An Adviser’s guide to persuasive conversations

You’re probably aware, in a competitive marketplace for Financial Advisers, it takes more than just innovative thinking to thrive. Advisers are faced with the ongoing challenge to persuade clients that their advice is worthy of attention, acceptance and most importantly implementing.

Arizona State University psychology professor, Robert Cialdini, spent years investigating persuasion and found that there are six primary psychological principles that underpin effective persuasive strategies; reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity.[1]

While knowledge of these principles is helpful, cultivating these skills and applying them to client relationships can be easier said than done. However, incorporating these principles is simplified when you have a better understanding of who you’re talking to and what makes them tick.

As Advisers, you play a critical role in your clients’ lives, often serving as money managers and even life coaches. To play these roles effectively, it’s vital to understand what has shaped each generation and knowing what motivates them is the first step in creating an effective strategy.

The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y have been shaped by the events and cultural touchstones that have occurred in the world around them during their formative years. As a result, each generation has different expectations and drivers which influence their approach to financial issues. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the must-know details and characteristics for each of these key generations that will ultimately improve your ability as an Adviser to have persuasive conversations.

The Silent Generation

Aged between 72 and 92, the majority of the Silent Generation learnt that playing by the rules and living within their means was the way to get ahead. As a general rule, they are not a generation that embraces risk. This cautious approach has led to many in this generation retiring comfortably with multiple sources of guaranteed income.

Now is an essential time for this generation to be reviewing their estate plan and discussing their will, investments, enduring power of attorney, and guardianship.[2]

Emerging health issues, maintaining their home and the demands of their extended family can be stressful for them both personally and financially. As an Adviser, important questions you could be asking this generation include:

Should your family home be kept, sold or rented?
How are your Centrelink benefits affected by your other income sources?
Do you, or could you, qualify for concessions on accommodation or home care services?
What is the best way to pay for your healthcare?
What effect will your plans have on your estate?
How do you best manage any tax implications?

One of the typical characteristics of the Silent Generation is that they are often reluctant to openly discuss these difficult issues. In attempting to break down barriers, you will find this generation responds well to face-to-face contact, succinct communication that doesn’t waste their time, business transparency, and value for money. After all, most of this generation grew up during The Great Depression.[3] The Silent Generation are generally traditionalists, who appreciate the use of formal terms such as Mr. and Mrs. when referring to themselves and others.

Baby Boomers

Australians born between 1946 and 1964 are energetic, well-travelled and show no signs of slowing down. They are looking forward to stopping work and retiring with enough money and time to continue the lifestyle they enjoy.

‘Retiring comfortably’ is a goal many Baby Boomers share. In this case, planning to have enough money to see them through retirement is essential. Encouraged to work hard and enjoy savings later, this generation will be motivated by post-retirement opportunities, such as travel. It’s important to remember that this generation learnt from the best of the best about how to manage their money and will often look for complete control over their finances.

Baby Boomers traditionally have been motivated by financial security. They are driven by practical results, efficiency and consistent returns from their investments. In order to connect and communicate with this generation, they must feel like they’re being spoken to directly. They also value having flexibility in their financial arrangements.

Gen X

Generation X grew up during the 60s, 70s and 80s which often meant elaborate holidays, brand name clothes and the latest technology were seen as a right more than a privilege. Now entering the middle portion of their working life, their wealth is starting to accumulate as they cash in on 15 to 25 years of experience in the workplace. However, their expenses are also growing rapidly with costs such as child care, school fees, household costs and mortgages.

With income at a high point, it is the ideal time for Advisers to encourage a financial plan that helps deliver a more prosperous financial future.

Generation X want the power to make their own decisions and want to be part of the conversation with advisers. In addition to this, they want a relationship with an adviser they like and trust. They are best reached through technology, email and social media in particular and tend to feel more comfortable communicating through informal language styles. Generation X are eager to build financial security for their future with a work hard, play hard philosophy.

Gen Y

Generation Y are enjoying their first years of stable income and attempting to balance freedom and travel, whilst taking the right steps to set up their future. Many will not yet realise the cost of living out of home and have been taught that Sunday breakfast at a local café is the norm, not the exception.

As per Trilogy Funds’ 2017 Financial Literacy Survey, Australia’s financial literacy performance declined between 2012 and 2015. Teaching this generation how to juggle all their bills and financial responsibilities, while still enjoying life, is a massive step towards helping them become independent. Working with them to articulate their short-term and long-term goals, and how much it will cost to achieve these, is essential in engaging this generation. SMART goals provide a useful framework for setting targets that are specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based. Using this method to establish a positive focus on outcomes will keep this generation committed to their plan.

To engage effectively with any client, you need to put yourself in their shoes. What are their hopes? What are their fears? What do they need to see before they put their trust in someone?

As an Adviser dealing with constant commercial pressures, it’s easy to focus on your own needs and goals; however, being able to see things from the client’s perspective is the most important factor in having persuasive conversations that lead to successful client relationships.


[1] Putting Persuasion to Work, AE-Resource (accessed 9 October 2017)

[2] Pinnacle Advisory Group, Andy Krone (accessed 7 October 2017)

[3] Getting Smart, Communicating Across Generations (accessed 10 October 2017)

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