The best way to get someone to listen to you is to listen to them first. In fact, you may not believe this, but oftentimes, the more you talk, the less people will actually like you.

Think about all the talking we do. We talk to tell people about our firm, about our benefits, about our interests. We prepare our mission statements and brochures and head to networking events with our elevator speeches. And we believe that talking tells people why they should want to do business with us. But that is less true than you may think.

In financial services, the product choices can sometimes be similar between different firms. That means that our prospects are really choosing the person. But how do people decide that they want to do business with us? We often think it’s our words that get people to act. In fact, it may be what we don’t say that gets people paying attention to us. It could be backwards from what we’ve been taught.

My observation has been that many financial advisors are Type A professionals. Type As are typically interested in immediate gratification. They don’t want to wait around; they want to make something happen. This doesn’t always lead to powerful connections and relationship-building, however. Getting others to talk is often the fast track to creating a relationship.

The fact is, the person you are talking with is mostly concerned with themselves. So play into it! Once they realize you are actually paying attention to them, they may begin to think differently about you. The average attention span in the United States has been reported to be nine seconds. If that is true, no one is really listening to anyone. But if you are the one who is actually practicing focused listening while the other person is talking, you will be different from the rest. Consequently, they are much more likely to be interested in what you do have to say when it is your time to talk.

For the next week (and maybe for longer), take the Listening Challenge. To take the Listening Challenge, make a note of the average time you spend listening and talking in each interaction. Immediately after each one-on-one conversation you have — in person or on the phone — think briefly about who did more talking and who did more listening. Write the percentages down. The goal is to be a listener for more than 50 percent of every conversation. And, if you can increase your listening time to 85 percent of a meeting, the results may surprise you. We have found in our surveys of financial professionals that listening can have a dramatic effect on your sales results. 

For more from Maribeth Kuzmeski, see:

The honeymoon phase

Who’s talking about you online?

Why nobody reads your brochure or website