Great people skills, or soft skills, are just as important to the financial planning process as technical knowledge.
Yet it is so easy to neglect this essential aspect of your work because of the many distractions that you face as a financial adviser.
Well over 20 years ago, back when I was an adviser, I had a brilliant yet unintended lesson from a far more experienced adviser.
A client of mine had a large pension pot (he was a successful futures trader) and he wanted some advice on what he could do with it.
Because I was not yet qualified to give the advice I had to take along another adviser who was. This adviser had literally every qualification it was possible to have.
I looked up to him and was full of excited anticipation at the opportunity to see this master at work.
So, we went to see my client and, well, it was embarrassing. My colleague’s ability to communicate was as poor as his technical knowledge was good!
He subjected to my client to two hours of techno-babble, and I could see him slowly losing the will to live. Click here to read, ‘When is my client ready for deeper conversations?’
Where has the focus of the industry been over the last twenty years?
Almost exclusively on technical ability and intellectual processes!
So, here is a question.
What differentiates you from other financial advisers with the same level of qualifications as you?
It has to be the client experience you create, right?
Customer experience expert and author, Kerry Bodine, said:
“Exceptional customer experiences are the only sustainable platform for competitive differentiation.”
Your ability to give the right advice is expected. It is a given. Just like when you take your car for a service you expect the mechanic to know their way around a car.
A highly engaging experience for your client makes all the difference. This means you are responsive to your client, you understand them, and make the whole planning and advice process meaningful in the context of their lives. If their attention begins to wane you quickly notice and bring them back.
Bridging the gap to a compelling client experience
The missing link for many advisers is bridging the gap. Being able to give excellent advice and communicating it in a way that is relevant, engaging, and compelling for the client.
You might think the answer is soft-skills training but I discovered a problem with this.
For a number of years I taught soft skills. But I began to notice that despite this, many advisers continued to talk techno-babble to clients and I didn’t understand why.
The penny finally dropped when I realised the reason was something far less visible.
State of mind is what determines the quality of a meeting. Your state of mind and your clients state of mind.
Business consultant Chantal Burns pointed out that:
“One of the biggest breakdowns at work is not a lack of technical skills or knowledge. It’s not bad processes or too much red tape. The biggest problems is breakdowns in relationship whether it’s with our colleagues, bosses or clients.”
She says that some of the most common barriers are… dominating, controlling, insecurity, approval seeking, and defensiveness. The more thinking we are doing, the poorer our people skills.
One simple solution to great people skills – in an instant!
Soft skills training tends to give people a lot to think about, like when and how to apply the skills.
And if your attention is upon what you are doing then you cannot be paying attention to your client at the same time, can you?
So, wouldn’t it be great if you could have the skills but without having to think about them?
Well, you can.
When you understand the role of Thought in how we communicate it changes everything.
For example, when I think back to that day with my colleague, he simply did not notice how disengaged my client was. Therefore, he was not in a position to do anything about it.
With greater awareness you can instantly tell when you or your client starts to become disengaged (which is inevitable). Then you can do something about it rather than carrying on non the wiser.
Through a simple understanding your client meetings become more inspiring, uplifting and enjoyable.
Great people skills are innate and as natural as breathing when our mind is free and clear. We do not need a bag full of tricks and techniques because these are just not necessary and add nothing to what we already have.
P.S. How free and clear is your mind when you are with your clients? Do you pay attention to how free and clear their minds are and make adjustments if necessary?