Framing up meetings – Part 6: Start with the non-dominant partner

In approximately 50% of couples, one partner will historically have played the dominant role in discussing and planning their financial future with a financial planning firm.  When you’re about to undertake a Discovery meeting for a couple, it’s important to recognise that this disparity in financial dominance can make it difficult to learn, much less achieve, both partners’ objectives, rather than simply the objectives of the financially dominant partner.  Partners rarely share exactly the same set of objectives, and your aim to understand and accommodate everyone’s objectives, not only the dominant partner’s.

To maximise the probability of discovering and then achieving objectives important to both partners, the best strategy is to elicit answers to the Discovery meeting questions from the non-dominant partner first.  This encourages the non-dominant partner to actively discuss their own objectives, instead of deferring to the answers already provided by the dominant partner (i.e. “whatever s/he said”).

So, for the last item in your Discovery meeting frame-up, ask which partner is usually less involved in the financials, and select that person to answer your questions first.  Thank the other partner, and let them know you’ll be asking them for input soon.  If the dominant financial partner interrupts or interjects comments while you’re questioning the non-dominant partner, tactfully ask them to wait their turn so you don’t make any incorrect assumptions about what the non-dominant partner’s objectives are.

I recommend that you use the same approach for existing clients, even if you already feel confident that you know which partner ‘dominates’.  As a rule, the partners’ participation in your meetings is not, by itself, a good indication of their actual financial decision-making process.  A couple’s public and private interactions are often quite different, so don’t assume.  Ask.

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