My wife has a pain in her shoulder. She’s had it for months. She complains about it. I tell her to go to the doctor and have it fixed. She tells me that I think everything can be fixed.
She says that when she goes to the doctor, he doesn’t have a solution for her problems. I use the same doctor and find that he always has a solution for my problems. How is it that we can go to the same doctor and have different perceptions of his effectiveness?
Clearly, the issue has nothing to do with the doctor. Our diverse assessments have everything to do with our different perceptions.
What does this have to do with being a financial professional?
Quiz- Are You Listening to Clients and Prospects?
I have interacted with thousands of financial advisors in the last 30 years and I can tell you that most are arrogant. They believe that their opinions are right. As a result, it is difficult for these advisors to see the world through the eyes of their clients and prospects.
I think most people try to get others to see through their eyes. Captain Beefheart
The effect is helping fewer people and earning less money than possible. In other words, on the effectiveness scale of 1 to 10, you may be lucky to operate at a five.
Here’s a very simple quiz to see if you are afflicted by this illness. Right now are you thinking, “I am sure that I am really good at perceiving the world through the eyes of my clients and prospects and I am certain I rate better than a five?”
That thought is very good indication of arrogance. Rather than consider that my assessment may be true, you jump to defend your position and your competence. Defending your perceptions rather than considering the other party's point of view is a solid indicator of arrogance.
It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so. Mark Twain
The person who is not arrogant, open-minded, willing to consider other positions and has the ability to learn, will have the thought, “Let me consider that I may only rank a five for ineffectiveness at seeing the world through the eyes of my prospects and clients. Maybe this is something I’ve been blind to. I will read on and see what I can learn.”
If you are willing to consider that you can improve your effectiveness at sharing the perceptions of your clients and prospects, I can happily provide a couple suggestions.
First, when your clients and prospects speak, listen to them.
Most people who read the previous sentence think, “I do listen when my clients and prospects speak.” But I know this is not true in the majority of cases. This is your arrogance speaking.
The Most Important Voice
Right now, are you listening to my words or are you listening to the voice in your head, the one that is screaming, voicing your opinions, your experience, your beliefs and all the mental baggage you bring to any situation which obfuscates your ability to see it clearly?
I assert that your attention to the voice in your head is far greater than your attention to the communication of another. Therefore, you give maybe 50% of your attention when listening to your clients and prospects because you allow the voice in your head to chatter on endlessly like a three-year-old who was just developed adequate vocabulary:
“I think this, that’s not right, my experience is…, I don’t like the color of his hair, does his leaning back mean he is bored or doesn’t believe me, I wonder if I combed my hair before they came in, I am warm - is it okay if I take my jacket off? And so on and so on.
So the first exercise to increase effectiveness at seeing the world as your prospects and clients do, is to intentionally ignore the voice in your head and give 100% attention to others. This is hard to do. It requires practice and may be several weeks until you are good at it.
Like meditation where the discipline is to keep emptying your mind after the quiet is interrupted by mental gibberish, your job when listening to clients is to acknowledge the presence of the mental gibberish and just ignore it.
The voice in your head is absolutely committed and idealistic as to the correctness of its opinions and beliefs. It will not be easily silenced. But practice makes perfect.
Here’s another recommendation.
How to Read Prospects' Minds, Perceptions and Concerns
Consider that whatever someone says is a reflection of their opinions, beliefs and concerns. The speaker may not be conscious of the opinions, beliefs and concerns that drive their speaking. It is therefore useful when listening to clients to always be asking yourself the question, “what is the opinion, belief or concern that would have this person say that?”
When training salespeople, I always tell them, “Don’t listen to the prospects words, listen to their concerns.” Let’s take an example.
If you are talking to a prospect and they ask, “how long of you been in business?” It is reasonable to answer “15 years.” That is the correct answer if you are listening to the prospects words. However, it is an incomplete answer if you are listening to their concerns.
What concern would the prospect have to ask you how long you been in business? Obviously, their concern is, “can I trust you?” For a multitude of reasons, people often do not say what they mean. So as active listeners, we must always be hearing what they say and then listening for the underlying concern.
If you want to be extremely effective with people, address their concerns, not their words. If you do this, it will seem to them that you really “get them” and they you really understand them, almost as if you can read their mind.
In this case, we need to address the concern of how they can trust us. So a better answer would be:
“I have been in business 15 years. Unlike other professionals who never offer any guarantees I can offer the following guarantees.” And you hand them your written list of guarantees that you give to every prospect which includes:
I guarantee to return every call the same day
I guarantee to contact you at least every 60 days
I guarantee that I will always put your circumstances and needs above my own needs or desire for compensation
By ignoring the voice in your head and listening to clients' concerns rather than their words, you will be far more effective at helping people, retaining clients, getting more of their assets, getting referrals and having mastery in your occupation.
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Postscript: June 3, 2016 The Wall Street Journal has a story:
Here is the excerpt:
“High-net-worth investors are genuinely underwhelmed by the service offerings provided by their current wealth managers,” said Michael Spellacy, PwC global wealth management leader in New York. Clients often perceive their advisers as being “too reactive” and pushing products, rather than as looking at the world through the “eyes of the client,” he said.