Advisors are often taught to read the client, but they should also be careful to take temperament into account. One advisor learned this during his first meeting with a prospect, as related by advisor coach Dan Solin in Advisor Perspectives.
“Initially, [the advisor] asked very general questions, intended to get to know the prospect as a person,” Solin said. “That’s where things started to go wrong.” However hard he tried, the advisor could not get the client to engage. The questions he asked were answered in terse monosyllables; the tension was palpable.
“We had prepared for this possibility, even though it rarely occurs,” Solin continued. Prior to the meeting, he had coached the advisor to ask the prospect what he would find most helpful to discuss. “That usually works, because it keeps control of the meeting where it belongs -- with the prospect. It also elicits the agenda of the prospect, instead of imposing one.
“Unfortunately, it fell flat.” After asking some perfunctory questions, the prospect stared at the advisor blankly. The advisor asked how he’d like to proceed, and the prospect said he’d think it over and get back to him.
Resigned to the idea that he’d lost the prospect, the advisor was surprised when he called to arrange a second meeting. Solin thought long and hard about the situation: “A refusal to engage can be interpreted in two ways. Either the prospect doesn’t like the advisor, or he is an introvert and finds personal interactions – especially with new people – challenging.”
Since the prospect requested a second meeting, Solin concluded that he must be an introvert. He told the advisor to start the second meeting by asking the prospect if there’s anything unspoken between them, and explain that he wants to establish a relationship founded on trust. Solin also told the advisor to ask: “Would you be willing to let me get to know you better?”
The next time Solin met the advisor, he was told that the advice’s impact was “seismic.” The prospect admitted that he had trouble trusting new people, which made him very guarded at first. He then opened up and became more conversational, and ultimately became a client.
“We’re all guilty of reaching wrongheaded or distorted conclusions about situations we experience,” Solin said. “My client assumed the prospect didn’t like him. The reality was that the prospect would have had the same difficulty with any new advisor.”
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