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Are you listening to reply?

31 December 2018

Often we are prepared for what we think is needed rather than listening to what is actually needed. Jacqueline Lockie, head of Financial Planning at the CISI explains

Recently I read this, “Are you listening to reply or listening to understand?” It got me thinking. A week later I did some training to improve my communications, with Christopher-Jones Warner Chartered FCSI, CISI senior adviser, at the CISI Paraplanner Interest Group Event in Bristol. The two things came together just at the right time for me and got me thinking again.

When I was a paraplanner I used to get very prepared for attending client meetings with my advisers. And when I say very, I’m sure you know what I mean. I was armed to the hilt with information in my head, had run numerous what-if scenarios for the client to pre-empt any question they might have when the financial plan was presented and discussed. I prided myself to know, not everything, but what I felt was a mountain of technical information, just in case it was needed. I was the proverbial paraplanner who had eaten every technical manual and bit of legislation known to man!

But when I attended client meetings, was I really listening to the clients? Was I really listening to understand them and what they wanted and needed? Or was I so ‘geared-up’ and ready with technical knowledge in anticipation that it might be needed, that I was only really listening to reply? I suspect a bit of the former, but if I’m honest, mostly the latter was true. Now you could argue that in a meeting like that I was doing my job and it wasn’t necessarily my job to truly understand the client there and then. Or is that just an excuse? I still had a duty of care to that client, even if it was shared with someone else; in this case, my adviser.

Learning more about body language recently has highlighted to me that when I was meeting clients, I was more self-conscious and worried about not knowing whether I’d be able to answer their questions, than I was thinking about the impressions I gave them when I met or spoke to them. I was probably thinking more about myself and giving off all the signals that I was a ‘techy’ person and fell into the stereotypical ‘she doesn’t get out much’ kind of behaviour.

Preparing to understand

You have the opportunity to do things differently. Being a great paraplanner means more than eating that proverbial technical manual. Try this…

When you meet a client, stand fully face on to them and shake their hand. Don’t worry about what they think of you or if you’ll be able to answer their questions in ten minutes time when the meeting starts. Focus on them and take a deep breath and say hello. Make eye contact and take the moment to make a real connection with them. Stay in the here and now with them. That helps build trust. Of course, go armed with everything you need, you know your stuff, but don’t use it to ‘reply to listen’. Use it to reply when you understand what they are truly asking.

For example, when we talk about retirement planning, we don’t mean pension planning do we? No. After all, retirement is essentially getting a pot money to give us the desired financial independence to do what we want, when we stop full time work. But when you say retirement planning to some clients, they might assume you mean pension planning.

So, as the New Year begins, take some steps to make real and valued connections with your colleagues and clients, to build your own confidence and improve relationships with those around you. Do that by asking yourself two questions; are you in the here and now giving your undivided attention to the person you are meeting? Are you listening to understand or listening to reply?

First published in the January issue of Professional Paraplanner