The Advisor Institute: Coach's Corner
Pause your agenda

Practical messages intended to help you elevate the success of your practice.

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      By David RichmanNational Director, Eaton Vance Advisor Institute

      Many sales trainers teach what we call "angle-based" listening. These trainers advocate thinking two or three steps ahead like a trial lawyer and continuously slanting the conversation toward your desired outcome. While angle-based listening may have its place, unfortunately, it has become the dominant habit of many advisors. As a result, they are not learning all they should about their clients.

      Providing Intentional Advice demands you know a lot more about your clients. That, in turn, requires a healthy dose of "agendaless" listening. So drop your agenda and learn. Here's how:

      1. Ask great questions: The fuel for great listening starts with asking the right questions and continues by asking appropriate follow-up questions that allow the conversation to move toward the next level of client understanding.

      2. Concentrate on understanding: Go beyond the superficial and go deeper. Here are three questions that can help bring the conversation to a deeper place, given today's challenging times:

      • What have you learned about yourself?
      • How have your priorities shifted?
      • How has this changed your aspirations for your future?

      This is a time during which people are coming to a lot of conclusions or new revelations on these topics and if you can be the catalyst to help them come to a conscious awareness of their answers, you can become a powerful member of their inner circle.

      3. Go beyond words: As your clients talk, listen carefully. Go beyond their words — their "text" — and pick up on their "subtext" — the meaning beneath their words. Pay careful attention to their tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. Often, that's where deeper truths lie.

      4. Dive deeper: Formulate more questions to ask. You can replicate a doctor's method and say:

      • Is there anything else? That's interesting. Please tell me more.
      • What I hear you saying is (fill in the blank), is that correct?

      Bottom line: To fully hear your clients and understand them, you need to do more than pause your presentation. You need to pause your agenda.