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By David RichmanNational Director, Eaton Vance Advisor Institute

Perhaps you remember Gilda Radner's beloved character, Roseanne Roseannadanna, from the early years of "Saturday Night Live." These days, the memorable phrase Roseanne used to sum up her sage advice keeps reverberating through simulations of prospecting phone calls with advisors:

"It just goes to show you, it's always something. If it's not one thing, it's another."

Years ago, Dr. Robert Brooks taught me about the challenges of "thought-flooding," which occurs when someone has too many thoughts coming together in his/her brain all at once. When financial advisors face a thought-flooded prospect, it often leads to frustration. Here's Dr. Brooks' recommendation:

"Start with validating what the person says. From there, pick one thing and openly explain that we can work on one thing and start problem-solving rather than talking about 10 problems. If you are talking about multiple problems, how can you possibly find a solution?"

Consider a prospective client Julie who is in the throes of two major life transitions — retirement and divorce. Perhaps you could lessen Julie's anxiety with the following question:

"Julie, what is it that you are MOST worried about."

Moving into our second year of living through a pandemic, Rosanne Roseannadanna's observation seems omnipresent. A prospective client does not need to be in the midst of big life transitions to feel anxious; after all, "If it's not one thing, it's another."

Bottom line: When someone seems a bit overwhelmed with multiple issues, ask them, "What is it that you are MOST worried about?"