Every financial advisor and insurance agent knows you are supposed to listen. It has been said the last three letters of the word “listen” are “ten” implying you should let the client speak ten times as much as you speak. This is an exaggeration, but it makes the point it pays to listen.
- Listening shows you understand what the client is all about. You are making an effort to understand your client’s unique goals and objectives. You might have heard similar desires many times before, but these are uniquely important to your client. If they were “cookie cutter goals”, they could get a “cookie cutter solution” a lot cheaper. By listening you are laying the groundwork for a customized solution.
- Their own children do not listen. You have heard the jokes about listening and spouses. You are familiar with the expression “talking to a wall.” The fact you pay attention and take their concerns seriously is something they may not be getting in their home life. By listening you are deepening the relationship.
- Listening is a sign of respect. Some agents and advisors confuse listening with not talking. Not talking means pausing before you continue a sales presentation, but not paying attention to what the prospect is saying. Communication is one way. When you repeat back the concerns the prospect raised, you are showing them respect and indicating you have taken time to understand their concerns.
- Remembering details really impresses people. You have done this before: “The last time we were together, you mentioned you were off to Hawaii. How was your trip?” The response you get is often: “Wow! You remembered that. I am really impressed.” By recalling details (which can be done by reviewing your CRM notes ahead of time) you let the person know milestones or events in their life (like hospital visits) are important enough for you to remember.
- Knowing the names of their children earns you points. Relationships with clients are often focused on the decision maker. This implies you will be cordial only as long as business is flowing, then you will move onto someone else. When you remember their spouse and involve them is discussions and ask about their children, it communicates you are committed to this relationship for the long term.
- Listening helps you identify changes in mood. They seem to have lost their enthusiasm for life. Something is bothering them. Long term planning suddenly doesn’t hold their attention. There could be a bigger problem. It might be a serious medical issue. One of their children might have announced they are getting divorced. They might want to shelve financial conversations until that issue is resolved. By listening, you can identify these issues and offer your help or advice id appropriate.
- Returning to their objectives reminds them you were listening. You know what is important to them. Together you have completed a financial plan. This led into your proposal organized as a series of recommendations. They might not make the connection how moving money around helps them make progress towards their goals. By reaching back into the financial plan, bringing up an objective and discussing it alongside your recommendation(s) helps make the connection “this action is aligned to this goal.”
- Listening teaches you about extended family members. You know your client pretty well. You know they have children and how many. You know less about their parents, even less about their in-laws and nothing about their uncles and aunts. Families often gather for holidays like Thanksgiving. By asking: “What are your plans fror the holidays” you can learn who is coming into town and the relationships. There migh5t be an opportunity to meet some of these extended relatives.
- Listening helps them solve problems. They may have a big anniversary coming up. They do not think it’s a big deal, but their spouse might feel otherwise. You know some of these major dates (like birthdays) already. By listening you can learn if they have plans. If they do not, you can hint they might be able to head off a future misstep with some advance planning. You are not ringing the cash register, but you are strengthening the relationship.
- Detecting problems early. Listening helps you determine if something is wrong or the client is creating distance. The client who always followed advice “doesn’t want to make any changes” right now. They may not tell you directly, but you can tell if another advisor is prospecting them or if they are upset about something concerning the relationship. Once you detect the problem, you can try to draw them out.
Listening sounds like something we “ought to do.” It requires attention. Train yourself to be an active listener and spot opportunities.