Missed opportunity: Enough about you, let’s talk about me!

In a previous blog we talked about the importance of asking probing questions, in reference to female clients who you thought might be at risk of leaving. We cautioned that “it is not enough to simply ask questions, you have to be genuine in caring about her as a person. You have to listen, really listen and act on what she is telling you.” We call this “the art of mindful listening.” And while we have blogged on “listening” before, it is such an important skill that we felt it was worth repeating.

We all think we know how to listen. We shut our mouth, smile and maybe even nod for however long it takes for the other person to finish, at which point we usually launch into our own perspective of the issue – that is not listening.

Consider the following exchange a friend recently related to me. The last time she met with her financial advisor, she told me, she was a bit down and he noticed. Somewhat uncharacteristically, upon being asked, she confided in him that she was a little jealous because her brother and his wife just got back from Spain, and she wished she could travel more.

As she told me the story, I remember thinking, “good on him for noticing she was down and asking the question.” Unfortunately he blew it with his response. First, he told her about his brother and how he travels a lot too. Then, he went into the details of an ill-fated trip he and his buddies took to Spain in university and then made a dumb joke about it being safer and cheaper to camp in the back yard anyway. After which, pulling out his charts and performance tables, he said, rather officiously, in her opinion, “so shall we get down to business now.”

This is a good example of how not to listen. He missed a perfect opportunity to connect with her on a human level and to connect her money to the life she hoped for herself. He could have asked more questions to find out if she really wanted to travel and he could have suggested that together they could work on a plan that would allow her to travel in the future.

As it was, he not only didn’t make her feel any better, he effectively “lost her” two weeks later when he presented a template financial plan that was all about the growth of her assets and had nothing to do with the life she wanted to live. She has since switched advisors.

Take away: When a woman tells you something, it’s because it’s important to her. Find ways to incorporate her “wishes” into the financial plan you’re creating. At the very least ask, “Why don’t I work out a couple of options for your financial plan that would allow you to travel more?” And watch her eyes light up. Now that’s connecting financial assets to real life.

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