Originally published on Advisor Perspectives, February 6, 2019
Terry Gross is an expert interviewer. She’s the host of NPR’s popular Fresh Air program, where she has interviewed thousands of people for over 40 years. In an article by Jolie Kerr in the New York Times, Gross divulged her interview secrets.
When I read them, I was struck by how they validated the research underlying the process that I advocate.
Here are the tips you can use to interview your way to more AUM.
Gross recommends starting a conversation by asking, Tell me about yourself. I agree. Her goal, she said, is “to find out how her subject became who they are.” That should be your goal in your initial meeting with a prospect as well.
I do have this caveat. You need to be aware that introverts and extroverts will respond differently to this query. Introverts are more wary. They don’t like talking about themselves. A typical response might be, “What would you like to know?” If you get that response, you need to be prepared for a soft follow-up, like, “Anything that would help me get to know you better.”
It’s much easier with an extrovert. Extroverts love to talk about themselves. They’re likely to regale you with stories about their life experiences. Your goal is to stay focused, listen intently and ask appropriate follow-up questions.
Curiosity is key
Gross says “being genuinely curious” is the secret to excelling in a conversation.
It sounds simple, but it’s challenging to implement.
As an advisor, you have specialized knowledge. The prospect sitting in front of you has contacted you. You genuinely believe they want you to demonstrate your knowledge, qualifications and expertise. This misunderstanding is the primary reason why the conversion rate of advisors isn’t significantly higher.
Here’s what I tell advisors: I don’t want you to be the most interesting person in the room. I want you to be the most interested.
That difference is critical. When you switch goals (from interesting to interested), a remarkable transformation will occur. It forces you to listen intently, because you understand you’ll need to follow-up with more questions.
It also reduces stress. Being the center of attention is difficult. Focusing on others is much easier (and more satisfying).
Dealing with someone’s financial future is serious business, but look for opportunities to inject humor in your conversation.
Gross observes, “A good conversationalist is somebody who is fun to talk to.” I wonder how many times a prospect leaves your office thinking, “That was a really enjoyable conversation.”
Those that do are more likely to become clients.
The peril of “pivoting”
I get this pushback from advisors frequently: “When do I make my pitch?” Gross has some sound advice for pivoting to a subject you want to discuss that hasn’t yet come up in the conversation, but I actually think that, in a client situation, there should be no need for a “pivot.” Sooner or later the prospect will turn to the reasons for the meeting and will raise issues on his or her mind. You need to trust the process and wait patiently for this to occur. There’s no need for you to guide the conversation.
What if the prospect never asks any questions relating to wealth management and the meeting ends?
Your chance of converting that prospect is very high. Why?
Because you are one of the few people who ever showed a genuine interest in him or her as a person.