And even create more powerful relationships than many other lifelong friendships.
Before I’m going to tell you about the FBI hostage negotiator, I’d like to ask you a question:
How do you see yourself as a financial planner (CFP)?
Do you see yourself as untrustworthy?
Do you see yourself as a product-seller?
Do you see yourself as a ponzi-schemer?
Of course not.
You and I (and most cfp’s) believe that we can be helpful and meaningful in our client’s lives with our financial planning services. By always doing the best work in our client’s interest and by making them think and feel great about themselves.
But who’s right? Your clients or you?
The answer is: you both are.
You and your client can see the same thing, disagree and yet both be right.
Wel, here’s a picture. Take a look. A good look.
Now, tell me. Do you see a woman? How old would you say she is? What does she look like? What is she wearing?
If you are like me when I saw this picture for the first time, you probably would describe the woman in the picture would be about 25 years old. Lovely. Fashionable. A small nose.
But what if I were to tell you that you are wrong? What if I said this picture is a woman in her 70’s who looks sad, has a huge nose and – well – is not really attractive. So who’s right?
Just take a look again. If you look again, and again, and again, you might see the old woman. If you don’t, keep trying. Do you see her big hook nose? Her shawl?
If you see these two woman, then be proud of yourself. It’s really not that easy, and it takes some time to really see it. The reason why I let you experience this is for you to demonstrate that two people actually can see the same thing, disagree and both be right.
While you might see yourself as an honest, smart, passionate financial planner who always has the client’s best interest in mind. Your client might see you totally different. And maybe even as an untrustworthy person.
How can we make our clients see us like we see ourselves?
How can you become trustworthy while your potential clients see you as untrustworthy now?
And after trusting, even create an insanely powerful connection?
Here’s how: you click.
(No, not a mouse click)
It’s when you meet someone for the first time. You can’t put your finger on it. Because you seem to have nothing in common. On paper, it might seem you’d never be friends.
But you do. You just click.
When you click, you feel an instant sense of comfort. A moment when you are fully engaged and feel a certain natural chemistry or connection.
Typically it takes weeks or months before most clients feel truly comfortable with their financial planner. Planners have to gain the client’s trust. You need to find a common language and establish an emotional bond.
So, what if you can establish this “instant click” with your potential and current clients?
Here’s What Top FBI Hostage Negotiators Do
I want to introduce you to Greg Sancier.
Sancier – a veteran-negotiator of the force – draws upon his extensive training in human behavior when dealing with crisis situations, like hostages. He is one of only a few hostage negotiators in the country who holds a Ph.D. in psychology.
Sancier is able to create instant intimacy on demand, even under the most stressful of conditions. That’s why Sancier’s approach to negotiations offers an important perspective on how instant connections are made.
So what helps financial planners to form that kind of instant connection? Even if people don’t trust you at first?
Of course, it takes natural charm, likeability, and friendliness to reach out to your clients. It’s what Sancier also needs (and has) to reach out to “his” suspects. However, these are not the most important characteristics.
One of the best “click accelerators” is this: vulnerability.
Now, we are financial planners and we are educated to think and act as a true left-brainer: analytical, logical and rational. Therefore this might seem highly counterintuitive. Because we assume that when we make ourselves vulnerable, we are putting ourselves in a susceptible, exposed or subservient position. By revealing our inner fears and weaknesses, we feel we allow our clients to gain power of influence over us.
And that is really scary.
But in terms of creating an instant connection, vulnerability and self-disclosure are, in fact, strengths.
They accelerate our ability to really connect with our clients. Because you appeal to your client’s emotional right-brain.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable helps the other person to trust you, precisely because you are putting yourself at emotional, psychological, or physical risk. Other people tend to react by being more open and vulnerable themselves. The fact that both of you are letting down your guard helps to lay the groundwork for a faster, closer, personal connection. When you both make yourself vulnerable from the outset and are candid in revealing who you are and how you think and feel, you create an environment that fosters kind of openness that can lead to an instant connection – a click.
But what happens after this click?
It seems logical that that the connection-effect is brief. Short. Not lasting.
Because this click is also brief, short and probably not lasting, right?
Your left-brain is fooling you again.
Why a click leads to powerful relationships
In an experiment by Art Aron, a professor at Stony Brook University, two groups of students (who didn’t knew each other) were paired off. The students were asked questions over a course of 45 minutes. Half the pairs were given questions about their favorite holiday, the best TV show and foreign countries they like to visit.
The other half of the pairs were give questions to elicit much more revealing information. Questions like: “What are your most treasured memories” and “How close and warm is your family” and “What’s the last time you cried in front of another person”.
It appeared that – in the latter group – the intensity of the dialogue partners’ bond at the end of the vulnerability interaction was rated as closer than the closest relationship in the lives of 30 percent of similar students. In other words, the instant connections were more powerful than many long-term, even lifelong relationships!
We so rarely find ourselves in situations where both individuals exhibit authentic vulnerability. But one’s ability and willingness to be vulnerable can accelerate a meaningful connection.
Which is what you want with your clients. You want a meaningful conversation with your clients about their wants, their needs, their goals. You want to establish a true connection that lasts.
It turns out that there’s a hierarchy of vulnerability in the types of communication we have, each one being more open and more likely to lead to a solid connection.
- Phatic: these statements are not emotionally revealing: “How are you?”
- Factual: these are straightforward observations to which no strong opinions or emotions are attached: “What do you do for a living?”
- Evaluative: these statements reveal views about situations, but they are not core beliefs: “The gold price is probably going down”
- Gut-level: Here’s where it heats up. The first three are thought-oriented. Gut-level statements are feeling-based. It’s personal, emotionally laden. It says something deeper about who you are: “I’m so glad that you are my client”
- Peak: The most emotionally vulnerable level. Peak statements share your innermost feelings. Feelings that are deeply revealing and carry the most risk in terms how the other person will respond: “When you said you didn’t trust the financial planning industry, I was actually hurt. Do you really think I’m not trustworthy? That I wouldn’t have your best interest in mind? I guess at heart that I’m terrified you see me like that”
To create the intimacy at the peak-level professor Aron accelerated the getting-to-know-you process through a set of questions crafted to take the participants rapidly to the “instant-connection-level” within 45 minutes.
And I’m giving you those questions to use them in your financial planning practice.
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