Communicating with Ease

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions.  The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Beverly Flaxington, principal of The Collaborative and Advisors Trusted Advisor, is the author of “Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior,” which recently won the gold award from Readers Favorite for best new book on relationships.  It is availabe via the link above.

Advisors, like so many people in relationship-oriented businesses, depend on strong communication to maintain and grow their businesses. Let’s face it – client retention, client referrals and Center of Influence referrals all have solid communication at their core. Even if performance is exceptional, clients will be restless if communication is not. They want an advisor who is truly focused on their needs.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t learn good communication in school. Once we become professionals we’re expected to learn it naturally somehow, through on-the-job training. But communication doesn’t come naturally to many of us, and, even if we learn some techniques along the way, they seem to desert us when we need them most!

To really understand your client, avoid asking the typical “goal” questions: “When do you want to retire?” “What charities do you want to leave money to?” “How much do you want to leave your kids?” Try asking more personal questions instead: “What will be happening in retirement that will make you happiest? Paint the picture for me.” “I’m curious about why you selected these two charities. Can you share what they mean to you?” Take a sincere interest in getting into your client’s mind – seek to understand.

The discussions advisors have cover very personal issues – they are about family, about finances and about dreams. In these conversations, advisors need the savvy to both get the information they need for investing purposes and to delve into more personal questions to gain a window into the client’s life and concerns.

How can advisors communicate with ease and strengthen their bonds with clients? They can do this by using a methodology called “The Five Secrets”:

  1. First and foremost, focus on the other person, not on your own needs and concerns. Stephen Covey, author of “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People,” said it best: “Seek first to understand and then be understood.” Even though the client is the paying party in the relationship, many advisors feel it is important to talk about themselves – their background, their experience, their firm and what they care about. When they do ask questions, they may not really listen to the answers because of their own cognitive filters. The first step, then, is to drop your assumptions and seek to really learn about the client. Nothing feels better to any human being than to be truly, sincerely listened to. It happens so infrequently that we tend to notice it when it does. Be the advisor who drops any preconceived ideas and judgments and just listens to understand.

Read more articles by Beverly Flaxington