Making specific changes to your office atmosphere has been proven to create an environment that fosters more open client interactions. The changes we are talking about are non-verbal cues that will help set the tone for your meeting and put your clients at ease.
What’s the ‘feeling’ of your office space? Is the atmosphere welcoming and supportive? If you were a client, would you feel at ease in the office?
Keep It Casual
In a recent Investment News article, a Kansas State research study showed how meeting room design influences a client’s stress level. Tweet it. The study found that participants in the office setting became more stressed during an eight-minute scripted presentation by a planner, while those in the more casual setting exhibited lower stress levels as they listened to the same presentation.
According to James Grubman, a psychologist and wealth consultant, a living room is more conducive to successful financial planning than an office. He recommends that advisers get rid of the “business feel” of their offices and buy comfortable chairs and a sofa, because “a great client meeting room is a place for conversations about personal and family issues, where the family sits around the room. You will be amazed at how the conversation changes,” said Mr. Grubman. “Although it goes against the way most advisers think, a conservative conference room or office setting is not conducive to the wide-ranging conversations that advisers should be having with their clients.”
Another advisor in Connecticut removed his stuffy conference table in favor of 8 interlinking white tables on wheels with adjustable heights. The advisor could quickly transform his only meeting space to meet various needs just by adding or removing tables. For instance, on a night where he invited his clients’ children in for a presentation on how to invest he broke the tables up and created a classroom. When he was meeting with a recently widowed client he removed all the tables, but one and lowered the height to a coffee table to create a more intimate setting. When meeting with a large group he also has the option to easily change the setup to look more like a traditional conference room.
The Kansas Study also revealed nuances that either can increase or diminish clients’ stress response. For example:
- Because conference-type tables are perceived as barriers, no table should be higher than a coffee table.
- Neutral colors and plants reinforce the relaxing effect, as does serving light snacks.
- Advisors should invite clients to pick their seat and then sit facing them, rather than next to them — but not too far away.
- Art on the walls should be abstract and unobtrusive.
- The room should have at least two easy-to-read analog clocks that can be seen with a glance from any point in the room to make it easy for either party to see what time it is without offending the other by looking at their watch.
PLUS: Don’t overlook your reception area, since that is what clients will experience first. Try to make this area clean, relaxing and inviting. You may want to consider setting it up as a living room by removing overhead fluorescent light, choosing comfortable furniture and laying out a variety of magazines. Any effort here will be well worth it.
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