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The past five years has been a period of intensive research for me. I’ve read many books and reviewed hundreds of studies in the fields of psychology and neuroscience. I set forth my findings originally in The Smartest Sales Book You’ll Ever Read. I expanded my research to include both business and personal relationships in my new book, Ask: How to Relate to Anyone.
This work has been very gratifying for many reasons, not the least of which is the feedback I’ve received from those of you who have implemented the lessons in my books and generated meaningful AUM as a result.
I’ve explained the research in these books to thousands of advisors all over North America, Europe and Australia in person, in webinars and in articles.
I’ve distilled what advisors have found most helpful into two critical, research-based, actionable lessons.
Here they are.
Lesson #1: Empower others to talk about themselves
This Harvard study changed everything for me.
Here’s the bottom line in technical terms: Talking about yourself “engages neural and cognitive mechanisms associated with reward.”
In lay terms: We love to talk about ourselves. Doing so releases dopamine and probably oxytocin – two “happiness” hormones – into brain regions associated with pleasure and reward.
When I read that study, I wondered what would happen if advisors empowered prospects to talk about themselves, instead of lecturing, educating or otherwise conveying information.
The impact was immediate. “Tell me about yourself” became the new mantra for hundreds of advisors. They reported what happened as they sat back and watched prospects respond. It was validating.
Lesson #2: Engaging anyone on any subject immediately
Advisors have at the top of their wish list the ability to fully engage a prospect. When I ask what that means, they tell me they want the prospect to be interested in what the advisor has to say.
When I hear that, I ask advisors this question: What if you could be 100% confident of fully engaging a prospect (or others) on any subject of your choosing, for as long as you wish, but you would have to radically change your approach to do so? Would you try the new approach?
I can feel the skepticism in the room, but almost everyone says “yes.”
I then ask for a volunteer. I ask the volunteer any question that comes to mind, like: “What was your favorite vacation and why?”
The volunteer dutifully responds. I then ask follow-up questions that showed a genuine interest in what they had conveyed.
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After a few minutes, I ask this this question: “While you were answering my questions, were you fully engaged or did your mind wander?” Everyone indicates they were fully engaged.
In his book, The Science of Selling, David Hoffeld explained that asking questions results in total engagement. He quoted academics in neuroscience who asserted, “the human brain can only think about one idea at a time.”
If you want to engage someone fully, you need to ask them sensitive, thoughtful questions. When you do, you will occupy the entire bandwidth of their brain while they are speaking.
Implementing those two lessons is critical to deepening your relationships in any context. It’s the beginning of a process where you change your orientation from conveying information to eliciting it.
When you refocus your energy from being the most interesting person in the room to being the most interested, you’ll see this transformational change.
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