With more women in command of family finances, financial advisors who can market successfully to women have their work cut out for them. If you’re a financial advisor, financial planner, or RIA firm looking to build your female client base, here are three things you might want to leave out of your sales pitch — take it from me, I’m both a former financial advisor and also a woman!
Don’t Assume that She Prefers or Does Not Prefer a Female Advisor
Some male financial advisors will say they actually do much better with women, while some female financial advisors will they can’t miss when it comes to marketing to men. As many male and female advisors say the opposite is true for them. There’s no hard and fast rule here.
What matters more than your gender is your personality, who you are, and if you can connect with them on a personal level. I’ll prove this point with a personal anecdote. Years ago when I was a financial advisor, I had it in my head that I was going to be the #1 financial advisor for female attorneys. So I called up every big law firm (Simpson Thacher, Cleary Gottlieb, etc.) and tried to get the associate level attorneys (the ones right out of law school) to meet with me about paying down their school debt and managing their 401(k) accounts. Well, to say it wasn’t the happiest marriage in the world was an understatement. They were in such a big firm, corporate mindset. I was so hippy-ish in their eyes with my entrepreneurial spirit. They were in their mid to late 20’s and most of them were just getting engaged, whereas I was already settled down with kids. At that point, motherhood hadn’t set in and the life position they were in was not that different from a 27 year old male associate at the same firm. Even though it was female-female, the vibe just wasn’t there.
Women that I did have a much stronger connection with were women with babies –not just children, but infants. The reason was that at that point I had a one year old and was pregnant with my second baby. We bonded over nanny horror stories, talking about labor and delivery fears, which vaccines to get, etc. I did well in that market and it seemed to flow so naturally.
The moral of the story is don’t assume that you’ll appeal to every woman. Women are all different. What matters more is having a common mindset.
Don’t Assume She Wants to Include her Partner
You’ve read the all studies talking about how women are making more consumer decisions nowadays than ever before. Tread lightly here. Most women won’t consult a financial advisor without even a mere mention to their spouse or partner, but it’s wrong to assume that he’s the one making the ultimate decision and needs to be included in the conversation.
While you don’t want to insult her by proposing a meeting with her partner, you also wouldn’t want to go through the whole sales process only to lose at the end because the woman’s husband has a friend from Merrill Lynch that was waiting in the wings and the whole time they were just looking for a cost comparison.
Right away, figure out if the decision is made by one or both of them and then structure the pitch accordingly. The easiest way to ask this is when you set up the first meeting. If she doesn’t bring up a second party, ask her in a casual way, “Anyone else whose input you’ll be looking to get on this decision?” or “Is there anybody else important in your life that we should think about including in this conversation?” You could even say, “The last important financial decision you made, who were the three people you consulted with?” By the way, this lets you know who is influencing her decision, and that’s important to know, too, for your pitch strategy. Whatever you do, don’t specifically reference a spouse.
Ditch the Female Stereotypes
Leave any preconceived notions about how we women think out of the conversation entirely. And while you’re at it, forget all those cute little jokes about how we love purses, babies, puppies, and doing our hair or nails. While you may get a laugh or two, the times when this humor falls flat on the floor won’t make it worth the risk.
This brings me back to point #1 that women are all different. I’m so sick of all those financial studies talking about women are more risk averse than men when it comes to investments. What a load of garbage. When I was a financial advisor there was practically no difference between the risk tolerance of my female and male clients. What had a way bigger impact was their life position and past experiences with volatility.
The pitch should be about her unique goals, preferences, and needs, not what you think they should be based upon her profile. What most prospects complain about, in fact, is that the salesperson didn’t really understand them or what they really needed. If you feel you need to break the ice with casual conversation, use Facebook (it’s amazing what people will put on Facebook – really it is!) to do some research on her and her personal interests. Then when you meet, ask consultative, thought-provoking questions to get her talking and take good notes.
Getting Started With Your Female Client Base
Working to financial empower women can be a great part of a financial advisor’s branding. For some tools to help you get started marketing to women, please visit this toolkit page and get in touch if you’d like to learn more.