Is That OK With You?

The Reasons Rock-Star Advisors Prefer Using Open-Ended Questions

3 min read

Matthew Jarvis
Financial Planner, CFP®

One of the most significant differences between ‘good’ advisors and rock-star level advisors is their use of open-ended vs. closed-ended questions. For example:

Closed-Ended: “Is there anything you would like to discuss today?”
Open-Ended: “What questions or concerns are top on your list?”

While the differences between these two questions are almost entirely a matter of semantics, the rock-star advisor realizes that closed-ended questions are too easy to deflect with a quick ‘no.’ In contrast, open-ended questions require more thought and are more likely to lead to a client or prospect opening up.

There are dozens of examples of closed-ended vs. open-ended questions, which will make for all sorts of great future blog posts, but today, I want to look at one of the only closed-ended questions used by rock-star advisors, which is: “Is that OK with you?”

Is that OK with you?

I first learned this simple phrase from a legendary financial advisor, Tom Gau, more than a decade ago. He would use this phrase on a frequency similar to how often average advisors say ‘um…’ in client and prospect meetings. For example, every time Gau would make a statement like “I’m going to review your tax return for any opportunities to pay less in taxes,” he would always follow it with ‘Is that OK with you?”.

Because Gau had a proven track record of success as an advisor, I immediately began testing that line in my client and prospect meetings with great success. While I certainly don’t use it at Gau’s same frequency (which might explain why he makes more money than me?), I do use the phrase multiple times in EVERY client or prospect meeting. For example:

  • “I will have Colleen work with you next week to update your beneficiaries. Is that OK with you?”
  • “We will do a $15,000 ROTH conversion, holding back 15% to cover the taxes, so you don’t owe in April. Is that OK with you?”

Where I’m NOT going to use this phrase is on items that are non-negotiable. Examples could include scheduling, fees, investment allocations, safe withdrawal rates, the time it takes to process specific requests, etc. In other words, while this phrase is a simple way to get the client to confirm they agree with you, it is NOT a silver bullet, and I will not use it when something is non-negotiable.

But reading is nothing without taking action!
Here is what you should do in order to see results

Action Item

Put your watch on upside down and/or put a small post-it note somewhere in a client meeting where only you can see it as a reminder to ask ‘Is that OK with you?”. Note the client’s response BEYOND the words they speak when you do.

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