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Listening with Intent to Your Clients

Are you a good listener? Let’s rephrase that. Are you a genuine listener that truly listens with intent?

If we are honest, we all can work on being better listeners when it comes to both our personal and professional lives.

As Stephen Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” There is certainly immense truth in this quote.

Listening with intent to understand your clients can make an enormous impact on your overall business, as well as your client and prospect relationships. While this is easier said than it is done, do not listen with the intent to reply. Listening with the intent to reply is tempting, but holding your tongue and opening up your ears is crucial.

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How Well Do You Listen Intently?

According to Harvard Business Review, back in 1957 researchers found that listeners remembered only about half of what they heard immediately after someone finished speaking.

Chances are if that same study was repeated today, the results would be the same. When someone is speaking we don’t always truly listen. We are usually distracted and focused on what we are going to say next versus what the person is saying.

In the digital age we live in today, we are often overly distracted by our phones, our tablets and our computers sitting in front of us. This is dangerous, especially with clients and prospects, because it shows we are not placing importance on what they are saying to us.

Improving Your Listening Skills

If you want to be a financial advisor who listens with intent to your clients, there are several tactics you can use to improve your overall listening skills. As a bonus, these tactics can be applied professionally, as well as personally!

Be honest for a moment. Do you find yourself in client and prospect meetings listening, but in your mind, you already have five questions in your head ready to ask next? Think about it. When you are in this mindset, you are not truly listening and you are not fully present. Are you?

In other words, don’t have an agenda with the next questions you are going to ask all lined up. While this may seem especially tough as a financial advisor because you often do have to stick to meeting agendas and goals in a fixed time frame, whenever possible try to be spontaneous with your questions. Don’t use the same canned questions with every client and prospect.

Take the time to truly listen and to be genuinely curious about your clients. Dig deeper when they are talking and responding to your questions. Ask more open-ended and meaningful questions.

Unfortunately, most conversations we have are a series of monologues where people are simply taking turns talking, but no one is really listening. If you want to have true dialogues with your clients, the best listening takes place when you don’t already have your next monologue or canned question lined up in the queue. Ask your questions and speak extemporaneously. You can do this, yet still gather the information you need to accomplish your goals for the meeting.

Non-Verbal Communication Is Imperative

We hear this all of the time, but we may not always put it into practice. Your non-verbal communication is imperative when it comes to listening to your clients and prospects intently.

Strong eye contact is key. True eye contact is when you look someone right in the eyes. When you look at a person straight in the eyes, you are much more focused on the actual words they are saying.

Good listeners also head nod. There is definite power in the nod. It affirms you are listening and understanding what is being said.

Also lean in when a person is talking. This can add energy to your conversation and show you are genuinely listening. In addition, remember to smile and show excitement, as well as empathy when it is appropriate.

On the flip side, be cognizant of negative body language like crossing your arms or bad posture. This can give your client the impression that you are closed off or don’t care. Also avoid fidgeting. Give your clients your complete attention.

Be Present

Be fully present when you are in client and prospect meetings. In order to do this, before the meeting starts, clear your mind.

Do your very best to push out the thoughts you have racing through your mind every day about everything you have to do. This is tough to do.

Turn your phone ringer off and never have it present on the table in the meeting room. Having your phone out on the table sends the wrong message. It conveys that your conversations with your clients are not important and that you are distracted.

If you are in your office, turn your screen off on your computer or turn your chair around so you are not tempted to glance at the screen. If something urgent comes up, your assistant can interrupt you, but don’t be tempted and distracted by your phone or your computer.

Take the time to enjoy your client and prospect conversations and turn your devices off.

The Bottom Line

Mastering listening with intent is no small feat. However, intently listening is an important yet rare skillset.

Set yourself apart and demonstrate how much you care about your client and prospect relationships by intently listening. They will notice.

Strive to participate in rich dialogues while building deep relationships in the process.

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