There’s a saying I love to share when it’s appropriate.
“Learning is a spiral. Mastery requires deep, repeat practice”
Martial artists will get it immediately. Those who know Mr Miyagi’s “wax on, wax off” scene may also identify.
It’s the idea that skill development doesn’t stop at just identifying knowledge, but at implementing the desired performance. Repeatedly. Even when you feel you’ve “got it”. Until it becomes unconscious and natural.
One of the great faults many advisers who engage with sales & marketing systems, coaching programs and specialist consultants fall prey to is the mentality of consuming information without truly applying it.
I can read a book summary, but that doesn’t mean I understand the topic.
I can skim an instruction manual, doesn’t mean I can work the equipment (no matter what your Dad says) .
I can buy the weights, doesn’t mean I’m doing the exercise.
I can take in the words, but it doesn’t mean I understand the meaning.
Never more do I see this than in two areas; marketing and “sales” engagement.
The former I could fill a book about. This blog is about the latter.
The truth about what makes someone incredible at delivering a first appointment, or at “selling” advice, or at getting a yes at the end of an appointment, isn’t about the top-level technique. It’s about the nuance of what they do and how and why they do it.
The small details are paid attention to and executed with the attention to detail of someone who wants to master something, not just know it.
To do that, you have to be willing to go deep.
To understand the fine line between building rapport, and trying so hard to be liked that you lose professional standing.
To know outlining an agenda is more than just explaining what you’ll cover, it’s also about getting permission.
To be confident enough to ask for the reason they’re talking to you, today (and why not before) not moving forward until you’ve asked what they want.
To ask questions not just to fill a fact find, but to define outcomes in measurable terms and dig out the perceived emotional payoff.
To ride the emotional ebb and flow of the meeting without feeling the need to minimise “the uncomfortable”.
To involve them in defining what may need to happen, making it their idea, and triggering the lightbulb realisation without telling them the solution.
To switch mode from the meandering endlessness of a purely goals-based conversation to a declarative “here’s your next step” seamlessly, with controlled energy levels, and without needing to stray into personal advice.
To close the meeting with them asking you for the next steps, instead of a rushed close. Not relying on a proposal to do the work for you.
Does this sound hard?
To me, continuing to flounder at the surface, trying process after process to find one that works “instantly” is harder.
I could try to write about our entire first appointment system in one article, but I’d leave you with more questions than answers, and no closer to mastery. Heck, I struggle to cover it all in a half-day session.
So, let’s take a different tack.
Let’s go deep and narrow, instead of wide and shallow.
Next time you’re at that point in the meeting where you’re talking goals, asking clients what they’d like to achieve in their financial lives, try mastering three levels of questioning.
Do this when you’re talking Future.
“If we were having a conversation 10 years from now, and you’ve achieved all you set out to achieve in life, financially and otherwise, tell me the things you’re likely to have nailed?”
Sit back and listen. Don’t go deep on any one answer, not yet.
When they share a goal. Write it down, keep listening, then ask, “What else?”
Keep asking, noting goals with particular emotional loading. Circle anything that does, and keep asking, “What else?”
When you get to more than five and the answers run out, go back and go deeper.
Choose the 2-3 goals that the emotional context suggested seemed important.
Next question. Time to go Quant.
“So, if we’re talking about your goal of achieving financial freedom, how much money do you need specifically?”
“If the goal is to send the kids to private school, which school and how much do you need?”
“If you’d like to pay off the home and build an investment portfolio, how much do you owe and what does that investment portfolio look like?”
We’re getting measurable, moving past just making a list, into asking what it will take.
You can add value here as an adviser because there’s a good chance you may know what that school costs, or how long it’ll take to grow that wealth.
We’re defining the detail underneath the dream. Now we need to add in the emotion.
“Adding in the emotion”. Doesn’t that sound a bit like manipulating?
Sometimes, unfortunately, humans don’t make decisions based on logic. We make decisions based on emotion, and then use logic to justify our choice.
The property spruikers and get-rich-quick mob know this and use it with brutal, sometimes ethically-devoid efficiency.
Meanwhile, great advisers who can help do get concerned about “manipulating” people’s emotions.
To move someone to act, you MUST impact them emotionally. The question is not whether you do it, but your intent.
If you’re doing it with your own self-interests at heart, stop reading now. It won’t work. Clients can feel it in the same part of their gut that told them thousands of years ago there was something in the grass that wanted to eat them. Your words won’t match your intent, and your body language will broadcast it.
Even if it takes a while for them to know what it was about you that didn’t add up, they’ll work it out and the game will be done. You can make money out of the hustle, but you can’t make a life (attrib. Taki Moore).
If however, you are doing it because you want to help people make the right choices, this is the mastery you need to make it all happen. To change futures and foster that valuable, life-changing direction shift.
We live in an instant-gratification society where the voices of prudence and long-term gain are shouted down by a cacophony of consumption and have-it-all-today. You’re selling a course of action with a 10, 20, 30 years plus payoff. You can’t play this game without projecting the conversation forward.
If you can shift the thinking from the neo-cortex to the limbic system – the emotional, decision-making part of the brain – then it happens.
“So, if you were able to achieve sending the kids to that particular private school and cover the cost of doing so comfortably, what would be the best part of that for you?”
“If you could pay off the home in ten years and accumulate an investment holding of $300k in that time, how would that change things for you?”
“What would be the best part of waking up the morning of the day you achieved financial freedom?”
Get the idea?
It’s easy to skip over his stuff, to conclude that the right approach to a first appointment is simply about the right list of questions, a fantastic depth of technical knowledge, a good-looking PowerPoint deck, an ability to build rapport with anyone, or a great agenda.
It’s not. It’s in the fine nuances of controlling your energetic state, managing your emotional state and moving everyone to a place where the path between now and the future becomes as clear as it can be.
Of course, you are welcome to chop and change techniques, buy the latest sales system, advice philosophy and wonder why so many courses you do never seem to work for you.
Or you can double down, slow down and start looking at the space between the words.
Do that and you’ll be one step closer to Mastery.
See you on the path
Want a next step?