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Want to bond with clients? Ask them to take this test

Answers reveal natural instincts, which can foster better communication

Jun 11, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

By Liz Skinner

Advisers seeking to keep clients happy might want to give them a test.

The Kolbe A Index, for example, describes one's greatest strengths and limitations — and clients can take a 15-minute version of the exam online.

Business coaches have long used the test with advisers to help them structure their businesses to take advantage of the adviser's character assets, and downplay their weaknesses. Now some coaches are recommending that advisers ask their clients to take the test so they know the best ways to approach and communicate with the individual.

“The Kolbe Index is a relationship tool,” said adviser coach Frank Maselli. “When I know your Kolbe scores, I know how to work with you and I know how to bond with you.”

Mr. Maselli has helped advisers use scores to evaluate how their clients make decisions. For instance, do they need to see lots of charts that back up an investment choice or are they swayed more by an enthusiastic opinion from the adviser?

The tests also can reveal a client's reluctance to make any decisions. In this case, an adviser would recognize the need to prod that client at times to ensure that he or she doesn't miss out on certain opportunities.

Even an adviser's approach to a meeting can be very different once the adviser knows how their client's mind works. For instance, an adviser meeting with me — my Kolbe scores suggest my natural instincts skew toward fact-finder versus improviser — had better come to the meeting prepared. The adviser should come armed with reports and data backing up the recommendations he or she wants to implement and be ready to answer lots of questions.

However, that approach would be a disaster for an adviser meeting with someone like Mr. Maselli, who apparently is my polar opposite on the Kolbe scale. When he has been presented with data, “my eyes have glazed over after a minute,” he said.

“You need to get me excited,” Mr. Maselli recommends to the adviser who meets with him. “You also need to protect me from stupid ideas and from running off the rails.”

A meeting would become especially tricky if your clients are a couple, one of whom has Mr. Maselli's traits and the other has mine. Now the adviser has to make sure to appeal to each of our natural tendencies without boring or terrifying the other.

Mr. Maselli recommends that advisers interested in using these $50 tests with clients either work with a coach such as him or get certified by Kolbe ( to best understand and use the test findings.


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