Guy Mason of Simitri talks about the need for relationship managers to listen properly to their clients, and outlines some techniques for improving listening skills.
Date: Jan 2010
When dealing with clients, an adviser’s communication skills are critical.
To help advisers with this process, many studies have been done to indicate not what should be said, but rather how to say it and the way to say it, said Guy Mason in an interview.
Listening as part of communication
While many people focus on how to ask great questions, Mason said advisers need to take this one step further.
It is common in meetings for people to realise they are not properly listening to their clients. Or they might be trying to think of what the next question should be in order to keep the conversation flowing.
As a result, a lot of people work on asking questions but not on listening, and not on why a client might have asked a certain question.
The dangers of not listening properly
In an example Mason gave of the importance of listening properly, he was talking to the chief executive officer of a financial institution about the organisation’s salespeople.
Mason shared with his client a disappointing experience from a previous interaction he had with one of the institution’s salespeople.
After Mason then explained about his own business, how it was structured and how he brings on board good people to work with, the client asked him how he employs his people.
Mason said he nearly rushed to offer sales training for existing staff as a solution, but quickly realised that he had not listened to the question properly, nor why it was being asked.
In fact, the client asked the question because the types of people Mason employs are similar – people with experience, who are knowledgeable, and who can communicate well.
The client’s problem was trying to be more persuasive during the hiring phase to get the right type of people in the first place.
Developing listening skills
According to Mason, relationship managers (RMs) need to create the impression to their clients that they are really listening. This is effective for building rapport, he explained, as well as giving the client the sense that the RM really does want to listen.
Mason said RMs can do three key things to enhance their listening skills. First, they should make eye contact and look at the person talking to them.
Secondly, they should adjust their physical position and the way they are sitting, for example by leaning in towards the person they are listening to.
Thirdly, they should pause regularly; if an RM doesn’t speak, it is likely the client will, and the client will therefore tell the RM about his or her needs.
In addition, Mason warned RMs not to finish the other person’s sentence, interrupt them or talk over them.