Originally published on Advisor Perspectives
When I meet an advisor, I can tell within the first few minutes whether he or she is or will be successful.
It’s not difficult. I look for one trait: curiosity.
In a seminal paper published in 1994, George Loewenstein noted the critical importance of curiosity. It’s a “driving force in child development” and “one of the most important spurs to educational attainment.”
An article in Time also extolled the virtue of curiosity, noting that it “is the engine of intellectual achievement – it’s what drives us to keep learning, keep trying, keep pushing forward.”
There’s broad agreement curiosity is a valued trait. Yet, many advisors don’t exhibit it. This lack of curiosity is, in my experience, the primary reason why those advisors are not reaching their potential.
It’s difficult to exhibit curiosity about others when you are consumed with your own agenda.
Advisors often justify dominating the conversation with prospects because of their perceived need to “educate” them. This logic is misplaced and harmful to the possibility of converting the prospect into a client.
You’re not learning when you are talking. You are also not showing any interest in the prospect. This lack of appropriate attention may doom your meeting to failure.
A better way
There’s only one way to demonstrate curiosity: Ask questions.
Not the questions you like to ask, like: “What’s your tolerance for risk?”
Ask questions demonstrating your interest in learning more about the prospect as a person. Who is she? Why did she choose to do whatever work she is doing? What does she enjoy doing when she’s not working? Ask her about her family. When she responds, ask soft follow-up questions, intended to learn more details.
Show a sincere, genuine, authentic curiosity about her.
Other suggestions for developing curiosity include read more, meditate and make it a habit to ask questions as you go about your daily life. For example, instead of riding silently in the back of an Uber car, ask the driver, “Where are you from?”
You’ll be pleasantly surprised where the conversation may lead.
An unanticipated issue
Here’s a problem I didn’t anticipate. There are those who may appreciate the value of curiosity, but they lack this trait and are not motivated to develop it.
In this thought-provoking article, Ayodeji Awosika decried the prevalence of a lack of curiosity “in many people.” He calls this way of thinking and living “The Theory of Nothing.” He blames part of the problem on our education system, which “beats the curiosity out of children.” By the time we become adults, we are so “tired of learning,” we retreat to “The Theory of Nothing.”
He believes a lack of curiosity leads “to a life filled with regret.”
For advisors, a lack of curiosity will lead to lower AUM.