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Apr 08

Advisors: 4 Steps to Reduce Stress

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Stress Management

The foundation of stress is not an event, such as dealing with an angry client, having difficulty with your prospecting calls, or watching the market tank unexpectedly. It is your “self-talk” about each event that either causes stress or doesn’t.  These “self-talk” habits are part of what I call your “internal critic.”

Your “internal critic” is that little voice within that spews out an average of 55,000 words per day, 77% of which are negative, self-defeating messages. Current cognitive psychology research shows that self-limiting, negative and pessimistic thoughts inhibit your success because they undermine your self-confidence.

The negative messages that pass through your mind immediately lead to muscle tightening, rapid breathing, and perspiring. These physiological responses are perceived as “stress,” so the more we allow these self-limiting thoughts to continue unabated, the more stress we suffer.

The wisdom about how critical our inner thoughts and beliefs about events are to our well-being has been around for centuries.  The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them.”  In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote: “There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Advisors need resiliency skills to counter the self-doubt and lack of confidence they frequently experience. It’s one thing to recognize that you are producing stress by worrisome, anxiety-producing thoughts, but how do you avoid doing it?

The first step is to stop the negative thought as soon as you recognize it. A trick that works is wearing a rubber band and snapping away whenever you catch yourself beginning one of your habitual negative thinking habits.

Next, ask yourself some key questions about that thought, such as, “Do I have any evidence that I won’t be able to control my client’s rampage?” “What can I do differently this time?” “Can I use ‘active listening’ to focus on his emotions and concerns, rather than justifying my recommendations in a defensive manner?” “Can I assert myself with this client and not worry about losing him?”

Now give yourself positive descriptions about who you are.  For example, tell yourself that you have helped many clients and their families to successfully manage their wealth through many market fluctuations and you can do so with this client as well.

Finally, take a series of slow, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, until you feel calmer.  Simultaneously, visualize yourself feeling relief after having the upcoming conversation.

Practicing these simple techniques will help you overcome the negative thinking habits that cause the bulk of your stress.

You may, indeed, be a wonderful financial advisor, but that doesn’t mean you can please every client.  If a client is a constant thorn in your side, perhaps it’s time to refer him elsewhere or recommend that he move on. The income you give up is not worth the constant aggravation he causes you and your peace of mind is worth more than the problems this client presents.  Being calmer will ultimately result in you making better decisions for your clients,  and in doing so, that lost income will quickly be replaced.

Mar 18

Do Advisors, Clients Suffer From PTSD?

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Stress Management

When we think about post-traumatic stress disorder, we typically envision combat, tornadoes, and hurricanes. But PTSD is not limited to life-threatening events. Events threatening financial security (and even career-security) can be very traumatic.

A recent study reported in Health & Social Work examined the risk of PTSD associated with sudden and dramatic personal financial loss. The authors conducted a survey of 173 Madoff victims and found that 58% met the criteria for the PTSD diagnosis, 61% acknowledged high levels of anxiety, 58% were depressed and 34% had health-related issues. Moreover, 90% of these victims felt a substantial loss of confidence in any financial institutions.

In short, severe economic trauma can lead to PTSD.

We know from Dr. Abraham Maslow that when people have their security threatened through any event, all of their confidence and self-esteem can be destroyed, and they then focus all of their attention on searching for recovery. Certainly, this holds for both clients and financial advisors, when their financial security is undermined.

A study of the emotional well-being of financial advisors during the 2008 financial crisis (documented in the May, 2013 Journal of Financial Therapy), showed that 93% reported medium to high stress levels and 39% of the advisors reported stress symptoms at levels considered to be diagnostic of PTSD. In the case of advisors, it was not only the threat to the security of their careers, but the threat to their own portfolios, as well. After all, in an ideal world, advisors basically make the same financial decisions and use the same strategies with regard to their own portfolios, as they would make for their clients’.

So, many advisors suffered the double whammy of major losses in both their clients’ portfolios and in their own portfolios. Added to this stress, is getting bombarded with calls from frightened, disgruntled and hostile clients, who blame the advisor for not having seen this coming.

Diagnosing PTSD

The manual for diagnosing emotional and mental syndromes is the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual IV-TR. Diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder include being confronted with an event, where ones’ response involves intense fear and helplessness. In addition, recurrent and obsessively distressing thoughts about the event persist and can become all consuming. It is easy to understand advisor’s fearing the collapse and the domino effects, and feeling helpless since they obviously have no control over such events.

People suffering from PTSD feel as if the traumatic event is still occurring or will reoccur and the psychological distress intensifies at exposure to external cues that resemble any aspect of the traumatic event. So, the traumatized advisor comes to the office each day, dreading watching the market fluctuations and even hearing their phone ring.

In order to reach the specific clinical criteria of PTSD, the symptoms must persist for at least one month, and at least two of the following specific symptoms must be present:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability and angry outbursts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response

It is common for PTSD sufferers to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollection of the trauma, so avoiding the office and looking for a career change is a common outcome of PTSD. In addition, the traumatized advisor may avoid contacting clients, anticipating a negative, hostile conversation. I have spoken to many advisors, who, when they are stressed, simply avoid coming into the office or call in sick.

In Australia, for example, when the government imposed fee-for-service demands on advisors, removing the traditional commission based services, a large percentage of advisors panicked and looked for new careers. If the thought of telling clients that they were moving to a fee-for-service status frightened advisors, imagine the huge impact of the economic collapse of 2008 and the anticipation of future collapses. Many advisors began to question whether they could continue to work in a profession where they have the huge fiduciary responsibility of safeguarding their clients’ family savings; moreover, making midlife career changes is also traumatic, so many advisors facing these decisions felt trapped.

Feb 18

Add the TRIUMPHS Model to Your Advisor Skills Repertoire

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Practice Management

Consistently Grow Your Book of Business

Scott has been doing well in his financial advising career for many years. He understands how to how follow up on leads and referrals and how to offer excellent service to his clients. Yet, he’s amazed at how much more successful his colleague, Michael, is, when Scott puts much more time and sweat into his work than Michael seems to. Michael’s book of business and new referrals is growing much faster than Scott’s. What is missing in Scott’s approach?

The key difference between Scott and Michael’s approaches is the fact that Michael has learned to be an “active listener.” He uses the T.R.I.U.M.P.H.S. model to help him maximize his client services, and even when he is not dealing with clients, it is a powerful technique that helps him communicate effectively with his wife and teenagers,

Here are the components of client T.R.I.U.M.P.H.S.:

[su_dropcap]T[/su_dropcap]Treat your client/customer with respect and value. Developing rapport with the client/prospective client is a crucial first step. Smile, position yourself at the same level (sitting or standing, depending on what the client/customer is doing), and slightly lean toward him, maintaining eye contact. Make sure your cell phone is on silent and you can give undivided attention to the customer. Have your calls put on hold while meeting with the client.

Listen to what the prospective client is saying and don’t shuffle papers or start thinking about your response. Just listen to him. Regardless of what the person asks, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to answer immediately. It’s ok to say, “That’s a great question. Give me a day or so to research our products to find the one that precisely addresses your question.”

Some ongoing and prospective clients can be long-winded, nervously asking a lot of questions, especially regarding expensive investments and products. Cutting him off may lose you the rapport you need to develop. Always give the speaker the courtesy of finishing a point before you interject yours. It’s perfectly fine to take notes so you won’t forget what you wanted to say, while the client is making his points.

[su_dropcap]R[/su_dropcap]Reflect the meaning of what your client is telling you before you actually respond. The best way to understand your client/prospective client is to make sure you are listening carefully and the best way to do that is to reflect or paraphrase what you heard her say before you comment on it. An example is, “What I’m hearing is that you are not certain that this product will serve your needs at this particular time.”

[su_dropcap]I[/su_dropcap]“I statements” are powerful ways to communicate. As you paraphrase and reflect back what the client is saying, you can use “I statements,” which are very powerful. For example, “I am getting the feeling that you are uncomfortable with this product and would like some other options.” For you to start with “You” would be much more threatening to the client. “You don’t like this product?”

It is important to realize that by understanding what the listener is saying, doesn’t mean necessarily agreeing with him. You are simply showing that you are hearing his concerns. Example, “Fred, I hear your concerns because of your last experience with a similar product. Let me get the information you will need to make you feel better about this.” Always acknowledge the speaker and his position before voicing your opinion.

[su_dropcap]U[/su_dropcap]Understand the needs and goals of your client. If you are genuine and sell quality products that will truly satisfy your client’s needs and desires, she will trust you. That includes not selling her the most expensive product if you believe it is not right for her or her family situation. Nothing gains trust more than you being honest with clients.

[su_dropcap]M[/su_dropcap]Monitor the tone and mannerisms of the prospective customer. Body language is so important that studies point out that only a small percentage of what is “heard” by a listener are the words of the speaker. Most of what is “heard” by the listener is tone of voice, smiling, facial expressions, vocal inflections, etc. Watch for all of these indices of your client’s mood and attitude. You might even wait for a pause and make an interpretation of what you are sensing. An example is, “I am feeling as if you believe that I am trying to force you to buy this product. Is that what’s going on in your head, Alice?”

[su_dropcap]P[/su_dropcap]Probe gently and with respect. Your job is to try to understand what your client needs and how you can accommodate those needs. The only way to show people that you have exactly the product to satisfy those needs is to ask gentle questions about their goals and hopes (related to your product). An example is, “If you could have the ideal product to make you feel safe during these economic times, what features would it have to have?”

[su_dropcap]H[/su_dropcap]Help your client feel safe in the conversation. For major purchases, such as insurance policies and annuities, clients need to feel safe discussing ther specific money issues. Gently probing about personal and family situations that affect their pocket book requires them being able to trust you. This entails ensuring confidentiality and showing genuine concern for their needs. If you expect them to share their biggest fears and insecurities, you must focus in on what they’re saying, be sensitive and assure them that your goal is to help them to meet their goals.

[su_dropcap]S[/su_dropcap]Summarize. You’d be amazed at how much you show the speaker that you are listening by frequently summarizing what you just heard. This will also help you to focus and remember what the speaker is telling you. If you have hit the key points in your summary, the speaker will feel validated and closer to you. If you missed key points that he is trying to convey, he can inform you about that at this time. Practice this with friends and family. It’s easy to get the hang of it and it really works!

Developing and sticking to this TRIUMPHS model will surely grow your business consistently!

Jan 28

Understanding the Female Market

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors

A recent study by Fidelity Investments found that 70% of widows fire their financial advisor within one year of their spouse’s death.

Why would so many women dismiss the advisor who worked so diligently for their family, in many cases for years? Because they thought the advisor as condescending toward them. The advisor only held meetings with the spouse. In joint meetings, the advisor only addressed the husband, or made no eye contact with the wife, as if she had no say or interest in the financial security of the family. In short, these widows felt overlooked and undervalued, and they had no trust in the advisor.

Besides the host of ethical reasons, there are some very important business reasons why you should never allow any woman client to think of you in this way. Some commonly quoted statistics tell a compelling story:
Women will inherit close to 30 trillion dollars in intergenerational wealth transfers in the coming decades.

  • Because women are likely to outlive their husbands, women will control most of this wealth, plus, they will inherit their parents’ wealth.
  • 57% of college graduates are currently women. Female college graduates are currently in control of more than 60% of the personal wealth in the U.S.
  • 22% of women currently earn more money than their spouse.
  • Women make approximately 80% of their family’s buying decisions.
  • 89% of bank accounts are controlled by women.
  • 28% of homeowners are single women.
  • 45% of the millionaires in the U.S. are women.

In short, women are earning more, inheriting more, and controlling more wealth than ever before. This is a huge market awaiting every financial advisor, if he/she understands some key points about working with female clients.

I recently interviewed a female financial advisor, who has enjoyed a very successful career for more than 20 years. She runs a firm with several other advisors, all of whom are women. This is not a coincidence; it is by design. She only hires females, primarily because she works exclusively with female clients. She decided many years ago that focusing on female clients would be a very smart way to build her career.

When she was in her teens, she observed her mother making virtually none of the financial decisions in the family, almost as if it wasn’t her role. Furthermore, her father rarely shared financial investments, insurance plans or any form of estate planning with her mother. Consequently, when her father died, her mother was frozen with feelings of helplessness, did not understand the details or nuances of her financial situation and felt very depressed and anxious as a result.

As an aside, when I was a psychologist in the U.S. Air Force during the VietNam War, one of my duties was helping the wives and families of servicemen killed, captured or missing in the war. I was shocked at the high percentage of women who had absolutely no idea about any of the financial plans or arrangements that their spouses had prepared before departing for overseas. Most didn’t even know where to find the paperwork or the names of insurance companies or brokerage firms that their spouses worked with.

So, this advisor decided early on that she would find a career to help women, so that her clients would never find themselves in the position her mother was in.

Some male advisors have problems dealing with female clients because they have a general problem dealing with women. Sometimes males have stereotypical views of women and finances, such as “women prefer to leave financial decisions to men,” “women are too emotional and base financial decisions on their emotions at the time,” and “women are impulsive and may make financial decisions they later regret.”

To all the men reading this: If you maintain any of these ideas about women, perhaps working with female clients isnot something you should consider – unless you plan to engage in therapy or group sensitivity sessions about the differences – and similarities – in the sexes.

You’ve probably heard that money problems are one the most significant factors that lead to divorce. Dr. Sonya Britt, an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Financial Planning at Kansas State University collected interview data from 4500 couples who had gone through divorce and the data showed definitively that the #1 factor in causing the divorce was money issues. Many couples exist with money issues as a taboo subject, with women leaving financial decisions to the males in their lives, in order to avoid controversy.

Jan 14

Capitalizing on the Female Market

By Dr. Jack Singer | Financial Advisors

It’s clear that the underserved female market represents a remarkable opportunity. But how can advisors reach out to this market and speak more effectively to female clients and prospects?

Financial professionals need to understand that women need to feel genuinely cared about and valued in any relationship. They want their advisor to listen to their needs and fears. Married women want to build a genuine relationship with their advisor, feel like they are treated as an equal partner to their spouse, attend all meetings that their spouse attends, and focus on investments that address her needs, as well as her partner’s.

Women in general, married or not, must be genuinely listened to, if you plan to solicit them as clients or retain them. I teach all of my advisor clients the skill of “Active Listening” to effectively communicate your genuine concerns to women (and also men, for that matter).

Prior to the meeting, tell your secretary to be sure to hold all calls, etc. and turn off your cell phone. Come out from behind your desk. Make sure you make and maintain good eye contact with her throughout the visit.

The key to active listening is not concerning yourself with what you will say next or how to respond to the speaker’s point or question. Instead, you pay particular attention to what she says and her nonverbal communication (facial gestures, body language, eye contact, etc.) so you can understand the essence of her concerns. You then paraphrase what she said, by mirroring it back to her and empathizing with her concerns (even if you think they are irrational), because you must be on the same page with her to truly understand her concerns. You never give your opinion or your thoughts about what she is saying until you are certain that you understand where she is coming from, she confirms that you have it right, and is asking for an opinion. Often the first visit is just you listening and understanding…not giving advice.

There are many “Active Listening” models out there, but I particularly like the ideas below that Kathleen Burns Kingsbury describes in her wonderful book, “How to Give Financial Advice to Women.”

Step 1: Lead with an open-ended question to begin the dialogue. For example, you might ask your widowed client, “What is your biggest concern right now?” Even if her response has nothing to do with finances, go there with her. Your job is to understand the emotional space she is in now, not necessarily to direct her into the financial arena.

Step 2: Ask clarifying questions to get an in depth understanding of her concerns and needs. For example, “What are your greatest fears about will happen over the next five years or so?”

Step 3: This is the key to active listening. Reflect back (paraphrase) what you just heard in your own words. For example, if she said, “I don’t know how to raise my children without their father in the picture and I’m feeling overwhelmed,” you could paraphrase, “What I’m hearing you say is that you’re worried that without your husband, you may have difficulties raising your children and it will be very stressful. Is that how you feel?”

Step 4: Ask for more clarification. For example, “What are you afraid that you won’t be able to handle with the children?”

Step 5: Summarize both the content and emotion of the client’s conversation. For example, “It sounds like you are feeling overwhelmed at the moment, not knowing how you are going to handle the children and all of the responsibility by yourself and you are afraid of failing in that regard.”

Notice that the conversation may not go anywhere. Your job is to listen and understand your client’s concerns. The conversation this time may never come to financial issues. It doesn’t matter. Your client needs to know you are concerned, you understand her and you will help her. Once she understands that you care about her and are a support system for her, helping her to make sound financial decisions will be much easier in future conversations. It all starts with trust and communicating genuine concern for her welfare and that of her family and their future. This is the process of developing trust in you as an advisor…it’s never about the outcome (what products she agrees to purchase from you).

Oct 31

Exploring an Overlooked, Very Lucrative Market Niche – Women! Part 1

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors

Advising the Advisors –  Exploring an Overlooked, Very Lucrative Market Niche-Women! Part 1

By Jack Singer, Ph.D.
Professional Clinical/Sport Psychologist and Professional Speaker/Trainer/Coach for Financial Advisors and Insurance Producers

A recent study by Fidelity Investments found that 70% of widows fire their financial advisor within one year after their spouse dies!  Why would so many women dismiss the advisor who worked so diligently for their family, in many cases, for years?  The answer is enlightening:  They viewed the advisor as condescending toward them, often meeting only with their spouse and even in joint meetings, having eye contact and communication directed primarily at the man, as if they had no say or interest in the financial security of the family.  In short, they feel overlooked and undervalued, leading to a lack of trust in the advisor.

Why should you care about female clients?  Besides the ethical reasons, there are some very important statistics (studies cited and referenced by Holly Buchanan in her book, Selling Financial Services to Women and by Kathleen Burns Kingsbury in her book, How to Give Financial Advice to Women”):

  • Over the next few decades, it’s predicted that women will inherit close to 30 trillion dollars in intergenerational wealth transfers.  Because women are likely to outlive their husbands, women will control most of this wealth, plus, they will inherit their parents’ wealth.
  • 57% of college graduates are currently women. Female college graduates are currently in control of more than 60% of the personal wealth in the U.S.
  •  22% of women currently earn more money than their spouses.
  • Women make approximately 80% of their family’s buying decisions.
  • 89% of bank accounts are controlled by women.
  • 28% of homeowners are single women.
  • 45% of the millionaires in the U.S. are women.
  • In 2009, 40% of private companies were at least 50% owned by women, compared with only 26% of companies in 1997 in that category.  20% of firms with revenue of at least $1million are currently owned by women.

In short, women are earning more, inheriting more, and controlling more wealth than ever before.  This is a huge, untapped niche awaiting every financial advisor, if he/she understands some key points about women’s needs and desires.

Stay tuned for my next installment, where I will discuss why women become disenchanted with their financial advisors and what behaviors you should all practice in order to capture your share of this huge market.

Jul 22

Advising the Advisors – Part V

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Financial Advisors , Stress

By Dr. Jack Singer
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Financial Advisor Trainer and Coach

Additional Distorted Thinking Habits for Which Advisors Should Be on the Lookout

Recall that in my last segment, I discussed the thinking patterns in which we frequently engage whenever we encounter difficult or challenging events. And, if our “Internal Critics” are allowed to run rampant, those thinking patterns tend to be self-defeating, negative and pessimistic. Often, these patterns of thinking are irrational expectations and beliefs about ourselves, how others view us, the situation and/or pessimistic predictions about how the situation will turn out. Such habitual thinking patterns exacerbates our stress dramatically and can lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and even worthlessness!

I discussed All or Nothing, Mind-Reading, Mental Filter, Magnification and Catastrophising. In this segment I will discuss Having to be Right, Should Statements, Overgeneralization, Blaming and Emotional Reasoning.

Having to be Right

“ I certainly know much more than my clients do about investing and wealth management. Therefore, if I make a recommendation, it had better be right.”

This form of distorted thinking develops out of insecurity. You are worried about what it says about you if you are ever wrong. Unpredictable downturns in the market can lead to losses for your clients, yet you feel so strongly that you have to be right in your predictions, that you don’t provide the inevitable market fluctuation caveat to them when making recommendations.

You rarely consult with colleagues before making recommendations to clients, believing that shows a weakness about you to both your clients and your colleagues. Consequently, you tend to ignore or discount others’ (especially clients’) opinions, if they disagree with yours. Your mind is closed to other possibilities because you are very threatened by the idea that you could be wrong.

Should Statements

“I never should have made that recommendation. Look how it turned out! I’d better be more careful the next time I make a recommendation or I will surely lose this client.”

If you look carefully, you will also see Catastrophising (Fortune Telling) in this distortion.

People whose thoughts frequently include “ I should…,” “I must…,” or “I’d better…” are making an unconscious assumption that there is a universal list of iron clad “rules” (in addition to the laws of the land and your particular religious commandments) to which we must all adhere, or we will be judged in a negative way. If you break the “rule” (e.g., “I never should have…”), it leads to you having feelings of guilt and incompetence. If someone else breaks the “rule” (e.g., “He never should have…”) it leads to you feeling angry or frustrated.

Although we often regret actions that had unfortunate outcomes and we may occasionally use a phrase such as “I should have,” the continual use of such words leaves no room for innocent mistakes. It smacks of having to be perfect in order to feel good about yourself.

Overgeneralization

“Since I lost money for my client thinking I made a good investment decision, I will probably continue to do so. It seems like every time he asks my advice, I make suggestions that are awful. He’ll probably fire me”

If you look carefully at this string of thoughts, it also involves Catastrophizing (Fortune Telling).

Overgeneralization involves an incident or situation in which you fail to achieve what you desire and you generalize from that situation to an overwhelming series of negative ideas about yourself. You believe that because of this unfortunate incident, it is inevitable that it will be followed by a never-ending pattern of similar unfortunate events.

A tip-off to this kind of thinking pattern is the frequent use of words such as never, always, all, every and none. These absolutes are exaggerations of reality and they are extremely self-defeating.

Blaming

“I’m struggling in my business because I have a bunch of clients who expect me to accurately predict the market. Who do they think I am, anyway, a psychic?”

This is an interesting example of distorted thinking because it is common to find someone or something to blame when you fail to accomplish something important to you. In fact, there may be an advantage to finding an excuse to explain failure, rather than blaming yourself, as if you are hopelessly incompetent. The real problem with the Blaming distortion is when you rarely take responsibility for events that befall you and continuously blame others. Obviously, when this happens you don’t learn from your mistakes.

Emotional Reasoning

“I feel so stupid because I couldn’t answer my client’s complicated question. Since I feel stupid, I’ll probably always struggle with these kinds of questions.”

This example of distorted thinking involves drawing the wrong conclusion, based strictly on your emotions at the time. Because you feel an emotion or have a negative thought, you conclude it must be true. So, if if you make a mistake and describe it as stupid, then you conclude that you are stupid.

If you feel anger after speaking on the phone with a client, you conclude that the client must have done something wrong to you, rather than realizing that your angry emotions may be based on faulty thinking or not having all of the information (such as believing that your client will always be angry at you for not having the answer right away).

Jul 15

Advising the Advisors – Part IV

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Financial Advisors , Stress

By Dr. Jack Singer
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Financial Advisor Trainer and Coach

Recognizing Your Distorted Thinking Habits

Recall that in my last segment, I discussed the foundation of all stress, mood and attitude issues is your “Internal Critic,” that little voice in your head that you listen to hundreds of times each day. Sadly, most of us allow negative, self-defeating, distorted thoughts to interfere with our work every day—unless we become aware of our thinking habits and take charge them.

As Dr. David Burns, a pioneer in the field of Cognitive Therapy, puts it: “If you want to break out of a bad mood, you must first understand that every type of negative feeling results from a specific kind of negative thought.” Left unchallenged, the “Internal Critic” and its distorted thought patterns can quickly lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness.

These five examples of distorted thinking habits are very commonly used by advisors.

Five Common Distorted Thinking Habits. Learning about the thinking patterns that you employ whenever you encounter difficult or challenging events is the first step in making life-altering changes in your thinking. This is a critical first step in changing the thinking habits that lead to depression, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. There are basically ten categories of distorted thinking patterns. Here are examples of the first five:

All or Nothing. “If I can’t make money for all of my clients, all of the time, despite market fluctuations, I feel like a failure.” These thoughts are distorted because you look at your world as strictly black or white, good or bad. Such thinking often involves attempting to be perfect, which is obviously impossible.

Mind Reading. “My manager has probably lost faith in me because I haven’t landed the number of new clients that he expected this month.” Mind Reading is a very common thinking habit. You conclude that somehow you have an ESP-like understanding of what people are feeling and thinking about you. Even though you have no real evidence or proof that these people are having these thoughts or feelings about you, you just “feel” it, so you conclude it must be true.

Mental Filter. “Even though my performance review was positive across the board, my manager said I do need to improve my customer service skills when I am on the phone with clients. He must be disappointed in me.” This form of distorted thinking involves having tunnel vision when it comes to positives in your life. You can have ten positive things said about you or your performance, but you dwell only on the single negative comment, as if the positives count for nothing. (The example above also involves the mind reading distortion.)

Magnification. “ I must be a terrible advisor because the product I recommended for my client lost seven per cent of its value in a week. I made a huge mistake, I feel awful and I wouldn’t blame the client if he is disgusted. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes his business elsewhere.” In this kind of distorted thinking habit, you blow things out of perspective and dramatically intensify what is actually happening. You use dramatic descriptions, such as terrible, awful, huge and disgusted to describe situations and outcomes that are rarely that critical.

Catastrophising or Fortune-Telling.
“What if I continue to get turned down in my cold calling? I will fail as an advisor, and since I don’t have another career I’d like to pursue, I’ll become a failure as a husband and provider for my family.” Fortune-telling is predicting dramatically negative things happening, as if you have absolutely no control over them and your fate is sealed. A clue to this habit is the use of “what ifs” You take a situation, such as a week full of rejections from your cold calls, and blow this out of proportion by assuming that a disastrous outcome is on its way. You come to expect a catastrophic outcome, as if you have a crystal ball to look into the future and you usually expect that the outcome will be negative.

Jun 30

Advising the Advisors – Part 2

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Financial Advisors , Stress

Buffer Yourself Against The Real Cause of All of Your Stress

By Dr. Jack Singer
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Financial Advisor Trainer and Coach

In my initial article Advising the Advisors – Part 1, I talked about the surveys done with financial advisors right after the 2008 financial crisis and the alarming percentage of advisors who actually suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result. We don’t know how many advisors actually retired or tried to change their careers in response to the stress they endured, but in an effort to avoid or escape stress many people (not only advisors, of course) change careers. That certainly introduces new stressors, and so the cycle continues.

The good news is that anyone can learn how to buffer themselves against any stressor, and thus avoid making dramatic, and sometimes disastrous, career decisions as a result.

First, recognize the real source of your stress. “Stress” is an overused term, yet in our competitive and impatient culture, and with chaos rampant around the globe, examples of stress are with us constantly. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually for stress-related medical insurance claims, workers’ compensation benefits, reduced productivity, poor product quality, absenteeism, spillover into marital and family problems, and even drug and alcohol abuse, which is often a desperate attempt to cope with the stress. Stress symptoms may include, anxiety, fear, depression, burnout, and a whole host of possible physical symptoms. Stress has even surpassed the common cold as the most prevalent health problem in America!

For most of us, work challenges, managing our teens, and pleasing our spouses represent daily stressors. But these potentially negative events, do not cause stress! It is our perception of the events—our thoughts about those events—that determines whether or not we will experience stress as a result.

Negative events do not cause stress. Most people assume that specific events—particularly negative ones– that they are faced with “cause” their stress. For example, the economic disaster of 2008 was a series of “events,” none of which directly caused stress for advisors. It was not the events, per se, but each advisor’s perception of those events and the simultaneous the“self-talk” that the advisor engaged in during and following those events that determined whether or not the advisor experienced stress, and how much.

Your feelings of stress, including all of the symptoms mentioned above, are not directly caused by the necessity to make cold calls, generate referrals, market fluctuations, disgruntled clients, fiduciary and compliance hassles, etc. These events may invite you to feel stressed, but they do not cause stress. Specifically, your perception of these situations and what you say to yourself about them determines whether or not you will suffer from stress symptoms. If you perceive potentially stress-causing events in a negative, self-defeating, pessimistic, or overwhelming sense, you will certainly become stressed.
However, if you perceive those same events as challenges which you will be able to master and give yourself positive, empowering, optimistic thoughts about them, your stress will be markedly reduced.

Here is an example of an event that actually took place in my life. I was booked to be the opening general session speaker for an important financial advisor’s conference. Attendees had flown in from all over the country for this conference. Soon after I landed at the first airport where I was to transfer for my final flight, a major storm moved into the area, grounding all flights for the remainder of the day and night. It became clear that I would be able to get to the conference in time to open it the next morning.

While one might consider this situation to be extremely “stressful,” the situation, per se, would not be the source of my stress. What I said to myself about the situation would determine how stressed I would feel.

For example, if I was worried about upsetting the meeting planner and leaving the audience hanging, that would cause me to feel symptoms of stress.

To continue my example, when I learned that the flight was cancelled (the negative event), I had a choice regarding what I could say to myself. One option is: “Oh, that’s just great…now I won’t make the meeting, everyone is there expecting a rousing keynote, they’ll be disappointed and the meeting planner for the conference will be so angry at me that she’ll never book me to conduct a program again.”

Such a negative, self-defeating statement would immediately activate the nervous system necessary to deal with life-threatening situations, my brain would conclude that I was in an emergency and my body would react accordingly. My blood pressure would rise, my anxiety spike, and my behavior might become irrational…all resulting from my worried perception of a situation over which I had no control.

You do have control over your self-talk. This is really important to remember. Although we are creatures of habit, we can learn to change any habit that causes stress for us. In fact, in her wonderful little book, Change Almost Anything in 21 Days, Ruth Fishel describes research that shows how quickly people can change their stress producing self-talk.

Back to my example, suppose that when I learned that the flight was cancelled, I said to myself the following: “It is what it is! This is really unfortunate and I feel badly that I will not be there on time, but it is absolutely beyond my control. I will phone the meeting planner right away and see if she would like me to find a substitute speaker who is based in the city where the conference is being held.”

Also, I could have suggested, “Perhaps we can postpone my keynote until the last day of the Conference, when I will definitely be able to get there.”

If these possibilities were not acceptable, I could have even suggested that, “I can do the keynote through a tele-conference via Skype, for example. That way, with the audience all situated in the meeting room, I can arrange to do the keynote by interactive television and have a dialogue, etc..” I could even have used this example with them when I discussed how their self-talk always determines their emotional, attitudinal and behavioral responses to dramatic events, over which they have no control!

Bringing this example into the everyday realm of the financial advisor, consider getting a message from your assistant that your least favorite client is angry about how poorly the last product/equity you recommended is doing in the current, downward market and he wants you to call him as soon as possible.

Again, this potentially negative event does not have to be stressful, depending on the self-talk in which you engage. For example, you could say to yourself: “I hate it when this client gets angry whenever the market dips and he blames me. I would like to dump him and suggest he find another advisor.” Just imagine how your stress and anxiety will spike if you give yourself that message.

But, remember, you have choices. You could tell yourself that you will use the active listening skills you have learned (as detailed in an upcoming Advising the Advisors segment) to allow the client to vent, empathize with his frustration, and once he is calm, remind him how you went over the risks with him when he purchased the product/equity and that this dip in the market is like all past dips—temporary. Explain to him that your overall strategy in helping him manage and expand his wealth takes these unpredictable market dips into account and the strategy is still viable. Gently point out to him that patience will prove to be his most valuable learned skill, etc.

Using this technique you can convince yourself that, although you still wish that you didn’t have to deal with this client, you have dealt successfully with him before and you will so once again.

To conclude, the amount of stress you feel is ultimately up to you, isn’t it? Will you listen to the rational, positive voice in your head, or will you fall prey to the irrational, negative, “Internal Critic”? The choice determines your stress level and the choice is always yours!

 

Jun 22

Advising the Advisors – Part 1

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Sales Professionals , Stress

By Dr. Jack Singer
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Financial Advisor Trainer and Coach

A Psychological Perspective of PTSD Among Financial Advisors

When we think about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), we typically envision tornadoes, hurricanes, combat, and other life-threatening events. But PTSD is not limited to life-threatening events. For example, events threatening financial security and even career-threatening events can be very traumatic, as well.

A recent study reported in Health & Social Work examined the risk of PTSD associated with sudden and dramatic personal financial loss.  The authors conducted a survey among 173 Madoff victims and found that 58 % met the criteria for the PTSD diagnosis, 61% acknowledged high levels of anxiety, 58% were depressed and 34% had health-related issues.  Moreover, 90% of these victims felt a substantial loss of confidence in any financial institutions.  In short, severe economic trauma can certainly lead to PTSD.

We know from the famous work of Dr. Abraham Maslow, that when people have their security threatened through any event, all of their confidence and self-esteem can be dashed overnight, and they then focus all of their attention on desperately searching for recovery.  Certainly, this holds for both clients and financial advisors, when their financial security is undermined. 

A major study of the emotional well-being of financial advisors during the 2008 financial crisis (documented in the May, 2013 Journal of Financial Therapy), showed that 93% reported medium to high stress levels and 39% of the advisors reported stress symptoms at levels considered to be diagnostic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the case of advisors, it was not only the threat to the security of their careers, but the threat to their own portfolios, as well.  After all, in an ideal world, advisors basically make the same financial decisions and use the same strategies with regard to their own portfolios, as they would make for their clients’.

So, many advisors suffered the double whammy of major losses in both their clients’ portfolios and in their own portfolios. Added to this stress, is getting bombarded with calls from frightened, disgruntled and hostile clients, who blame the advisor for not having seen this coming.

Diagnosing PTSD. The manual for diagnosing emotional and mental syndromes is the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual IV-TR (DSM-IV-TR). Diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder include being confronted with an event, where ones’ response involves intense fear and helplessness.  In addition, recurrent and obsessively distressing thoughts about the event persist and can become all consuming. It is easy to understand advisor’s fearing the collapse and the domino effects, and feeling helpless since they obviously have no control over such events.

People suffering from PTSD feel as if the traumatic event is still occurring or will reoccur and the psychological distress  intensifies at exposure to external cues that resemble any aspect of the traumatic event. So, the traumatized advisor comes to the office each day, dreading watching the market fluctuations and even hearing their phone ring.

In order to reach the specific clinical criteria of PTSD, the symptoms must persist for at least one month, and at least two of the following specific symptoms must be present:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability and angry outbursts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response

It is common for PTSD sufferers to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollection of the trauma, so avoiding the office and looking for a career change is a common outcome of PTSD. In addition, the traumatized advisor may avoid contacting clients, anticipating a negative, hostile conversation. I have spoken to many advisors, who, when they are stressed, simply avoid coming into the office or call in sick.

In Australia, for example, when the government imposed fee-for-service demands on advisors, removing the traditional commission based services, a large percentage of advisors panicked and looked for new careers. If the thought of telling clients that they were moving to a fee-for-service status frightened advisors, imagine the huge impact of the economic collapse of 2008 and the anticipation of future collapses. Many advisors began to question whether they could continue to work in a profession where they have the huge fiduciary responsibility of safeguarding their clients’ family savings; moreover, making midlife career changes is also traumatic, so many advisors facing these decisions felt trapped.

About the Author:

Dr. Jack Singer is a professional speaker, trainer and psychologist. He has been speaking for and training Fortune 1000 companies, associations, CEO’s and elite athletes for 34 years. Among the association conventions which Dr. Jack has keynoted are those which serve financial planners.

Dr. Jack is a frequent guest on CNN, MSNBC, FOX SPORTS and countless radio talk shows across the U.S. and Canada. He is the author of “The Teacher’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide,” and several series of hypnotic audio programs, some specifically for athletes and some for anyone wanting to raise their self-confidence and esteem. To learn more about Dr. Singer’s speaking and consulting services, please visit DrJackSinger.com and AskDrJack.com or call him in the U.S. at (800) 497-9880.

 

Oct 01

How to Turbo-Charge Your Advising Skills

By Dr. Jack Singer | Financial Advisors

Become an Powerful “Active Listener” by Adding this P.R.O.P.O.S.A.L. to Your Skill Set

By Jack Singer, Ph.D.

Matt is a financial advisor.  He understands how to make cold calls, how to follow up on leads and referrals and how to offer excellent client service.  Yet, he’s amazed at how much more successful his colleague, Paul, is, since Matt puts much more time and sweat into his work than Paul seems to do.  He wonders what is missing in his approach.

The key difference between Matt and Paul’s approaches is the fact that Paul has trained himself to be an “active listener.” He uses my Active Listening P.R.O.P.O.S.A.L.  not only to help him maximize his client relationships, but it is a powerful technique that helps him communicate effectively with his wife and teenagers as well.

First, whenever you communicate with a prospective client, or, for that matter, with anyone, place yourself at eye level with that person.  If they are sitting, you sit, etc.  Never place yourself above or below the eye level of the speaker.

 Here are the components of my P.R.O.P.O.S.A.L:

P   Probe for understanding.  Your job is to try to understand what your prospective client needs and how you can accommodate those needs.  The only way to show the client that you have exactly the product  and knowledge to satisfy those needs is to ask gentle questions about their goals and hopes. An example is, “If you could picture the ideal financial situation for your family when you are no longer around, please describe what you’d like to see happen.” 

R   Reflect.  The best way to understand your prospective client is to make sure you are listening carefully and the best way to do that is to paraphrase what you heard him say before commenting on it.  An example is, “What I’m hearing is that you want to make sure that your children are well taken care of if you pass on within the next 15 years.”

O   One thing at a time. When you get onto a subject with your prospective client, stick to that.  If she tells you something that sparks an idea for a different product, keep a notebook handy and jot down some notes.  Just listen and comprehend what the prospective client is saying, don’t shuffle papers or start thinking about your response.  Just listen to her.

   Pause.  Regardless of what the person asks, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to answer immediately.  Listen and reflect.  It’s ok to say, “That’s a great question.  Give me a day or so to research several products to find the one that precisely addresses your question.”

  Observe nonverbal behavior.  Many studies point out that only a small percentage of what is “heard” by a listener are the words of the speaker.  Most of what is “heard” by the listener is tone of voice, smiling, facial expressions, vocal inflections, etc. Watch for all of these indices of your client’s mood and attitude.  You might even wait for a pause and make an interpretation of what you are sensing.  An example is, “It feels to me that you are assuming that I am trying to force you to purchase this product.  Is that what’s going on in your head?”

S    Summarize.  You’d be amazed at how much you show the client how much you are listening by simply summarizing what you just heard.  If you have hit the key points in your summary, the client will feel validated and closer to you.  If you missed key points that he is trying to convey, he can feel comfortable correcting you about those points at this time.

A    Acknowledge the message.  By understanding what the listener is saying, doesn’t mean necessarily agreeing with her.  You are simply showing that you hear her concerns.  Example, “Alice, I hear your concerns because of your last experience with a stockbroker. Let me get the information you will need to make you feel good about this.” Always acknowledge the speaker and her position before voicing your opinion.

L   Let the speaker finish.  I, myself, am often in a hurry to address an issue before I forget what I want to say.  Cutting off a speaker will lose you their trust immediately.  Always give them the courtesy of letting them finish a point before you interject yours.  Again, take notes so you won’t forget what you wanted to say.

Advising is all about trust and communications.  If you are genuine and offer products to people that will truly satisfy their needs and desires, they will trust you.  That includes not recommending the most expensive product if you believe it is not right for them.  Nothing gains their trust more than you being an excellent listener.  Using this Active Listening P.R.O.P.O.S.A.L .can dramatically increase your success rate.  Practice this with friends and family.  It’s easy to get the hang of it and it really works!

About the Author:

Jack Singer is a professional speaker, trainer and practicing psychologist. Dr. Jack has been designing re-TREATS, speaking for and training Fortune 1000 companies, associations, CEO’s, financial advisors, sales staffs and elite athletes for 34 years.  He is a frequent guest on CNN, MSNBC, FOX SPORTS and countless radio talk shows across the U.S. and Canada.  He is the author of “The Teacher’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide,” and several series of hypnotic audio programs, some specifically for athletes and others for anyone wanting to raise their self-confidence, esteem and master their anger.

Dr. Jack’s newest program for financial advisors is entitled, “DEVELOPING THE MINDSET OF A CHAMPION ADVISOR DURING UNCERTAIN TIMES:  How to Empower Yourself to Perform Your Best When it Matters the Most!”

To learn more about Dr. Singer’s speaking and consulting services, please visit www.funspeaker.com or call (800) 497-9880.

 

 

Sep 24

Financial Advisors: Building Client Trust

By Dr. Jack Singer | Blog , Financial Advisors

Building Client Trust: The Key to the Financial Advisor’s Success Over the Competition

Building Client Trust: The Key to the Financial Advisor's Success Over the CompetitionAs many of you know, much of my professional speaking focus over the past few years has been on financial advisors, planners and insurance producers.  Accordingly, here are my ideas for how you can skyrocket yourself over the competition.

According to a survey of financial advisors and clients, conducted by the State Street Global Advisors of the Wharton Business School, “trust is the foundation of the advisor-client relationship.” With the prospect of a fee-based system for financial advice looming on the horizon, building this trust is more important than ever if the advisor plans to successfully attract and keep clients. This article is intended to show you exactly how such trust is developed and maintained.

Trust That You Have the Required Knowledge & Ethics

Before a client can have faith that you possess the knowledge and skills that can help him to accomplish his financial goals, you must have faith in yourself.  That may sound odd, but many professionals—including advisors, physicians, attorneys, psychologists and professionals in virtually all professions, suffer from “imposter fear.”  This involves a lack of confidence in your ability to have all of the answers.  Your self-talk may include something akin to,  “if my clients ever knew how much I really don’t know, I’d lose my credibility with them.”

If you have this fear, you need to work through that and be comfortable within your own skin, before you can expect to portray the confidence that will engender client trust.  Becoming comfortable involves realizing that you do not have to have all of the answers immediately when a client asks a question.  It’s fine to tell him you will research the issue and get back with the him.

Sharing with the client about situations, for example, where you steered other clients away from big commission products because they did not suit the client’s needs will show them that above all, you are ethical.  Clients need to feel safe in your care.

Trust That You Really Care About the Client

There is an old saying that “no one cares how much you know until he knows how much you care.”  Think about your relationship with your physician.  Most people feel much more comfortable with a physician who seems to genuinely care about them, versus the obviously brilliant physician who acts cold and impersonal and with whom they feel like just a number.  So, the key goal for raising the trust that clients and potential clients will feel for you is to treat them as you would a member of your family or a friend with whom you are close.  This includes discarding distracting thoughts (such as, “How will I close the deal?”) when you sit down for a meeting.  Focus on truly helping the client to feel comfortable. As the State Street Global Advisors stated in their article, “…the advisor adds real value by focusing not only on a client’s financial well-being, but on the underlying personal and familial issues that could further promote or cripple the client’s financial health.”

For the prospective client, the key is “What’s in it for me if I hire you.”  Always keep the benefits for the client in the forefront.  It’s all about him, not about how great an advisor you believe you are.  Of course, testimonials from some of your clients will help him feel optimistic about what you will accomplish for him, but that information should always follow gaining a clear understanding of what the client needs.

There are six key elements for building this kind of trust:

1) Establish Rapport

Prospective clients will often enter into the initial meeting with you in a negative mood.  This may be based on previous experiences with other advisors or the timing may be wrong and the client is in the middle of other projects and feels pressured.  Watch for body language and tone of voice. Often you can learn more from those two elements of conversation than from the actual words.  If the client seems uneasy, smile and use humor to put him at ease. If he still seems unhappy, put it right on the table.  “You seem distracted (or uncomfortable).  Is this the best time to meet or would you like to reschedule our meeting?”

If proper rapport is not established at the beginning of the first meeting, the client may never be comfortable with you. Smile, position yourself at the same level (sitting or standing, depending on what the client is doing), and slightly lean toward the client, always maintaining eye contact.  Make sure your cell phone is on silent and you can give undivided attention to the client.

2) Take a Genuine Interest

The key word here is “genuine.” In order to gain the trust in you and faith in your recommendations, a client needs to believe that you are keenly interested in helping him to achieve his financial goals.  This means that you need to display empathy when he talks about concerns within his family situation, for example.  Put yourself in his shoes and try to understand what he is telling you from his perspective.  Use the phrase, “I understand” and mean it.

Practice “Active Listening” Techniques

“Active Listening” is a method of intently focusing on the speaker, rather than focusing on what you are going to say next or how you are going to respond to a question.

The best way to understand your prospective client is to make sure you are listening carefully and the best way to do that is to reflect or paraphrase what you heard her say before you comment on it.  An example is, “It sounds like you don’t trust financial advisors because of your last experience.” Always paraphrase back what the client says beforeyou respond.

Smile, when appropriate, and use “I understand” and “uh huh” frequently, along with nodding.

Once the client agrees that you heard his concern correctly, you can respond.  You can practice using this listening skill with your spouse, colleagues or friends to make sure you are truly focused on what the speaker is saying. By the way, learning this skill will undoubtedly enhance your relationships with everyone else in your life, as well!

Often a speaker will make several points before coming up for air, so keep a notebook handy and jot down some notes, so you don’t have to interrupt her.  Don’t shuffle papers or start thinking about your response.  Just listen to her. Regardless of what she asks, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to answer immediately.  Just listen and reflect.  It’s OK to say, “That’s a great question.  Give me a day or so to research our products to find the one that precisely addresses your question.” Cutting off a speaker may lose you the rapport you need to maintain.  Always give her the courtesy of letting them her complete a point before you interject your response.

3) Be Open With the Client

The client needs to know that discussing personal money issues with you will be not only confidential, but you will handle his family issues with empathy and understanding.

It is also important to encourage feedback from the client and if it’s negative, do not get defensive.  Simply thank him for the feedback and tell him you will learn from it.

The most powerful way of gaining someone’s trust is to be open yourself with the client. “I understand how difficult that must be for your family.  I have had to deal with similar issues within my own family.”

Sharing some of your own family’s financial plan to show that you are following the same advice you are suggesting for the client.  Think about it…when you consider purchasing an expensive product, how much more attractive that product sounds to you if the sales person tells you he owns the same product.

4) Be Flexible

One of the most important traits that will endear clients to you is flexibility.  The last thing you want the client feeling is pressured if he cannot make a decision about a product or a plan.  Accommodating the client’s needs is always paramount.

Do not force the client to accept your ideas, even if you believe he is being foolish or naïve in rejecting them.  Help him see other options and be willing to just go with the flow.  This shows ultimate respect for the client.

5) Carefully Hire and Train Your Staff

Because so much of the client’s contacts will be with your assistant and support staff, the client needs to feel exactly the same trust in them.  Therefore, you must carefully hire people who reflect these same values of trust, confidentiality and empathy.  Research with physicians in the U.S. has shown that by far the number one reason that patients move on to another physician is because of their disappointment in their physician’s staff, not because of the physician.  So, even when patients believe that their doctor has not resolved their medical issues, they usually stay with him if they like and trust the staff.  Conversely, when the physician is wonderful, if the staff is not, they often move on.

Being a financial advisor is an admirable and much needed profession.  Paying attention to the trust issues and communicating that trust in your interactions with the client will put you in a position to be continually successful.

Free 20 Minute Telephone Consultation with Psychologist Dr. Jack Singer[linebreak style=”23.png”]

About the Author:

Dr. Jack Singer is a professional speaker, trainer and psychologist. He has been speaking for and training Fortune 1000 companies, associations, CEO’s and elite athletes for 34 years.  Among the association conventions which Dr. Jack has keynoted are those which serve financial planners.

Dr. Jack is a frequent guest on CNN, MSNBC, FOX SPORTS and countless radio talk shows across the U.S. and Canada.  He is the author of “The Teacher’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide,” and several series of hypnotic audio programs, some specifically for athletes and some for anyone wanting to raise their self-confidence and esteem. To learn more about Dr. Singer’s speaking and consulting services, please visit  DrJackSinger.com and FunSpeaker.com or call him in the U.S. at (949) 497-9880.

 

Mar 07

Communication Skills for Financial Advisors

By Dr. Jack Singer | Blog , Financial Advisors

Article originally published in Advisor Perspectives on February 28, 2012.

Communication Skills for Financial Planners from Dr. Jack SingerTo succeed as an advisor, it’s not good enough to have the right products and the right clients. You need to understand your clients’ underlying goals and constraints and to develop an atmosphere of trust and understanding. In the course of my work with numerous advisors, I have found that the “T.R.I.U.M.P.H.S” model effectively develops those skills.

Here’s the difference that model made for a couple of advisors:

Susan had been doing well in her advising career for many years. She understood how to how follow up on leads and referrals and how to offer excellent service to her clients. Yet she was amazed at how much more successful her colleague, Michael, was. She seemed to put a lot more hours and a lot more sweat into her work than Michael did, but Michael’s accounts and new referrals grew much faster than hers. What was she missing?

The key difference between Michael’s approach and Susan’s was the fact that Michael has trained himself to be an “active listener.” He used the T.R.I.U.M.P.H.S. model not only to help him maximize his client services, but also to communicate effectively with his wife and teenage children.

Here are the components of your sales ”triumphs:”

T – Treat your clients and prospects with respect. Developing rapport with prospective clients is a crucial first step. Smile, position yourself at the same level (sitting or standing, depending on what the client is doing), and slightly lean toward him, maintaining eye contact. Make sure your cell phone is on silent; give undivided attention to the client.

Listen to what the client is saying and don’t shuffle papers or start thinking about your response. Just listen to her. Regardless of what she asks, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to answer immediately. It’s ok to say, “That’s a great question. Give me a day or so to research our products to find the one that precisely addresses your question.”Some clients can be long-winded, nervously asking a lot of questions, especially regarding expensive products but cutting off someone may lose you the rapport you need to develop. Always give the speaker the courtesy of finishing a point before you interject yours. Take notes so you won’t forget what you wanted to say.

RReflect back what your client is telling you before you actually respond. The best way to understand a prospective client is to make sure you are listening carefully. The best way to do that is to reflect or paraphrase what you heard her say before you comment on it. An example is, “What I’m hearing is that you are not certain that this product will serve your needs.”

I – “I statements” are powerful. As you paraphrase and reflect back what the client is saying, you can use “I statements,” which are very effective. For example, “I am getting the feeling that you are uncomfortable with this product and would like some other options.” To start with “You” would be much more instinctively threatening for the buyer. Imagine hearing, “You don’t like this product?”

Realize that understanding what the listener is saying doesn’t mean necessarily agreeing with him. You are simply showing that you are hearing his concerns. For example: “Fred, I hear your concerns because of your last experience with a similar product. Let me get the information you will need to make you feel better about this.”Always acknowledge the speaker and his position before voicing yours.

U – Understand the needs and goals of your client. If you are genuine and sell quality products that will truly satisfy your client’s needs and desires, that person will trust you. That includes not selling him the most expensive product if you believe it is not right for her. Nothing earns trust more than being honest.

M – Monitor the tone and mannerisms of the prospective client. Body language is so important that studies point out that only a small percentage of what is “heard” by a listener are the words of the speaker. Most of what we interpret is tone of voice, facial expressions, inflections, hesitations, etc. Watch for all of these indications of your client’s mood and attitude. You might even wait for a moment to interpret what you sense after a client is done speaking. You might say: “I am feeling as if you believe that I am trying to force you to buy this product, Alice. Is that what’s going on in your head?”

P – Probe gently and with respect. Your job is to try to understand what your prospective client needs and how you can accommodate those needs. The only way to show people that you have exactly the product to satisfy those needs is to ask gentle questions about their goals and hopes, as they relate to your product. An example is, “If you could describe the ideal software to solve your business problems, what would you like it to do for you?”

H – Help your client feel safe in the conversation. For major purchases, such as insurance policies and annuities, clients need to feel safe discussing their specific money issues. Gently probing about personal and family situations that affect their pocketbook requires them being able to trust you. This entails ensuring confidentiality and showing genuine concern for their needs. If you expect them to share their biggest fears and insecurities, you must focus in on what they’re saying, be sensitive, and assure them that you will help them to meet their goals.

S – Summarize. You’d be amazed at how you can demonstrate your listening skills by frequently summarizing what you just heard. This will also help you to focus and remember what the speaker is telling you. If you hit the key points in your summary, the speaker will feel validated and closer to you. If you missed key points that he is trying to convey, he can inform you. Practice this with friends and family. It’s easy to get the hang of it, and it really works!

Click here to print original article as a PDF.

 Free 20 Minute Telephone Consultation with Psychologist Dr. Jack Singer

 

Feb 07

What Financial Advisors Can Learn from Eli Manning

By Dr. Jack Singer | Financial Advisors

How to Conquer the Real Threat to Your Success

I don’t know Eli Manning personally. But I know a thing or two about what it takes to become a champion, as he did by winning the Super Bowl on Sunday night.

In my 33 years of experience as a professional sports psychologist, I have counseled and trained many professional football players and world champion athletes. They all face challenges, adversities and setbacks during their careers, but a particular problem for many athletes is “imposter fear” – a psychological obstacle advisors may find familiar.

Imposter fear occurs when – no matter how much confidence or even swagger an athlete may display to teammates, opponents, coaches, or his fans – self-doubt nags at him, and he worries that he will be exposed as inadequate to the challenges he faces. In Eli’s case, he was always compared to his older brother and prior to his previous Super Bowl victory, pundits wondered if his performance under pressure would compare to Tom Brady’s. Advisors can also experience “imposter fear” – worrying that their success owes to luck and somehow they’ve fooled others into believing they are skilled advisors. It’s only a matter of time before that luck runs out and they are exposed. This fear causes performance anxiety and constant fear of failure.

I have helped many athletes overcome their impostor fear and consistently perform at their best. The same set of skills I teach them can help advisors, too.

For example, I was recently invited to consult with a wealth management firm whose president was concerned about inconsistent performance from a large percentage of his advisors. Moreover, because of the ailing economy and a roller-coaster stock market, his assets under management were declining sharply.

Following a series of confidential interviews with a broad sample of advisors in the firm, it became clear to me that many suffered from anxiety, because of the harsh market conditions and because of the president’s high performance expectations, but also because they harbored their own internal insecurities. I designed a series of training programs to teach the advisors how to recognize and overcome their fears, maintain an optimistic and proactive approach with their clients, use active listening skills, overcome stress and anxiety related to their job and ultimately lead to their clients directing new referrals to them.

But the most important issue I helped these advisors overcome? You guessed it: impostor fear.

Understand your fear, take charge of your fear

What Advisors Can Learn from Eli Manning  How to Conquer the Real Threat to Your Success by Jack Singer, Ph.D. Most advisors project confidence, but if they are honest with themselves, they will acknowledge having insecurities – reluctance to contact clients during market collapses, for example, or fear they won’t be able to answer a client’s question. Such doubts raise their anxiety level when they come to the office and find that the market is tanking. This is imposter fear.

Like most fears, the “imposter fear” is based on false beliefs; in this case that you are really not as competent as you appear. The most effective way to eradicate any fear is to understand the distorted thinking that causes it in the first place.

It’s not the economy or stock market that determines how confident or insecure you feel in your advisory practice. It is your internal dialogue, or your “self talk” about these issues, that determines whether you will thrive or struggle during difficult times.

That little voice in your head is what I call your “internal critic,” and most of the time it fills you with self-doubt.

Let’s take an example of my work with advisors at the firm I mentioned earlier. Matt (not his real name) worked in the firm for seven years. His performance was inconsistent, and his manager put him on notice that he needed to improve – the roller-coaster stock market notwithstanding. Like many people with “imposter fear,” Matt admitted to me that he frequently told himself: “I’m not as good an advisor as everyone says thinks I am. Now my boss has figured that out.” This is a textbook example of self-limiting thoughts, a crucial mental roadblock that many encounter when they experience stress.

Other examples of negative, self-limiting thoughts we often use are those that begin with…“What if…” “I hope I don’t…” ”I should have …” “I always have problems with…” and “I probably won’t be able to…”

I taught Matt to catch himself thinking such negative thoughts. In response, I had him make a fist as a reminder to “STOP thinking this way,” then take a few, deep, calming breaths, release the fist, relax, and proceed to substitute a more positive and optimistic thought. This technique only takes seconds, and it works instantly!

The key here was Matt’s ability to recognize his negative thinking. That recognition let him consciously substitute a more realistic counter-thought, such as:

“The fact that my manager has put me on notice doesn’t mean I am not cut out for this career. I’ve had many successful years in this business. I can use my creative ability to work with my clients in a proactive way, before the market tanks. I will gain their trust and show them how they can make money by making smart purchases in a down market. As a result, they will continue to do business with me, despite the stock market fluctuations, and my numbers will grow and be much more consistent.”

Kristen, an alias for another advisor in the firm, would think negatively whenever she was prospecting for new clients. She might ask herself, “What if the prospective client doesn’t commit to working with me after I discuss his situation with him?”I taught her to change this negative thinking habit with the following:“STOP this foolish thinking right now.” (Make a fist. Take a few relaxing breaths. Release the fist.) “Just relax. I don’t have to have 100% success in order to feel good about my skills. It’s a numbers game. If this one doesn’t pan out, I will have another opportunity. Just keep plugging away, I know I will get more clients.”

Just like Matt, once Kristen practiced this thought-stopping technique, she found herself much less anxious and much more confidant.

It is also helpful to keep a written record or journal detailing your successes and accomplishments during each workday. This is important because so many people, at the end of a long day, obsess about what they did wrong or what they did not accomplish. After games, successful athletes focus on what they did accomplish and build on that, rather than obsess over mistakes or missed opportunities.

Remaining optimistic after setbacks

Every athlete experiences adversity, as does every advisor. You lose clients; you struggle with a tough question. Successful advisors don’t expect to be perfect, but they fully expect to do well, regardless of the economy, the stock market, new fiduciary regulations – whatever stumbling blocks will inevitably lie in their way. They recognize that losing a client is all part of being in the business. They don’t let setbacks overshadow their accomplishments.

Advisors with positive expectations develop positive self-fulfilling prophecies and succeed most of the time. Reflecting on recent successes and achievements is a much better idea than obsessing over failures or setbacks. With practice, thought-stopping can help you convert negative thought processes into this kind of positive thinking.

Two months after I conducted the training program I describe above, I conducted another round of interviews with the advisors. Most were able to get in touch with the thoughts that were driving their imposter doubts and were using thought-stopping and counter-thought techniques to eradicate their fears. Both their morale and their numbers improved dramatically, even though the stock market remained just as volatile as it had been when they struggled.

As accomplished as he is, even Eli Manning surely had flashes of self-doubt as he prepared to take the field on Sunday night, and likely more in moments when the breaks didn’t seem to be going his way. What makes a successful quarterback is the ability to build off successes and forget about mistakes. Eli Manning became a world champion by learning to banish his doubts. What potential can those same skills help you unlock?