I was in Poland on business when word of the $700 billion meltdown in the United States financial markets hit. I tried to understand what it meant for me, and then I sent a barrage of e-mails to my financial advisor. I bet, as with you, he was inundated about what to do from hundreds of clients. Instead of being irritated by the peppering of e-mails I sent to him, and instead of spouting the “sit tight” routine, he did something that research shows makes up to a 20 percent difference in the sales of a financial advisor: He reacted with empathy. He looked at the subtext of the e-mails, not the content, and then responded.
“I can tell from all of your questions that this has got to feel scary, and I’m not sure what this means in the long term, but for right now, I think you’re in as about safe a financial place as you can be.” We went on to make a plan to meet and discuss the new landscape.
If you care about how much money you make, research shows that it pays big dividends to be good at empathy. It’s the ability to understand, even feel, what another is going through. It’s a simple but disarming skill and far too many professionals lack it. For those of you who think it’s a weakling’s soft underbelly, you’re wrong, and it’s likely you’re selling less than your empathetic counterparts because of your lack of the skill.