Originally published on Advisor Perspectives, October 4, 2017
A coaching client recently asked me to name the most critical traits an advisor needs to convert more prospects into clients. My answer: likeability and empathy.
Each has its challenges, but the first step in improving your conversion rate is to recognize their importance.
I’ve previously written about the importance of being likeable. The bottom line is that few prospects will entrust their life savings to an advisor they don’t like, regardless of your expertise.
The good news is that likeability is a skill that can be learned. According to Ben Decker, chief executive officer of Decker Communications, a San Francisco-based training and consulting firm, “likability isn’t something you are born with, like charisma. It’s something you can learn.”
In my experience, the best way to increase your likeability is to show a genuine interest in what your prospect is saying. You can’t do that if you are dominating the conversation. Instead, put your agenda aside and start the initial meeting by focusing intently on getting to know the person sitting across the table.
How do you do this? I’ve underestimated how difficult advisors find making the transition from presenting information to eliciting it.
One of the best opening questions is simply: “Tell me about yourself?” Listen carefully to the response and ask follow-up questions that flow from what you have just heard.
An advisor recently asked me the best follow-up when this advice is followed. It’s only three words: “Tell me more.”
When you ask someone to tell you more about what they have said, it sends a powerful message. According to Dale Carnegie, the author of the iconic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Rapt attention is the highest form of flattery.”
Think about that for a moment. By simply listening intently to what your sales prospect is telling you, you demonstrate genuine interest and concern.
Aren’t those the traits prospects are seeking in an advisor?
Recently, I was on a road trip with my wife. As we approached an exit, another driver cut in front of me at a high rate of speed and took the exit ramp. He came perilously close to hitting our car.
I was upset and said something like: “Can you believe that idiot? He could have killed us!”
My wife said: “Maybe he was rushing to the hospital to visit a sick relative.”
Her response was empathetic. Mine? Not so much.
Without empathy, your chance of becoming a successful advisor is greatly diminished.
I deal with advisors of both genders and typically find women more empathetic. I wondered if there was a scientific basis for that observation. It turns out there is and it’s important to be aware of it.
Men have higher levels of testosterone than women. Not just a little more, but 10-times more. Women have more estrogen than men. You can read about the different psychological effect generated by these two hormones here.
According to a study (discussed here) published in the journal Psychoneuroendicinology, “testosterone reduces connectivity in brain regions responsible for feeling empathy towards others and incorporating this sentiment into our decision-making.”
Maybe that accounts for the different reaction of my wife and me to the driving incident. I need to work harder at being empathetic. If you are a man, maybe you do too.
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