First, humor me 95 words to set the stage:
In the classic Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet, there is a scene which contains a line spoken by the distraught Danish Prince that offers the performing actor a chance to put his stamp on Hamlet in a unique way through his delivery:
Polonius: “What do you read, my lord?”
Hamlet: “Words, words, words.”
The actor’s performance of this one simple word said three times is often the subject of much analysis by audiences and critics. This is ironic since most interpretations and subsequent deliveries suggest that Hamlet is saying that the words he is reading are meaningless.
Meaningless words: we’ve all heard or read a few, haven’t we? Even if you’re not familiar with Hamlet, we’ve all heard the adages, “talk is cheap,” and, “actions speak louder than words”. All of these get to the same idea. On their own, words are often meaningless.
My Strong Belief
I have a very strong belief. It is one that I’ve held for a very long time. Ready? Here it goes…
Most brokers talk too much.
Way too much. Some of you reading this may be snickering right now, fueled by a knowing, “tell me about it!” sentiment. So, why even mention this? Am I looking to disparage my industry brethren? Certainly not. Rather, I’d like to suggest, for the benefit of brokers and clients alike, what we at Daniels Trading have discovered as the cornerstone of a positive broker/client relationship: clients and potential clients must be heard.
I understand why brokers talk too much because initially I was exactly the same way. Back in 1996, when I was getting started as a broker, I would stay late at night prospecting for new business. This was before the explosion of the internet, so there were no websites that potential clients could peruse to learn more about a firm. Much of what was officially conveyed was still done by snail-mailed brochures. Even still, during virtually all of my conversations I would go to great lengths to explain every nook and cranny of detail about me, the firm where I worked, and our approach to the markets. It was quite a monologue, or words, words, words. For the most part, people were polite, if not always engaged. If a conversation seemed to go well, I’d hang up the phone and immediately congratulate myself, often by declaring, “Great job, Ken! You told him everything. He really understands everything about you and the firm!”
Over time I began to realize that I had it completely backwards. My potential client should have hung up the phone feeling that I understood everything that was relevant about him. Did my words matter at all to him? Which ones mattered most? I didn’t know. I never asked. Did he use his words to help me to understand what was important to him, what he needed? I never let him. Although my intentions were good, my words, words, words were a bulldozer that actually shut my potential client out. In terms of working to establish a client-focused relationship, my words were meaningless and, if anything, they did more harm.
The Same Mistakes Continue Today
I believe the previous story relates to how much of “the street” still operates. It is often well intentioned. I’m going to fill you in on a secret: brokers want desperately to demonstrate their competence. The easiest path is to use words, and lots of them. So they talk about everything under the sun. This is what I call competence through word attrition. If you’re reading this article, I’m confident you’ve been on the other end of a similar call. Is it worthwhile for you? How much of what is said is directly relevant to your circumstances, objectives, and concerns? How much of it was completely unnecessary? Did you hang up feeling relieved to be off the phone? Or, did you hang up with a sense of having been heard and more knowledgeable and confident about how to handle your individual circumstances?
It’s All About You!
When is talking too much? There’s no set rule, as every conversation and person is different. But here’s a question: are you being heard? You’re the potential client or customer. Take the time to consider that our entire relationship starts at the nexus of your needs and our services. Given that, not only are your words never meaningless, they’re the basis for our entire relationship. When you consider this dynamic, you’ll understand why Senior Broker Craig Turner frequently states on the phone, “the more I understand about how you want things to work, the happier you’re going to be working with us.” Now those are some words with meaning. The result? Through the power of your words you will articulate, perhaps for the first time, exactly what you’d like and need from our relationship. Having such a required conversation isn’t always easy, but it often leads to new discoveries and confidence for both you and your broker. It is the job of every Daniels Trading representative to have conversations active in this approach, and we believe it is both rare and refreshing in our industry.
The Right Message at the Right Moment
There is a time for relevant, targeted words from your broker, of course, and they absolutely matter in that moment. They matter in times of trouble and success; in times for guidance, encouragement and caution; in times that call for true professionalism and competence. However, are more words better? Usually not. It sounds cliché to say quality over quantity, but in the situations above, it is often true. If you think about it, some of the best messages we’ve ever received have been simple, direct, and well-timed when we needed it. And in my mind, that’s a stark contrast to the meaningless word attrition that is so often brought to the table during such important moments.
How It Should Be
Consider the good and bad conversations you’ve had in the past. Then consider if you trusted the other person based on the content of those conversations. In the realm of your relationship with your futures broker, how often do you hang up the phone thinking the following:
- I was heard
- My broker understands
- I know more than I did before we spoke
- I know where to go from here
The sentiments above are the telltale signs of a productive conversation driven by your words and broker restraint. Don’t stand for anything less.
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