Certainly everybody needs help and guidance getting through the coronavirus pandemic — even the one-and-only New York Yankees: The franchise recently called in business psychologist Melanie Katzman to consult in a private virtual meeting on how to cope, plan and deal with disappointed fans.
“It was terrific — and very well facilitated. I kept getting questions even after the event,” she reports.
In an interview, the New York City-based Ph.D. tells ThinkAdvisor more about her session with the Yankees and how financial advisors can best connect psychologically with clients and prospects in virtual meetings. Being “forced to claim each other’s humanity” during this unprecedented time can promote that connection, she says.
The advisor to business, government agencies and nonprofits also offers practical advice on how to improve the way one comes across on Zoom and other conferencing platforms. For example, she nixes pre-fab backgrounds; compose your own, she urges.
Author of Wall Street Journal bestseller “Connect First” (McGraw-Hill Education, October 2019), Katzman, in the interview, advises FAs to allow clients who are fearful and worried about their investments to express those emotions.
Advisors need to be compassionate, share hope and, if appropriate, take action but refrain from being “artificially Pollyannaish” because that will “lose the client’s trust,” she says.
Founder of Katzman Consulting in 1999, the clinical psychologist held faculty posts in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical Center and the University of London, and was a senior fellow at Wharton School’s Center for Leadership and Change Management.
Her wide-ranging client list includes Bain Consulting, Goldman Sachs, MTV, UBS and Viacom, and she has given keynote addresses for AIG, Barclays Investment Banking, Deutsche Bank and Stanford University, among numerous others.
ThinkAdvisor recently held a phone interview with Katzman, a founding partner of the social enterprise Leaders’ Quest. Among her “do’s” are keeping virtual meetings to a “short, crisp” 45 minutes in length. She explains why.
Here are highlights of our conversation:
THINKADVISOR: First things first: Tell me about your virtual meeting with the New York Yankees organization.
MELANIE KATZMAN: They’re iconic, but as a group they’re dealing with the same things that everybody else is: How do you cope, plan and excel during this time of unpredictability and great tension?
What did they ask you about specifically?
There were concerns about their season and season ticket holders but also a universality of questions like, how to engage and energize a dispersed workforce and about customers who are going to be disappointed.
Speaking of customers, let’s talk about how financial advisors can ingratiate themselves and connect with prospective clients when their first meeting is virtual. Your thoughts?
As with an in-person meeting, you don’t want to jump into sales mode. You want to figure out what matters to the [prospect]. You’re looking for points of similarity. This is the human piece. The burden is on you to educate yourself about them. So do your homework.
What types of things should you look for?
Take advantage of all the information that’s available online. Be prepared with everything you can find out about that individual — not in a creepy way; but do your detective work so you have a sense of what they’re about. Maybe they make public comments about the arts or are involved in nonprofits. Try to determine what’s important to them.
Does the fact that the prospect is at home give the advisor an advantage?
There are lots of things — cues — you can observe that can give advisors insight to help build relationships. If you’re meeting someone for a pitch in a conference room, you won’t get as much data.
Seems that virtual is a more casual way to meet; but in another way, it’s also more structured and formal. How do you view this?
Corporate culture tries to maintain the difference between the personal and the professional, and there are boundaries. But we are whoever we are wherever we go. And that transparency helps us.
In a prospecting meeting, you’ll be buttoned-up because you’re the one who’s initiating the meeting and doing the sell. But you can be very professional and casual at the same time — just don’t confuse the two.
How do you mean?
Maintain the appropriate tension between professional and casual. Sometimes people get sloppy when they think they’re being casual. But being too buttoned-up in this setting isn’t [helpful] either.
What if a member of the advisor’s family suddenly pops in and can be seen by the prospect? How should the FA handle that?
Sheltering at home, it’s possible that a child will run in or a dog will jump on your lap. Don’t pretend it’s not happening. Go with it. Relax and don’t become flustered. Even more so during this period, in many ways we’re forced to claim our humanity — and each other’s humanity. Still, in a business meeting, you don’t want to go into Fido’s latest adventure.
How long should a meeting run?