The answers you give to questions from those looking for an Independent Financial Adviser or Financial Planner play a crucial part in determining if they end up becoming your clients.

Whether prospects decide to do business with you – or look elsewhere – will particularly depend on your replies to the toughest of these questions.

In the robust world of Australian journalism, where I was schooled in the art of putting political and business interviewees under pressure, they’ve been labelled “blowtorch-on-the-belly” questions.

In your case the questions might be:

  • How can you possibly justify your fee when I could get all the information I need on the internet?
  • What safeguards do you have in place to ensure that my assets are protected from fraud and that I can’t lose everything?
  • When robo-advisors are fully established, won’t it make more sense to get financial advice from them without the need for a money-charging human like you?
  • As there are so many IFAs and Financial Planners out there, what’s so special about you?

The good news is that however good or atrocious your answers are at the moment, giving great answers to tough questions like these is a learnable skill.

I discovered this while examining why some people collapse under tough questioning, and why others sail though it like a well-skippered yacht in a gentle breeze.  You can take advantage of robust questioning to win over prospects, impress existing clients and take your business to new heights.

But a key thing you must realise that answering tough questions is more than just about giving accurate information.  Your answers should of course contain exact truths. If they don’t you can look like the slimiest of politicians, and nobody wants that from their personal financial expert.

But accurate information alone is usually not enough to make the right impression and properly reassure your skeptical questioners.  It’s something that’s not always obvious to those professionals who are, almost by definition, clever with numbers.

Giving great answers is about getting across an important message as well – every time.

Exactly what that message should be for each question is something you are well-qualified to work out… providing you take the trouble to determine it.  But to take your answers to the highest level of effectiveness it’s important that you focus in advance on what messages – usually positive ones – you need to impart.

This applies whether you’re being questioned by prospects, clients, officials, regulators, journalists or whoever might put the blowtorch to your belly.  When you play your cards correctly you ideally need to give the right information AND get across an important positive message.

Here’s some sporting inspiration…

Imagine you’re in charge of four-year-olds about to play their first game of football.

Amidst the excitement they could easily lose sight of what they’re meant to do on-field.  Even if they defend perfectly, they won’t actually win unless they get the ball into their opponent’s net.

You need get across a message to these youngsters: “To win you have to score at least one goal.”

The young footballers need a positive mindset to do this - just as you do.

This may seem obvious. But when it comes to answering tough questions, many professionals don’t score any goals – and don’t even try.  They may well give the right information, but that doesn’t mean they will come out as winners.

Their approach is often to go into that meeting or phone call with a hesitant prospect, challenging official or probing journalist thinking: “I hope they ask me the RIGHT questions.”

Alas, your questioners - especially if confused or nervous or well-briefed beforehand - often see their job as being to ask you the WRONG questions.  If you just defend without kicking goals, you’ll come out a loser.

To come out well you need the right mindset to guide things towards winning outcomes for you and your questioners – and any audience beyond.  Fundamental to this is to realise that when you’re being asked tough questions, there are always positive and helpful things you can say that will benefit others involved.

These often involve going beyond the question. This is helpful providing you deal effectively with the tough question in the first part of your reply.

However dire a situation, in a professional conversation there are always goals you can score for the benefit of all.  And surprisingly to some, part of scoring those goals involves answering those tough questions head-on.  This necessitates telling exact truths in the best possible way. And it involves getting across that message – effectively scoring that goal – on every question.

The really good news is that there are golden formulae which you can deploy in every challenging professional conversation.

I write about them in “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” which has been shortlisted for the Management Book Of The Year Award 2017 run by the Chartered Institute Of Management.

In the master class sessions that I’m running on Wednesday 18 January 2016 in Central London you get to understand these formulae and put them into action on your own most challenging issues.  This can help take your current answers from bad to good and from good to great.

You can surprise yourself by getting to a place where you can effectively kick a goal every time the tough question ball comes to you – and capitalise on the hottest of blow-torch-on-the-belly questions. 


Michael Dodd is running two communications-boosting master classes in Central London on 18 January 2017. 

“Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work: The Practical” - dealing with your conversations with prospects, clients, officials and others - runs 10am to 1pm. 

“Great Answers To Tough MEDIA Questions” - focusing on your potential future interviews with journalists - runs 2pm to 5pm. 

Each participant gets a signed copy of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” published by Capstone and shortlisted for the Management Book Of The Year Award 2017. 

Details of the award, sponsored by the Henley Business School, are at:

The standard investment for a place on either master class is £167 including VAT.  You can book on both sessions for a reduced rate of £289 including VAT. 

There are advantages for business teams if you work on your great answers together with colleagues. So if you book both sessions for two or more in your team, you can each do the master classes for £237 per person including VAT. 

Email or call (44) 07944 952835 to book places or to find out more.  In any email or call, please make a reference to the code “LTJAN”.

Michael Dodd