Six Words That Impress Clients

June 9, 2015

by Dan Richards

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We’d all like people to view us in a positive light. But few advisors take consistent advantage of six simple words that can get clients to view them more favorably. Those six words: “Can I ask for some advice?”

What happens when your opinion is valued

A 2014 article described research from academics at Harvard Business School and Wharton on what happens when you ask for advice. People hesitate to ask for advice out of fear that it will make them appear weak or incompetent.

In fact, exactly the opposite happens.

Provided that you ask in the right way and on the right topic, soliciting advice creates goodwill with the recipient of the request. The recipient is flattered and views the person asking in a more positive light as a result.

The lead researcher was Alison Wood Brooks of the Harvard Business School. In an interview with Entrepreneur Magazine, she provided additional perspective on the research:

  • We’ve all had the experience of being asked for advice on a topic on which we have expertise and felt good as a result. Yet when it comes to asking for advice, we forget how positive it feels to be asked for our opinion. Brooks described this as a “broken mental model,” in which our instinct is inconsistent with our experience.
  • Asking for advice works best on a topic which is difficult and about which the person being asked views him or herself as an expert.
  • Brooks does provide some words of caution. Asking for advice on a topic that is very easy will reduce credibility. And you need to be selective about asking for advice; asking for advice constantly is annoying.

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