Originally published on Advisor Perspectives, December 18, 2017
Every advisor wants to “totally engage” prospects and clients. But few understand how easy it is to do so.
I define engagement as the portion of the attention and focus of the other person you grab and maintain. Total engagement is 100%.
There’s a lot of information about how to engage others. It often includes suggestions like “slow down the rate at which you present information” and other tips about how to conduct meetings.
My research shows much of this advice is wide of the mark. A story about how someone engaged a group of passengers whose flight was hopelessly delayed showed the power of this research and how it can be applied to interactions with your clients.
Recently, passengers traveling to Newfoundland and Labrador found themselves waiting for a delayed flight at Toronto’s Pearson Airport. There’s nothing more frustrating (and boring) than a long wait in a crowded airport.
Most of us try to distract ourselves by wandering around or checking e-mails. Two of the passengers had another idea. One broke out his accordion. The other one took out his guitar. They started playing “folksy classics.”
What ensued was fascinating. Some passengers got out of their seats and started dancing. Others joined in the songfest. At one point, the accordion player beckoned to a young boy and encouraged him to participate in the singing. You can watch the remarkable video here.
The accordion player in the video, Sheldon Thornhill, summarized his intention this way: “We put smiles on their faces,” he said. “That’s what we’re all about. That’s what turns us on.”
Thornhill had other options. He could have given a lecture about folk music or talked about how he learned to play the accordion. Do you think that would have put smiles on their faces?
The lesson here is very simple: If you want to fully engage people (whether it’s one person or a room full), get them involved. Ask them to participate, either by singing or talking. When people are participating, they’re fully engaged. When they’re listening, they aren’t.
Levels of engagement
As Thornhill and his fellow musician demonstrated, there are different levels of engagement. They achieved the highest level, by delighting their audience.
I’m not suggesting you hire a minstrel and encourage your prospects and clients to sing along.
But you can “put a smile on their face” in a very different way. Get to know them as people (not as someone whose assets you want to capture). Ask them nice, soft questions about themselves. Follow up with thoughtful questions. Watch their reaction as they engage in the discussion.
I recently told a large group that if I could program a robot tasked with converting more prospects into clients with only three words, those words would be “tell me more.” I then asked them to raise their hands if they could recall the last time someone said those words to them. No hands came up.
Those simple words show the intense focus that will result in total engagement.