“I want a financial advisor who is empathetic.”
As financial professionals, we don’t hear that sentence from prospects too often, however it’s safe to say that empathy is one of the most important elements of our work. It’s essential we address their doubts, recognize their dreams and have a complete understanding of their wishes and concerns so that we may build a relationship based on trust. To cultivate this type of bond, empathy is a must-have in every client interaction.
Researchers used to think empathy was a skill you were born with. Today, we know it’s a skill that can be learned and practiced. How can we show our empathy? I’ve found that there are five easy ways to sharpen your empathy and communicate to clients that you genuinely care.
1. Practice openness
We need to have an open mind and heart, remembering that a client is not just a client but also a person with specific hopes and dreams. When meeting with them, your focus should not be on what you want to say but instead to understand their perspective. This means that we should not judge them based on their past financial errors or focus on selling them a product. Instead, we must remain receptive, recognize what drives them and identify how we can assist them in working towards their goals.
2. Be present
Being empathetic requires us to be fully present and pay attention. When you feel you are losing your focus in a client conversation, recognize it, come back to the moment and be there. Minimize all distractions when meeting with people, whether that means silencing your phone or exiting out of your email. This will help you be more attentive, and clients will notice your efforts and appreciate your direct attention.
3. Watch your language
Communicate to your client that you sincerely understand them. They should know we fully identify with how they feel. To demonstrate that you get where they’re coming from, try using language like, “If I was you, I would feel the same way.” Or, if you’re having trouble putting yourself in their shoes, ask a question to better grasp their perspective. Try something along the lines of, “I understand you might have doubts about purchasing life insurance. Could you please tell me more about your thoughts and feelings about it?”
4. Be curious
We should let clients know we are not there to talk about ourselves. Instead, we are interested in them and their concerns. Open questions are great tools to help us communicate that. Start with the classics like, “What? How? Where?” Then, when they answer, genuinely listen and ask another questions based on their response. If they are able to tell that you’re sincerely interested in their answers and listening to provide thoughtful replies, they’ll be more likely to share, and you’ll strengthen that bond.
5. Practice active listening
Active listening can be a great tool for showing empathy. Keep continual eye contact and don’t interrupt. Another good habit is to use a client’s exact words to paraphrase what they just said to demonstrate that you’re hearing them. However, true empathetic listening goes beyond this to hear their words, understand their complete message and honor the person as a whole. Using empathetic listening, you can keep the bigger picture in mind and ask how this new information helps you see them in a different light and further strengthen their financial future.
Empathy is not a difficult skill, but it doesn’t improve without practice. Incorporate these five simple steps daily and you’ll be surprised how quickly you and those around you notice a difference. Remember, though, that it’s essential for you to be honest and genuine as you can’t fake empathy by just repeating key phrases. By instilling human moments with every client interaction, we can create unique value, build trust and help more people reach their dreams with our empathy and expertise.
Márta Borbála Király is a three-year MDRT member who has been in the financial services profession for a decade. She is the owner of King Financial Ltd. and works primarily with business owners and corporate executives with a focus on wealth management and preservation, saving plans and retirement planning. After seeking personal and professional mentorship in 2016 from an MDRT member, she qualified for MDRT and later became the top partner at her company. Márta actively supports the MDRT Foundation’s work and reguarly serves as a speaker and mentor who is committed to help others achieve success in their profession. After participating in a 2017 MDRT Foundation program, she was inspired to become a mentor at Aegon Premium, where she mentors young advisors.