The ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me’ Lesson For Financial Advisors

September 28, 2015

by Dan Solin

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

In a classic Seinfeld episode, George attempts to end a relationship by telling his partner, “It’s not you; it’s me.” George thinks he invented that phrase, but the concept of whether to focus on yourself or the other person has been the subject of academic research, and those findings carry an important lesson for advisors.

I know just enough about how the brain functions to cause me problems. For example, I am frequently asked to address professional groups and investors. But speaking to these audiences creates a dilemma. How do I know if what I am presenting is of interest to them? How do I know if they are paying attention?

You will face the same issues when you are meeting with a prospect.

In his excellent book Brain Rules, John Medina discusses basic principles of brain function. Understanding these principles will be valuable to you in both your business and social interactions. Derek Sivers provides a helpful summary of the book’s main points.

Before giving you a rundown of Medina’s findings, I want to discuss a principle that is frequently misunderstood by advisors.

It’s not about you

When you meet with a prospect or when I give a talk, it’s very easy to fall into a fatal trap. We mistakenly tend to believe that the focus is on us. We have information that we think is of vital interest to our audience. After all, if this were not the case, they wouldn’t have agreed to meet with you or paid me to speak.

This line of reasoning represents a fundamental misunderstanding. It is, in fact, not about you or me. Your prospect and my audience have an agenda. It’s our job to find out what it is and to address it.

While this can be challenging when speaking to a large group, it’s easy when you are meeting with one or two individuals. All you have to do is ask questions rather than present information.

Once you understand the meeting is not about you, you are ready to benefit from insights into how the brain of your prospect is processing the information exchanged at the meeting.

Inactivity impedes communication

My talks and your meetings follow a similar pattern. Our audience is seated and passive. We have the option to stand and move around. This is good for us, and bad for them.

Exercise improves cognition. It does so by increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain. The ideal scenario for a meeting would be one where everyone walks together at the relatively slow pace of 1.8 miles per hour.

While this is rarely possible in prospect meetings, you can make other adjustments to increase the cognitive processing ability of your audience. Take frequent breaks. Give prospects a tour of your office, while interacting with them. If you are getting them coffee, invite them to go with you.

Do whatever you can to increase their level of activity, rather than having them sit quietly for an extended period of time.

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The 'It's Not You, It's Me' Lesson For Financial Advisors