6 ways to improve your listening skills

Besides being financial advisors, we’re also someone else’s client, customer or patient. When you think of those relationships, do you feel like a valued client or just another number?

Your answer might be that you feel like a valued client or customer when, “They treat me like an individual,” or “They care about me as a person.” It is often, “They have taken the time to learn my likes and dislikes.” In all these answers, the common factor is listening.

It seems easy, because people like talking about themselves. If they talk and you listen, they are having a good time. This is the first step toward them liking you, and people do business with people they like.

You must talk at some point, though, since they’re coming to you for advice. So, how often should you talk? There is a rule called the 43:57 rule, according to research reported on Big Think. The logic is you talk about 43% of the time, and the other person talks 57% of the time.

Let’s look at a few pointers for effective listening:

  1. Gathering data. Clients sense if during a fact-finder you’re just checking boxes on a form to complete the task. Try gathering client data differently. When asking questions, take notes. When you write notes, prospects feel like they said something important, which makes them feel unique.
  2. Silence is useful. Silence is also awkward. Years ago in sales, there was an expression: “The first person to speak loses.” This might be found in the “asking for the order” phase of the conversation. It can be tough, but let the other person fill the gap. The logic is the first person to speak is giving away information or their negotiating position.
  3. Remember details. You can show someone you have been listening by recalling something they said earlier. This is impressive because it shows you have been paying attention. In practice, you might duck out of the room to make notes during a social event, then enter the data into your CRM system back at the office. You could review those notes again when you know you will be seeing that person.
  4. Tying listening with investments. This is the strategy that can help you close. When you present your investment proposal alongside the financial plan, you say things like, “You mentioned paying for four years of each grandchild’s education was an objective. Here is how my recommendations address this goal.” The prospect feels the solution is tailor-made.
  5. Tell me more. This is another good strategy to get the other person talking. We might want to blurt out, “Aha! You have a problem! Good news — I have a solution!” The prospect might feel, however, your approach is an off-the-shelf or cookie-cutter answer, which won’t make the client feel special or unique. Instead, “Tell me more” gets them sharing additional details.
  6. I hear you. Sometimes people make statements that you disagree with. You are tempted to present your counterargument. You and your client did not get together to debate though. You are there because you want to make a sale or gain a social connection. “I hear you,” acknowledges their comment and yet does not indicate you agree.

Remember these tips and that the person talking is the one having a good time.

 Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. His book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon.

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