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Sara Gilbert, business strategist and certified coach with Strategist Business Development in Montreal.Handout

Communication is at the heart of every relationship – and the relationships you’re building with your clients, prospective clients and centres of influence are no exception.

Do you want to enhance client loyalty? Increase referrals? Create a “wow” experience for your clients? Start by communicating better. When you learn how to do that, you’re able to have a greater influence and help your clients reach their goals.

The good news is that words are free. You just need to stop and pay attention to how people talk, beyond the words they use. That’s what really matters. How people talk is a reflection of how they think, what they believe and, ultimately, how they behave. It’s the doorway to their mindset.

An approach I use with financial advisors to help them improve their communication – and one you can begin using today – is applying the theory of social styles.

Based on the work of two industrial psychologists, Roger Reid and David Merrill, this theory focuses on the differences in individuals’ behaviour. This approach distinguishes four major social styles. Each of us has a social style that does not vary. This does not mean that we cannot change according to context, but it will always remain a dominant style in our behaviour.

Learning the four major social styles is a great way for advisors to understand their clients’ behaviour – and, incidentally, their own – as well as to optimize their communications.

Here is a closer look at the four social styles, including the focus of people in each group, their body language and how they communicate:

1. Driver

Focus: On results and action.

Body language: These people are high energy; self-confident; tend to have fast, jerky gestures; appear authoritarian and decided.

How they communicate: Drivers make brief and categorical interventions; focus on facts, results, solutions and decisions; and tend to talk fast with a high tone.

2. Analytical

Focus: On facts and data.

Body language: They’re controlled; mimic others; have reduced facial expressions and limited gestures.

How they communicate: They speak with long sentences, facts, data, logic, plans and procedures; articulate clearly; and use a tone of voice with few variations.

3. Amiable

Focus: On individuals and the team.

Body language: These individuals have a caring and welcoming expression; smile; have pleasant expressions; harmonious and limited gestures.

How they communicate: They speak with tact; are good listeners; often bring up the topics of spirit and teamwork, values and emotions; use a sweet, warm tone of voice.

4. Expressive

Focus: On innovation and initiatives.

Body language: They tend to be intense; make large body motions with various gestures; use many facial expressions.

How they communicate: Expressive people are enthusiastic and bring creative interventions; talk in analogies and metaphors; bring up ideas that are innovative and creative; use a tone of voice that’s quite fast and lively; are never neutral.

You have most likely recognized which one of the four social styles most applies to you. We all have a little bit of each style within us, but we have a dominant style.

So, what does this have to do with your business and the way you communicate with clients? Understanding your social style also allows you to understand the social style of others.

For example, let’s say your style is that of a “driver” and your client has an “analytical” style. You’ll talk fast, explain key concepts and expect your client to say “yes” on the spot to the strategy you’re proposing. But the thing is, this communication style doesn’t work for your analytical client, as she needs time to reflect, research and gather data.

By you staying in your social style, you’re actually repelling a client instead of influencing her decisions.

What you need to do is understand your social style, detect the social style of the person in front of you and talk to the individual in her style.

Going back to my example with the “driver” advisor and “analytical” client, the advisor could do one of the following:

  • Send the client information ahead of time before their meeting.
  • Give the client time to digest information and ask if it’s okay to call them in a week to continue the conversation.
  • Provide data, research and statistics to back up the proposed strategy.

When you communicate with your client in her style, you’ll build greater rapport and send the unconscious signal that “We talk alike, so we’re alike.” That will enhance your likeability and trust factor with the client rapidly.

So, next time you sit down with a client, potential client or a centre of influence, get out of your communication style, enter theirs and you’ll see a drastic transformation of the impact you have on helping them reach their goals.

Sara Gilbert, business strategist and certified coach with Strategist Business Development in Montreal, helps financial advisors implement tailored business-development strategies to grow their businesses and to attract, grow and retain clients.