By Alice Tang, ChFC, MIM and Tracy Hooper
Prospecting, obtaining referrals and securing business in financial services require a foundation of trust among multiple parties.
As Bob Burg said in Endless Referrals, “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” The myth, though, is people believing that building these trust-based connections is a time-consuming process.
In reality, you can use just five percent of your time to network with confidence – generating and maintaining likability and trust by elevating your professional presence. By strategically investing in relationships, you can win new business and construct a reliable referral network.
Show Up With Confidence
Confidence is at the core of professional presence. Many of us have witnessed the dazzling impact of watching someone seeming to effortlessly navigate a social setting, a business meeting or conference. But that outward ease is a learned skill. As advisors, you don’t need to be fearless, inherently confident or even extroverted to demonstrate the same abilities.
Most people think they know how to introduce themselves. Here’s how to meet others with confidence. Smile (even with a mask on), look them in the eye, offer a welcoming gesture like a wave or a nod (no handshake for now), and use your first and last name. In our view, unless your name is Adele, Beyoncé or Sting, most successful people introduce themselves with their full name.
Breaking into a conversation can seem to be more art than science, especially with social distancing. A few simple guidelines, however, can help you to connect with people. Wait for a slight break in the conversation and ask, “May I join you?”
This request, without an apology, demonstrates your confidence. On the flip side, you can also exhibit confidence by inviting people into conversations that you are in. Extend your hand and say, “Come join us. We were just talking about…” People will immediately feel part of the conversation and remember you and your gracious gesture.
In a virtual group conversation, you can add your voice by saying, “I’ll weigh in here” or “I can shed some light” or “I’ll tag on to what Chris was saying.” It’s assertive and polite.
Exiting a conversation is as important as entering one. To leave your conversation partner feeling satisfied, acknowledge what they’ve said, thank them, give a farewell gesture, such as putting your right hand over your heart, and add a parting comment.
The farewell gesture is the classic nonverbal cue that the conversation is ending. You can say, “Well, Taylor, I don’t want to monopolize your time. I know there are others here you want to see, so I’ll let you go. Great talking with you. Take care.”
Talk Less, Listen More
Beyond water and oxygen, money and relationships are the 2 necessities we cannot live without. It has been proven that by taking care of your most important relationships, the money will follow. More often than not, this is done by listening instead of speaking.
Advisors speaking to prospects, clients or colleagues should follow a 60/40 rule. Spend 40 percent of the conversation speaking about yourself and 60 percent of the time listening to the other person.
Think of every relationship as having an emotional bank account of sorts. Withdrawals – or asks of the relationship – must come after deposits. Listening more than talking is a good way to make initial deposits into a relationship, because it feels good when people listen to us and we value those who do.
To make new contacts feel good about themselves, ask great questions and listen with your full presence. If you can, look your conversation partners up on social media or ask your referral source about them beforehand. Education and work history, community service, personal interests and languages spoken offer great starter conversation topics.
Respect the reason for a meeting with a new contact. Sometimes, people are transparently looking for your services, so you can transition the conversation to that focus more quickly. But for people who haven’t brought up a professional partnership, more wide-ranging discussions can still lay the groundwork for a mutually enjoyable relationship.
Investing your whole self into a conversation demonstrates your commitment to a relationship, no matter how new. Conduct an attitude check before meetings – it’s better to reschedule if you know you won’t be able to devote your attention to the other person. Energize yourself for conversations with music, stretches or coffee before the meeting.
To demonstrate that you’re listening, consider filling in pauses with mini recaps of your conversation so far. This works well in any meeting. It might be counter intuitive, but the person who is asking good questions and doing mini recaps is the person who controls the meeting.
When meeting with prospects, business contacts or anyone else, advisors should drop certain words from their vocabulary. Fillers, such as “like,” “you know” and “umm,” for example, can convey anxiety or fear — better to pause thoughtfully than to fill up the empty spaces with filler words.
Hedges are small, add-on words that make you seem hesitant or uncertain. Words like “just” (“I just have a quick question”), “kind of” (“I’m kind of concerned”), “a little” (It’s a little frustrating) and “pretty” (“I’m pretty prepared for the presentation”) are hedges that soften your message.
Instead of depending on fillers and hedges, use power phrases that give you authority and credibility. These phrases will inspire others to have confidence and trust in you and your firm. Examples include “In my experience,” “Our firm is known for” and “Our most successful clients tell us.”
Laying the foundation for trusting relationships happens the first time you meet someone, and you can shine in all your conversations with intention and practice. By embracing a few key rules for listening, body language and words with impact, advisors can confidently approach new contacts and build on future opportunities they can have together.
About the Authors
Alice Tang, ChFC, MIM, is vice president and partner with BPG Wealth Management, Inc. She started her second career as a financial advisor in 2000 and is a Life Member and 6-year Court of the Table Qualifier of MDRT. Many of Alice’s clients are women business owners and executives, and she is passionate about helping women take control of their money. Alice lives in Oregon.
Tracy Hooper is the founder of The Confidence Project. She conducts presentations and facilitates critical conversations with executives, professionals, and high achieving teams. Her aim is to cultivate a culture where people elevate their presence, communicate clearly, and work together better. Tracy is the author of the soon-to-be-released book, The New Hello. It will address the challenges of meeting, greeting and communicating with confidence In the New World of Work. She is based in Oregon.