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Practice Management

Improving the Client Relationship Through Effective Communication

“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” one is told. But small stuff, and subtle things, can affect one’s ability to conduct and build a successful business and to serve clients well. A Jan. 28 session at the NTSA 30th Anniversary Summit offered tips on how to adjust one’s ways of communicating in order to boost one’s practice, effectiveness and service.

Toews Corporation Director of Sales and Marketing Eben Burr cited a variety of factors that one should consider:

  • What style of instruction do you use?
  • How do you communicate?
  • Remember that you do not control performance and some factors that affect it, such as the stock market.
  • Rather than  goals, which are fluid and flexible, set objectives, as they are more concrete.

Burr stressed that communication is key. But that’s not just verbal, he indicated. One also communicates by listening, and through subtle, indirect means — which even includes the environment.


Be careful about use of terms, Burr suggested. For instance, he said, avoid using the following terms:

Set expectations. Burr stressed that one really should not do that, but one can introduce and maintain expections.

Volatility. This term should only be used when you want to motivate someone to do something.

Goals. Burr called this a “weak word,” and added that one is really setting up objectives.

Busy. When asked how one is, “busy” is a response Burr calls a “non-answer that doesn’t connect us at all.” Instead, he said, really answer the question.


One can communicate through something as simple as the office itself. Burr’s tips include:


  • Wear branded clothing.
  • Hang “bull and bear” stock market-related art.
  • Have broadcasts that are related to short-term financial matters on in the background.
  • Have financial-related publications on display.
  • Put your cell phone in the desk or table; having it there may communicate that something else may be more important than the client.


  • Display a photo of your family and home.
  • Create a comfortable and hospitable environment.
  • Have interesting books on display.
  • Discuss and display objects concerning hobbies.


  • Be careful about what and how you teach, Burr said, and suggested keeping the following in mind:
  • If you use benchmarking, don’t show clients something they will never achieve.
  • You need to show emotion in order to build commitment.
  • If your clients don’t understand the process, they will just look at the quarterly figures.
  • Ask clients what concerns they have.


In presenting material and communicating with clients, Burr said, remember that one cannot control returns. Rather, focus on what one can control: risk, cost, time and behavior. Manage the way risk is perceived, he said, and “let math be the bad guy.”

The Bottom Line

There are consequences to the decisions you make,” said Burr. And remember the importance of simplicity. “Above zero/below zero — that’s what clients want to know,” he told attendees.