Person before problem

By: Jan Bowen-Nielsen
Coach and Trainer of Coaches
Quiver Management Limited

Who is talking? Asks Jan Bowen-Nielsen. Have you been in client meetings and found yourself doing most of the talking? You might be keen to share product knowledge, to show your expertise, or you may just want to be liked and to build rapport.

A client-centric approach means that you make the client the centre of the conversation, the most important person in the room. They should be talking the most while you are listening focused on understanding the unique human being in front of you right now!

Person before problem

The use of coaching skills for advisers requires a ‘person before problem’ approach, a true client-centric approach. It focuses on understanding your client, their goals and dreams, their needs and fears, what is important to them, how they are thinking and how they make decisions.

The danger for advisers occurs when the client is describing a problem or situation. It is very tempting then to get caught up in trying to solve the problem, usually starting by understanding the issue and then using analysis, logic and problem-solving techniques to fix it. But you have now shifted your attention away from trying to understand the client and their needs, so your solution may not actually suit them and meet their needs. When the client describes a problem focus instead on understanding how the problem is affecting them – does it give them sleepless nights, does it affect their relationships? etc.

Only once you understand the person fully, should you allow yourself to shift your attention to solving the problem.

Make the client feel good

Can you remember when someone last listened to you? I mean really listened, without interruption, or cutting in to have their say? If you have experienced such a conversation, you’ll probably recall how good it felt to have the opportunity to talk, to explore your thoughts, and to be heard. Imagine if you could make your clients think like that!

Visualising the future

Professional coaches learn and utilise a range of very powerful interpersonal tools and techniques to enable deeper, more meaningful and effective conversations. Through applying effective listening and questioning skills they are able to help their clients explore and understand their aspirations and motivation, and start to visualise their future.

The best financial advice will always be achieved by helping clients establish their life plan. With coaching skills it’s possible to help them overcome blockages in their thinking and gain clarity over their potential future – a future that can then be mapped out with a financial plan, one that can be assessed and reviewed. 

Fundamentally with the help of coaching tools and techniques, your role can develop so that you move from ‘just’ telling clients what to do with their money, to helping their dreams become reality.

I don’t have the time!

A concern I often hear is that “all this coaching and listening stuff will take too long”. Yes, it will if you don’t know what you are doing!

I fully appreciate that time is money and that clients demand value for the money they pay for your time. So, a loose conversation with no real outcome will be irritating for both you and your client. The key is to be very effective, and that means learning and developing your coaching skills, so you have real impact in a short space of time.

The lightbulb moment

One of the most rewarding aspects of this approach is experiencing that ‘light-bulb’ moment, when clients gain a real picture of what the future holds, and what they need to do to arrive there. They feel empowered, relieved, excited even, and truly appreciative of your help in giving them the space and time to find answers to their own questions.

This makes a coaching approach and the skills to do so, an essential tool kit for building long-lasting, loyal relationships on which to form your stable, robust and successful financial practice.


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