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Questions: What Are They Good For? Absolutely Everything!

During a discovery meeting with a prospect, you are probably already doing most of the following: asking open-ended questions, actively listening, maintaining good eye contact and asking follow-up questions. The questions you’re asking are likely the same questions you have asked hundreds of times before as you’ve met with prospects.

But although these discovery meetings are routine for you, your prospects are in uncharted territory. They will be trying to answer your questions thoughtfully and accurately. In return, they will expect you to be actively engaged, and they will catch on quickly if you’re indifferent.

What more can you do to help keep your curiosity genuine, and get open and honest responses when meeting with prospects? Here are four ways to use more of your presence to help keep you and your prospects engaged.

Know yourself. Improving your ability to positively influence the emotional climate of a discovery meeting begins with increasing your understanding of how you show up in different selling situations. Are you able to readily show up with ease and poise, or do you tend toward becoming more formal and “stiffer” than the occasion demands? If the latter is your tendency, consciously remind yourself to relax and be yourself.  

Connect. Emotional co-regulation is a human attribute that every salesperson must use to their advantage. Our brains are wired to emotionally connect and be affected by those around us. Through our facial expressions and the variety in our voices, we share vast amounts of information with the people in our vicinity.

Be sure you are emotionally tuned in to your prospects and, with that information, manage your own emotions and responses appropriately. That’s empathy at work!

Adjust. Pay attention to the overall energy and mood of the meeting and be able to adjust the structure or direction of the meeting based on implicit or explicit feedback. Is the prospect attentive? Do they seem engaged? Your job is to gauge the situation and respond in a constructive way to your prospect’s presence.

Stay present. Staying present allows you to be authentic, credible and connected to your prospects. So, during the meeting, make time periodically to check in with yourself and determine how well you are showing up. Are you breathing enough? Are you conveying an appropriate level of interest and engagement with your voice, facial expression and body language? Are you maintaining eye contact and staying emotionally available?

Larry, a 29-year-old advisor, formally began the discovery meeting with an ease, confidence and humility that belied his age relative to the late 40-something couple — Chris and Meryl — with whom he was meeting. Having learned that rigorous preparation helped him be more confident with older and very wealthy prospects (Know Yourself), he’d spent the previous evening poring over his notes from their prior conversations and the financial statements the serial entrepreneur couple had sent him.

“It’s wonderful to finally have the opportunity to meet face-to-face,” he said with a warm smile. “The last time we talked, Meryl, you were helping your parents sell their home and move to a condo. Did everything go OK? I know such a big change can be stressful for everyone.” (Connect)

“As we discussed on the phone, the purpose of this meeting is to give us the opportunity to get to know each other better. I’d like to understand more deeply how you feel about where you are financially, and to learn more about your life goals five, 10 and even 15 years from now. So as our conversation evolves over the next hour, I’d like to ask you some specific questions about your finances, and also some questions that will encourage you to be more aspirational in your long-term hopes and goals. Is that OK with you?”

Meryl and Chris nodded their agreement in sync. “And to help us make a decision,” Meryl said resolutely, “we’d also like you to give us some highlights of your estate planning services today.”

Larry responded without missing a beat. (Adjust) “I’d be delighted to add that to our agenda. Would you like to start there, or add it to the bottom of our list of topics to discuss?”

As they approached the halfway point of the meeting, Larry felt things were progressing well. Meryl and Chris were proactively sharing important details of their lives with a vulnerability that signaled to Larry that they were beginning to trust him. They were not afraid to ask him pointed questions such as how he gets paid and if there were hidden fees to be aware of.

At one point, as Meryl and Chris got into a discussion with each other, Larry took a moment to do an inner scan. Am I breathing enough, he wondered. Am I still calm and engaged? He took a conscious slow breath into his lungs and turned his attention (Stay Present) back to his, he hoped, soon-to-be clients.

The above scenario takes place every day as advisors meet with prospects. These discovery meetings can either cement the prospect’s resolve to work with the advisor, trigger a retreat — or worse, spark a complete withdrawal from the sales process. You have the power to positively influence how you make prospects feel as you ask them important questions about sensitive areas of their financial lives.

Reggie Pearse is the managing partner of Organization Learning Group and author of Selling With Presence, Use Your Personal Power To Close More Deals. Reggie may be contacted at [email protected] .

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