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The Question You Should Ask Every Prospect

February 8, 2016

by Dan Solin

Dan Solin Photo

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Our social interactions – particularly in large groups – are invariably geared to extroverts, who are naturally comfortable in settings designed to interact with strangers. When you and a prospect first meet, you will be strangers. There is a question you can ask that will maximize your chances of establishing a relationship.

I’ll explain what that question is, but first it’s important to understand the stark difference between extroverts and introverts.

I give a lot of presentations in the U. S. and Canada. A great deal of planning goes into the larger meetings. The event planners typically schedule opportunities to network after the various presentations and during meals.

Some of the events are designed so participants will have fun. These include having live (often very loud) music, playing video or other types of games, being entertained (think jugglers and even clowns) and enjoying a wide variety of food. This all tends to occur in a setting where hundreds of people are gathered in a large room. In the evening, alcohol flows freely, contributing to a party-like environment.

At a recent event, I attended a very inspiring talk by another speaker. I walked out of the event into a huge ballroom where hundreds of advisors were networking. The band was blaring. You had to shout to speak to someone standing a few feet from you. The waiters were preparing a lavish buffet. Everyone seemed to be having a great time.

I felt an overwhelming, almost uncontrollable, need to escape. I retreated to the quiet of my hotel room and ordered room service, which may seem odd given the amount of food just waiting at the buffet.

I could feel a calmness come over me as I luxuriated in the pleasure of being alone and away from the din.

I’m an introvert. So are 30% to 50% of your prospects.

I can’t help it, and neither can they. Research indicates my brain is wired differently from the brains of extroverts. The two personality types process external stimuli (like tasks involving a gamble) differently. When a gamble pays off, extroverts are more stimulated than introverts.

The conclusion of the research is compelling: “Obviously they [the extroverts] are going to enjoy adventure sports more, or social adventures like meeting new people more. Part of this difference is genetic, resulting from the way our genes shape and develop our brains.” (The emphasis is mine.)

I’ve found that event planners often make the same mistake. They plan events with the assumption that 100% of the participants are extroverts. The consequences of subjecting an introvert to an environment geared exclusively to extroverts was vividly described by one writer (an introvert) as follows: “The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books – written, no doubt, by extroverts – regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward.”