order to convince them you have their best interests at heart.

What questions should financial advisors ask their clients?

We just listed 13 excellent questions financial advisors can ask clients in order to foster rapport building, however if you want to try writing your own, here are some general guidelines to follow:

Ask open ended questions:

You want to ask customers questions that give them the space to talk freely. "Yes" or "no" questions are not great conversation starters, and at the end of the day, if you want to build customer rapport, you need to actually talk to them conversationally.


Ideally, your meeting with any prospective or current customer should feel more like a conversation than an interview.

Be genuinely curious:

When speaking with prospective clients, your goal should be to learn as much about them as possible. So, employ your genuine curiosity about their lives and lifestyles. Ask follow up questions to get to know them better. 


Ask about the human being, not the accounts:

Sure, knowing about a customer's potential AUM is important, but asking questions that only focus on the financial aspect of someone's life isn't going to do you any favors when it comes to customer rapport.

So ask them about themselves. Especially if they live in or around your own community. What's their favorite pizza spot? How do they feel about last night’s basketball game? 

Engaging a customer in a way that builds common ground in a non-financial context will set them at ease and make them much more likely to stick around.

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