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4 questions clients and advisors should ask each other

Matt Pais

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Educate clients about what they should look for in an advisor.

James Anthony Savage believes in silence. During his first meeting with a client, he asks them to identify four questions they’d like to ask a financial advisor. He writes the numbers one through four on a piece of paper for them to fill out. Then he goes quiet.

“It’s awesome; in that moment, you know if they have a knee-jerk reaction or if they’re methodical,” said the eight-year MDRT member from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Clients often ask questions about Savage’s background and how he gets paid. After he answers the client’s questions, he asks if it is OK for him to add four more they should ask themselves before working with an advisor:

1. Do you like the person?

This is an important, interesting component, Savage said, in that very frequently the answer is a gut instinct.

2. Do you trust each other?

It takes a little longer to determine this, Savage said. He asks clients if they have people they like but don’t trust; then he asks if they have people they trust but don’t like. This helps plant the seed of the type of person they would want handling their finances.

3. Are they competent?

Aside from professional expertise, this question also asks if the advisor can educate you in the way you want to be educated. Knowledge only goes as far as the listener absorbs it. He often asks clients to think of their favorite teachers. These people usually made an impression because of the way they communicated information.

4. Is it a win-win situation?

This recognizes that the client needs to see positive results from the relationship, and the advisor needs to be paid for their work.

After this, Savage notes that during the meeting he is also asking himself those questions about the client.

Then, again, he goes silent.

“It gives me the permission — and it’s rare — if I ever had to fire the client,” he said, recalling when he fired his top client because he didn’t like his attitude and didn’t trust him. “Money makes life easier, but it’s not everything. My integrity is more important than a dollar bill.”

It also works the other way; one client told Savage he trusted him but didn’t like him enough to work together. “As much as it hurts to hear it, it was nice to know that I didn’t have to chase after that person. That way we can both move on.”

Contact James Savage at


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