The 5 biggest mistakes financial advisers make when listening to clients

Recent research by Invesco found that listening was the skill advisers most wanted to enhance. So why is it so tricky? What gets in the way? And what can we do about it?

Here are 5 common mistakes that get in the way of really understanding clients and therefore connecting with them.

1. Rushing the conversation

Hurrying is a false economy.

Racing through the meeting without giving your client adequate time to think and respond can make anyone feel undervalued and unheard.  Yes, I realise you probably have a lot of clients to see. However, making someone feel heard doesn’t need to take long.

Time to listen and deepen your relationships is time well spent.

2. Assuming understanding

Like woodworm, unchecked assumptions can silently and gradually undermine relationships.

It’s easy to assume you know what clients want and need when you see similar people in similar situations and stages of life.  Not only that, you might not want to stray into certain personal areas. Or your bias could be colouring your advice.

All are dangerous.

Recommending a way forward which doesn’t align with the client’s true needs isn’t going to be suitable. So, clarify with questions. Before you move onto another topic, or agenda item, aim to ask:

  • “Can I check I’ve understood…”
  • “What I understand about you and your situation is…”
  • Explain to them what you heard them say and then ask: “Did I get that right?”

Even if you didn’t get it “right”, you’re helping clients clarify their own thinking. You’ve demonstrated you listened. And you have deepened your understanding.

Everyone wins.

3. Interrupting

A conversational curse.

Not allowing the client to fully express their thoughts can result in missing key details. It can also signal you’re not fully engaged.

When we interrupt, we’re essentially communicating: what I have to say is more important than whatever you’ve got – ie your thought, point or story.

It doesn’t feel good.
It erodes connection.
It undermines relationships.

If you notice you’re interrupting, finishing your client’s sentences or predicting the end of their stories… You might say: “I’m sorry I feel like I am talking over you. Please carry on…”

4. Ignoring emotional cues

Money is emotional.

Tune into the body language of your client. Watch and listen for the signals. Are they shifting in their seat? Are they leaning forwards, backwards or looking puzzled.  Draw it out of them sensitively:

“I get the impression that you’re a little uneasy…”
“I get the sense you have some concerns”

Don’t miss the opportunity to deepen the relationship.

5. Needing to be right and “impressive”

Try and avoid playing The Status Game.

We can all fall into the trap of showing off how much we know, proving our worth and demonstrating our credibility. It could be using technical terminology, it could be lengthy explanations about process, it could be a power move.

But remember clients are paying you to solve their problems, not be educated up to level 6.

Listening is communicating:
There you are, rather than here I am.

When we are wrapped up in ourselves, we make for a small package.

In conclusion, the type of conversation where someone reveals what matters to them isn’t one that can be rushed. And at the same time, with some good questions and the right mindset, it doesn’t have to take as long as you might think.

Remember as Nancy Kline says:
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Be different.

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