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Serving Affluent Women

Learn how to ask fabulous questions and act upon the responses.

By Annette M. Bau, CFP

I’ve heard dozens of stories about male financial advisors losing business from affluent female clients. Brokerage firms are also losing up to 98 percent of their business when the first spouse dies. This is happening because most male financial advisors and consultants don’t understand the secret to working effectively with affluent women—relationship marketing.

Several surveys have shown that all things being equal, women prefer to work with other women. This is a recent phenomenon, though, possibly fueled by the unprecedented amount of power wielded by affluent women. The title of a recent Newsweek article says it all: "Working Women are Poised to Become the Biggest Economic Engine The World Has Ever Known."

In today’s world, male advisors who can’t communicate with women and cater to their specific needs should probably bypass the affluent female market. They need to plan accordingly, because when their affluent male clients die before their wives, the odds are pretty good that the wives will fire them as soon as they find a new advisor with whom they can form a relationship.

Steps to success
So as a male advisor, what should you do? An immediate strategy is to include affluent women on your board of directors or in key roles. If you don’t have a board, create an advisory board and include affluent women on it. The ratio should reflect the number of affluent female clients you want. Your board should also be culturally diverse. Including people who see things differently from you will help you avoid mistakes you might make because you are not aware of an issue that could offend potential affluent clients.

In a recent mastermind group meeting, an affluent woman was describing a company, in front of her peers, as "the 50-year-old white male company." While this was the norm 20 years ago, you can’t afford to have that reputation now unless your target really is 50-year-old white males. Having affluent females on your board will help you build trust and confidence with a female audience and prevent your firm from being known as the "for males only" company.

But having female board members is not enough to satisfy most affluent female clients. You will have to change your relationship style to attract and keep them. To do so, start by realizing that most men think, act and see the world differently than women. Some of the problems are caused by seeing the 10,000-foot view but missing obvious details that can make or break a situation. Many affluent women complain that their former male financial advisor didn’t listen; instead, they were told what to do and think.

Hopefully you know that telling can destroy a relationship more quickly than you could imagine. To female clients, it appears as if men are ignoring their most important issues, or worse, they are not taking them seriously. If you tend to behave this way, hire or partner with someone who doesn’t.

For example, a friend of mine and her husband were meeting with a top money manager with an excellent track record of consistent performance. His style is very conducive to the driven, bottom-line personality type, dominantly male—to which he markets. Because this approach has worked well for years, he’s never learned how to deal with the traditional affluent women these men are usually married to.

In this case, the wife said it took her fewer than five minutes to decide against this manager. A lot of money was lost on this case if you consider the net worth and life expectancy of these clients—and the lost referrals.

This happened because a woman’s decision to hire a manager is not based on the best returns. It is based more on the manager’s ability to build a relationship—that is, his ability to communicate with her, listen to her and answer her questions. This manager failed miserably in all categories. The bottom line is that all women (and clients) like to know they’re being heard. If not, they’ll tell everyone they know about it.

Understanding women
To better understand women, let’s review some personality profiles:

Type Occupation Personality
Traditional Homemakers Cross between amiable (friendly) and expressive (talkative)
Wives, moms Amiable (friendly)
Combination Traditional and nontraditional Driver (bottom line)
Non-traditional Executives and business owners Driver (bottom line) and analytic (detail-oriented)

These personalities fall in a continuum. If a combination woman is more traditional, for example, she will act more like a traditional type woman—passive and amiable.

You must understand how these different women react. Traditional and combination affluent women will often not complain if you don’t solicit it. Instead, they will complain to their friends, family and other women who will listen. When the opportunity presents itself, they will leave. To get these women to share how they feel, gain their trust and create relationships so that they feel comfortable and know that you truly care about their feelings.

I once received an award in the presence of more than 140 traditional and combination/traditional women. The male presenter said something to the effect that I must be part man because of my success.

The responses from the women were beyond my wildest expectation. One said that I should tell this man that the award had nothing to do with being a man—it was about being a powerful woman. Another asked me to train her to become powerful, and a man wanted to learn how to work with powerful affluent women. The most telling were the women who came up to me crying and shared how women need role models and how insensitive this man was. The calls and emails continued for months after the event.

This man has no idea how much money he has lost because of his insensitivity to working with women. The good news is that this example is rare, and most men are not this insensitive because they can’t afford to make these mistakes unless they want to lose 98 percent of their clients when their spouses die.

Regardless of the types of women you’re trying to work with, learn how to ask fabulous questions, listen, and act upon the information you receive. One of the best strategies you can use is a questionnaire I created called the AskLearnRiches. Through this process, you will find out everything about your target audience--how they feel, what they want, their best form of communication, what radio stations they listen to and anything else that will give you a competitive edge and a foundation to build a real relationship.

Here are some questions—and some typical female responses to guide you along the way.

• What has to happen for you to be satisfied in working with me?
I need to have a plan, be listened to and receive updates on my affairs regularly.

• What is your biggest financial concern?
Having enough money.

• What is it about money that is important to you?
It allows me to be financially free.

• What is it about having financial freedom that is important to you?
It allows me to do what I want.

• Why is it important for you to do what you want?
I don’t want to have to rely on someone.

• Why not?
I relied on my husband for 52 years and don’t want my kids to have to worry about me.

The reality of "getting" this is reflected in a valuable lesson a coach taught me. She said that you must pay attention to the 2x2s. If you don’t, they become 4x4s, and the 4x4s become Mack trucks. This simple lesson has made me millions of dollars and can do the same for you. It can also prevent you from losing millions if your affluent female clients fire you, or worse, never hire you.

Annette Bau, CFP, is the founder of For more information, visit her website at

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