To Reach Senior Clients,
Understand Their Mental Shortcuts
By Thomas Borchert
It seems that the older we get, the more we tend to use shortcuts. An old rhubarb quips, “You know you are over 50, if when you bend down to pick something up from the floor, you look around to see what else you can do while you are down there.”
Mental shortcuts like that are the way we tend to store data. We group things that are similar and build chains of relatedness. I have noticed that this tendency can work for or against a financial advisors efforts to reach senior clients. To see how this is so, lets look at what is going on in the background.
It is the connections we make from one relatedness category to another that help us remember thingsthrough association. All of us do this every day, in one form or anothermostly without thinking, yet it tends to guide and focus our thinking.
More importantly, this process is what assists us in anticipating logical conclusions. Say, for example, that I am approached by a floor person at a store who asks if my lawn mower is tuned up for spring. I “leap” to the conclusion (not a big jump) that the salesperson is going to tell me about the mowers on sale, in which I have no interest. So I say, “Yes, it is working great!” to avoid a sales pitch.
The older I get, the more I tend to rely on those “relatedness categories” (pigeonholes) to help me anticipate and avoid things in which I am not interested. This is also true of the older clients with whom financial advisors work.
Therefore, financial advisors need to take steps to offset this tendency. One important technique for doing that is to demonstrate the advisors uniqueness by asking carefully selected questions during the interview.
If the advisor does not fit in any of the clients pigeonholes, the advisor must build a new pigeonhole for the client. That is, the advisor must study the client closely to create a new mental construct. During those few moments, the advisor has not only the clients full attention, but also the opportunity to shape the way the client thinks about the advisor. The client also will be deciding with whom he will associate the advisor.
Once that happens, the advisor will remain unique to the clientuntil, that is, someone close to the advisor or the advisors service comes along.
However, because the advisor was the first person in this new “pigeonhole” category, the client will compare everyone that comes later to the advisor.