Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” can be found on Amazon.

This article was originally published in Advisorpedia. June 2022

Have you ever said something without thinking?  I have.  A client was happy about the outcome of an investment I suggested.  I said, “That’s why you pay me the big bucks.”  An awkward silence followed.  I realized I need to learn how to accept a compliment.

How to Respond to a Compliment

For some reason in our culture, compliments make us feel awkward.  In a similar way, we would never describe ourselves as wealthy or rich because bad luck might follow.  We often try to minimize complements or brush them away.  Here are a few ways to handle the situation.

  1. Thank you for saying that.  Another version is “thank you for your kind words.”  You are accepting and acknowledging their compliment.
  2. Give a compliment in return.  Someone admired your new watch or a piece of jewelry.  You thank them and admire something concerning their appearance.  Now you both feel good.  FYI:  Body parts are off limits.  Do not say: “I love your nose.  It looks new.  Who did it?”
  3. Thank them for accepting your advice.  This is what I should have done in the situation I described at the start of the article.  Most client relationships are not discretionary.  The client has the final say.  You made the recommendation, but the client needed to say: “Do it.”  They placed their faith in your judgment, so they deserve credit too.
  4. Share the thanks with your team.  The client had a paperwork problem.  They told you.  Their team made all the calls and got it solved.    You could say: “the credit goes to (name).  He ran with it, calling the home office and getting them to find the file.  They made copies, sent it to us and he overnighted it to you.”  By explaining the procedure, you are showing how the resources of the firm were pulled together to solve their problem.  You are also showing it was no easy task.
  5. It’s all part of the service.  This is another way of thanking the team or the firm.  You are including what you did in the bigger picture, the ongoing relationship the client has with your firm.
  6. Thanks.  It was not easy.  You lost lots of weight.  Maybe you completed your first marathon.  Word got out and the compliments are coming in.  It is tempting to minimize the effort, but it required plenty of discipline.  This might not have been immediately obvious.  If they ask, you can provide details.
  7. “I love it when a plan comes together.”  This is a humorous reply, made famous by Hannibal Smith (George Peppard) in the 1980’s TV series, The A Team.  You are acknowledging the compliment, while the words “the plan” indicate you did not do it on your own.

How Not to Respond to a Compliment

We sometimes have a tendency to deflect compliments.

  1. It was nothing.  You are minimizing the effort and the result.  If you are going to get blame if something goes wrong, you should get credit when things work out.
  2. We were lucky.  This might be true, but it implies the outcome would be the same regardless of if you were involved or not.  It minimizes your involvement, which is not a good thing.
  3. That’s why you pay me the big bucks.  This was my mistake.  If they didn’t think our fees were expensive before, they do now.

Here is another thought: Reading with a compliment is an ideal icebreaker when meeting someone for the first time.

Disclosure: Information contained in the materials included are believed to be from reliable sources, but no representations or guarantees are made as to the accuracy or completeness of information. This document is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual investment advice.

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