The Client-centred Blog

Why clients won’t open up and tell you everything

A while back I gave a series of presentations to advisers titled ‘Creating a transformational client experience’.

One of the recurring questions that came up was:

How do I get clients to open up to me?

‘How’ is a process word and I think what people assume is that there is some kind of technique or something you can say to a client that solves this issue.

But, first and foremost, it isn’t about techniques.

You can have all the techniques in the world but still experience clients holding back.


Because state of mind is the foundation.

In Doug Carter’s book ‘Clients Forever’ he makes an astute observation:

Clients and prospect generally respond to you in the same way that you come across. If you’re stiff or stilted, they’ll be stand-offish or formal, too’.

In other words, it is about being, not doing.

Being in the ‘don’t know mind’

Having clients open up means that they get reflective and open up to possibility. They need the head space to allow thoughts to come to them. Thoughts they may have not had before or ones that have been deeply buried at the back of their mind.

These kinds of thoughts are entirely different from retrieving something from the intellect.

The intellect is the known. It is what is used to fill out a fact find.

If someone asks you your name, address, telephone number etc. then you don’t have to get reflective about it, do you?

You just go into your memory and get the information.

But it is not what a client already knows that is most important; it is what they can discover, if you give them the opportunity.

For a client to be comfortable and willing to be in the ‘don’t know mind’ you must go there first.

Most advisers won’t do this because, to them, it feels like losing control.

If we don’t think we can handle something then we don’t go there, right?

Also, being in the unknown is contrary to the ‘old school’, manipulative, sales training that tells you that you must control the meeting.

But it’s not about control.

It’s about connection.

When you connect with someone in a deeply human way then the discovery process will unfold in an easy, natural and flowing way.

One final point…

How long does it take for someone to open up?

My experience is that some people are willing to open up almost immediately, others can take some time and very occasionally someone simply won’t.

The only way you can tell is by the feeling. Sometimes you have to be patient. By paying attention, with an empty mind, your intuition will let you know.

John Dashfield

John Dashfield spent 14 years as a self-employed adviser. Since 2006 he has been a coach, mentor and author helping advisers create transformations in their business and personal lives.



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