How to say no to clients

By Ravi Samalad |  08-07-19 | 
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About the Author
Ravi Samalad is Assistant Manager - Editoral for

The customer is always right, goes the adage. But in practice, clients can be sometimes wrong. And saying no to prospects can be difficult. People don’t like when they are said no to. So advisers need to convey the message indirectly. Instead of focusing on what you can’t offer, tell them what you offer and how you will not be able to meet their expectations. We spoke to a few advisers to find out how they turn down prospects who don’t fit their ideal client expectations.

Suresh Sadagopan, Ladder 7 Financial Advisories

When we meet a prospect, we try to find out why they are seeking our services. Some clients are articulate while others themselves don’t know what they are looking for. Some prospects are looking to just outsource their portfolio management to maximize returns. They don’t wish to engage in goal setting. We refuse to work with such clients. In the first meeting, we explain our style of working and the services we offer. We onboard clients only if they are willing to enroll for complete financial planning services. Just managing the portfolio without any context is not our idea.

Since we are registered as SEBI RIA, we make our clients invest only in commission free products. Our interests are aligned with clients and not manufacturers.

We make them invest in commission free products.  We have refused portfolio worth crores as clients did not fit our wavelength. It’s not that we accept clients that are ready to pay fee. They should understand our thought process. We come to know the expectations of the client in in the initial few meetings. If our wavelength does not align, we try to help clients find alternate ways.

Generally, we refuse clients who are return-oriented. We explain to them that we are not in control of returns. It is a function of their risk profile, goals and the market.  Secondly, they need to have trust in us. We encourage them to opt for all our services. This way their entire financial planning is taken care of.

Melvyn Joseph, Finvin Financial Planners

My target audience is salaried couples who have goals. I look for clients whose wavelength matches with me.  In this age of technology, clients expect you to respond to their queries within hours. But I tell them that my turnaround time is 48 hours unless it is very urgent.  I don’t take clients who wish to invest in direct equities as this is not my forte. I generally do not sign up with clients who are unhappy with the performance of their portfolio, unless they have invested in bad products. A lot of clients come from another planner and they start complaining. I try to get a sense of what is the problem - the planner, portfolio or client themselves. Most clients expect equities to deliver linear returns every year. So educating them about how the products function is important. If I get a sense that I can’t work with them, instead of saying no I tell them I’m not the right fit for them.

Vivek Rege, V R Wealth Advisors

Our ideal client is someone who is highly educated and comes from a non-business background. This is because most businessmen are already well to do and can easily accomplish their goals. We generally look for clients who wish to achieve some goals and are not solely seeking wealth maximization.

At the start of the relationship, we try to ascertain as to why they need a financial planner and what are their life goals. It is pertinent to ask the client why they left earlier adviser. This can reveal insights if their expectations were unreasonable. Client expectations can be in different forms. For instance, some clients could expect you to time the market, buy before a rally and sell before a crash. Advisers need to explain their scope of work and where they can help. Deliverables have to be clearly articulated. It is important to let clients ask questions so that you know where they are coming from.

We have been in this business for more than a decade. Now, we have a fair understanding of client psyche and are able to decide accordingly.  We never solicit clients. All our clients come from referrals. So they already know what services we provide, our work culture and what to expect from us.

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