Communication Strategies

Communication Strategies in a Virtual Environment

Published July 28th, 2020 in Blog |

The current virtual environment has created a great opportunity for advisors. A lot of the barriers that usually make it hard to reach clients are actually down right now. Six months ago, hosting an in-person seminar or meeting presented many potential restraints that don’t exist anymore.

On the advisor side, it’s become easier to find time, schedule more meetings, and be more available.

On the client and prospect side, the typical things that can demotivate people from attending are also lifted, like having to leave the house, fighting traffic, finding childcare, or interrupting the workday for a meeting.

Because of the several crises we’re facing right now, people are also more open to new things. More people are willing to seek advice today, and people who are already being advised are more open to second opinions.

In a recent Rainmaker Multiplier On-Demand podcast episode, host Jason L Smith sits down with master speaker, Pat Quinn, to discuss the opportunities advisors should be taking advantage of during this time when it may seem difficult to see opportunity at all. They discuss the importance of advisor confidence, both in the message you present and the delivery of that presentation. Quinn discusses some effective and actionable strategies for communicating in a virtual world – what elements of your communications should remain the same online and what should change.

What Needs to Stay the Same

According to Quinn, what needs to stay the same with online communications is something a lot of people miss. The most important thing that needs to stay the same is that you continue to have a structure to your presentation. Whether you are presenting one-on-one or one-on-many, Quinn suggests a simple, four-part structure:

  1. Heart: The opening of your presentation is when you have an opportunity to connect with your audience. The opening is not the time to dive into your content or read your resume, but a time to connect at a human level. This is when you tell a relatable story or anecdote that draws your audience in by sharing a common experience.
  2. Head: The second part of your presentation is where you present your content. This is referred to as “the head” because it’s the part of the presentation where you actually help the audience with real solutions. The goal is not to just try to sell them something or only describe the problem, rather it’s about giving real help. Real help doesn’t change whether you are presenting in person or online.
  3. Hands: The third part is the call-to-action. This is called “the hands” because you’re actually going to ask your audience to do something. For many advisors, in their initial presentation, this is where you suggest that first appointment to meet in person or schedule a Zoom meeting.
  4. Heart: A lot of people make the mistake of ending with their call-to-action. This a mistake because there are two types of decision makers in your audience – tactical decision makers and emotional decision makers. If you end with your tactical call-to-action, you’re leaving 50% of your potential clients behind. This is why you want to have a fourth part to your presentation, which is a closing heart story.

When you put the four parts together, it’s heart, head, hands and heart, and the purpose of that closing heart story is so the emotional decision makers will also feel comfortable moving forward with you. Ultimately, it’s the speaker who can balance focusing on tactics and emotions who will get the maximum number of new clients to sign up for that first call – the speaker who can tactically tell people what the solution is and emotionally tell them how it will feel.

If you are working with couples, Quinn points out that most married couples are comprised of one tactical decision maker and one emotional decision maker. Since either of the two can say no to what you’re pitching, you need to get good at both of these approaches to appeal to both types of individuals.

What Needs to Change

What advisors should change right now is the specific stories in that opening heart sequence. Quinn says, whereas he used to advise presenters to tell any connecting story that really shows why they do what they do, he’s finding now that audiences are connecting better with stories from the last few months.

“I’ll honestly tell you, there’s never been a better time in the world to build connection than right now. Is there another time in the world when we all have experienced the same thing at the same time? Usually, even if we’re experiencing the same thing, we’re watching it on different news channels, so we’re experiencing it completely differently. But in the last 60-90 days, the entire world has been experiencing the same thing: shortages of certain things, more time at home, lack of being able to go to the social places that we go, washing our hands a lot more than we used to. And so, we want a story that shows that I’m experiencing it.”

Your heart story doesn’t have to be about an amazing, life-changing moment. Most people will connect better with everyday stories. There is also no need right now to create a great sense of urgency for your audience. People are already feeling panicked, and they are coming to you to be a calming, solution-oriented voice for them.

So, in addition to changing what story you tell, also think about changing how you tell it. You don’t want to scare people more than they already are. People are afraid for their health right now. They are also fearing a global recession. It’s important to pay attention to and modify your nonverbal communication approach to one that is calm, comforting and safe. You can do this by consciously slowing down the pace of your voice or by lowering the tone of your voice.

Another way to create a feeling of calm for your audience is to remind them that they are in control of their own financial futures. It isn’t chance, or the President, or the pandemic that will decide how their retirements look. The actions they take and the decisions they make will determine the outlook of their retirements after current circumstances subside. This is an important way to stand out to potential and current clients because while other advisors may be saying, “Wow, we don’t know what the future holds, we don’t know what Congress is going to do, we don’t know how long the virus is going to last…” you can be the voice that reminds people things are under control. People’s next moves and the results of those moves are more in their control than they realize.

Measuring Success

Whether or not you change the rest of the content in your presentation is up to you. According to Quinn, some advisors are changing that content and some are not. Some advisors have adjusted their presentation titles or topics to things like “How to Survive in a Crisis” or “Investing in a Pandemic.” However, the larger issues people are worried about haven’t really changed. People are still asking the same basic questions – Do I have enough money? Will my money last? Will I outlive my money? Will my beneficiaries be taken care of?

The universal topics of income in retirement, protecting your money in a volatile environment, paying as little taxes as possible, have all stayed the same. Changing the second part of your presentation is not as critical as changing the initial story that helps connect your audience to that content. Those stories are the bridge that allow the audience to see themselves in your content.

That connection is critical because ultimately your measure of success will not be how many people come up to you and tell you how good your presentation is, it will be how many people want to work with you because of your presentation. That’s the only measure of success that matters. So, you want to build things into every presentation and into every conversation that cause the audience to want to engage with you to have that first meeting, and to have the next meeting after that.

Conclusion

Quinn goes on to share more actionable tips for succeeding at virtual communications. Perhaps the most important one is to “just do it.” You can’t have a second seminar until you have a first one. If you are waiting to get perfect at this before putting yourself out there, you are never going to get to where you want to be. By your third or fourth seminar, you will be significantly better than you were when you started. Don’t be afraid to test out different things to see what works best each time.

For the rest of Quinn’s tips, more practical communication strategies, and an overview of the research on which these strategies are based, listen to the full podcast here.


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Dave Alison

Article Author

Dave Alison

Dave Alison, CFP®, EA is a founding partner of C2P Enterprises, driving a vision to help financial advisors across the United States simplify financial planning. Dave’s professional capabilities to coordinate tax, financial, insurance and estate planning needs are what led him to found Alison Wealth Management as a boutique tax, financial planning & investment management firm bringing household CFO services to affluent families & high-income professionals across the United States.

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