3 Soft Skills Advisors Need to Refine for an Immediate Connection with Prospects
Not to diminish the hard work, effort, and time that goes into becoming a financial advisor—few professions are as demanding—but the essential skill advisors must acquire is the ability to sell. Perhaps a more acceptable term would be “the art of persuasion.” Whichever way you want to frame it, if you have difficulty persuading or convincing people to take action, you stand little chance of success.
Of course, that’s true of just about any profession that requires changing or influencing people’s behavior. It just happens to be more challenging when selling financial advice and expecting to get paid for it. Advisors must understand that buying an intangible service requiring people to trust that the advisor can deliver that intangible value is scary for most people. It’s far less threatening to stay with the status quo and do nothing.
The trouble is, if you can’t convince people to follow you or your advice, you aren’t accomplishing anything. To overcome the inherent trust deficit and open prospects’ minds, financial advisors must constantly refine three critical soft skills, or they will have fewer chances to demonstrate their highly trained competencies.
#1. Listen proactively
For there to be trust between two people, there must be a connection. There’s no quicker path to making a genuine connection with somebody than through proactive listening. Proactive listening is different than merely listening because it clearly demonstrates that you not only heard what your prospect is saying but, more importantly, that your prospect knows it. When people know they’ve been heard and that what they have to say is important, they are drawn closer to the listener.
It starts with allowing your prospect to do most of the talking in the beginning and giving them your undivided attention. An excellent proactive listener knows how to draw people out, nodding when appropriate and encouraging them to expand on their thoughts (“That’s interesting. Can you tell me more?”)
To demonstrate you heard them, feed back your understanding of what they said. (“If I understand what you’re saying…is that correct?”) Continue down that path until the prospect agrees with your assessment.
#2. Demonstrate empathy
Being a proactive listener puts you in a position to demonstrate empathy—perhaps the most essential core soft skill in building a connection. When your prospect senses that you can see the world through their eyes, with a genuine interest in their concerns, they become more open to a personal connection.
The most effective way to demonstrate empathy is by telling a story. Everyone loves a good story. It’s how humans have connected with each other for thousands of years. We see each other in the personal stories we tell and hear. Your stories should be about you—i.e., “Who I am,” “Why I do what I do,” “Who I’ve helped,” etc.—tying it to the concerns or needs your prospect revealed to you. Having a repertoire of these stories prepared and practiced will allow your authenticity to show through.
#3. Tap into your prospects’ emotions
Most people appreciate a well-crafted presentation or hearing how your services are better, but rarely is that enough for them to take any action. After an initial conversation, you might understand what is important to them—what they want to achieve. But people generally don’t act on “what’s important.” If they did, they would have acted on it long ago.
Whether it’s buying a car, a house, or the services of a financial advisor, people tend to act on the “why”—why it’s important to them. That’s the emotion that drives people to act—what it will mean to them to achieve a particular goal and how it will make them feel. Your most essential role as a financial advisor is to get to the “why,” or they will be less likely to act.
You can start by asking, “Why is that important to you?” Then follow that up with, “What would it mean to you if you were able to achieve that?” That’s how you find the emotional motivating factor, and that’s the focus of your solution.
When you are able to zero in on the “why,”—your prospect will know that you have been listening to them. Focusing on the emotional aspect of their concerns and issues is also a way of demonstrating empathy, especially if you can tie it to a story. By systematically incorporating these core soft skills into each initial meeting with your prospects, you are more likely to forge a connection leading to an enduring relationship.
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