Financial professionals (and anyone else who focuses on selling) have been trained to communicate their message, value, deliverables, etc. But in this short-attention-span society where individuals are met with constant distractions, we may need to start by focusing on why someone would listen to us in the first place. Sometimes, no matter how perfect the presentation, people do not want to pay attention.
Studies show that people will listen most intently when they actually care. We tend to assume that others care about our message as much as we do, but unfortunately, that’s not usually the case. So how do we get others to care about what we have to say?
According to an article in Harvard Business Review, “Connect, Then Lead,” it is far more effective to lead in business when you begin by establishing warmth and understanding. Yet, many professionals today approach business focusing first on strength and competence and later on the ‘softer side.’ From a sales perspective, this may sound backwards because we believe we must lead with letting others know about our competence and deliverables before they will be interested in the rest.
However, it has been proven that without first building a foundation of trust, it is hard for others to listen to your ideas, say yes, and take your lead. The HBR article refers to research that suggests that strength and competence first leads to fear, amongst other emotions. I certainly have found this to be true while conducting research on the tactics of successful financial professionals.
Is it possible that a focus on more warmth, understanding and connection will help us lead better, sell more, and have our messages heard more quickly? In other words, would connecting first actually lead to greater profitability?
So how do you cultivate warmth and connecting? Here are three tactics for improving your warmth:
Smile. This simple act will change the dynamics of the interaction and leave a powerful first impression. When you smile, the other person often smiles back. It is a natural reaction. But it must be authentic, so find a reason to think happy thoughts.
Use positive body language. Focus on not closing up and crossing your arms; instead find reasons to hold your arms open. Do not stand hunched, but stand straight and lean in to the person you are speaking with.
Listen first and listen more. The act of listening shows you care more than any other action. Pay attention first to what the other person has to say before you do much talking. If you let others go first in describing what they do, what is important to them, etc., you may have a much better chance of engaging them when it’s your turn to talk. Listening is truly becoming the lost art in developing warmth in this ultra-connected yet incredibly distracted world.
If you’re still not sure, think about the relationship between the psychologist and patient. The psychologist knows a great deal about the patient, but usually, the patient knows little to nothing about the psychologist. Yet, even so, the patient has an incredibly close relationship with the psychologist because they listened to them intently (even though they are being paid to do so).
The softer side of you is why people ultimately like you, trust you and do business with you. Don’t be hesitant to show this side early. You may find that your prospects and clients will be much more interested in listening to you.