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Surprise and Delight

When you gather intelligence—when you ask questions and really listen to the answers—you’ll discover your prospects’ “passion points.”

By Matt Oechsli

As you battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of your best prospects, keep in mind that intelligence gathering is one of the most valuable tools at your disposal. When you gather intelligence—when you ask questions and really listen to the answers—you’ll discover your prospects’ “passion points.” If you were trying to win my business, for example, it would help to know that I’m a diehard Atlanta Braves fan and that I’m an avid reader of history.

What do you do with all this information? For one thing, you should always be thinking about unique gifts that will elicit a “surprise and delight” reaction from prospects—surprise upon realizing that you were really listening, and delight that you actually bought such a nice gift. Sooner or later, the law of reciprocity generally kicks in, leading you to gain more referrals and introductions.

Surprise and delight
To uncover “surprise and delight” information, follow several simple rules. First, talk 20 percent of the time and listen for the remainder. Second, “tee-up” the client by asking about their favorite subject—themselves.

For example, let’s say you’re meeting with a client couple for a review. You ask how their summer’s been going and they mention their recent trip to Spain. At this point in the conversation, most advisors—most people—would be tempted to show how smart they are by referencing their knowledge of Spain or by talking about their own experiences abroad. Don’t fall victim to the same temptation! Instead, ask about their trip. More often than not, you’ll uncover two things: names within their center of influence and “surprise and delight” information.

To maximize those chances, the most important thing to remember is to follow up on their answers. For instance, to gather names within their center of influence, you might ask any of the following questions: “Who’d you go with?” “Did you meet anyone interesting?” “Did you know anyone who’d been there before?” “Would you recommend Spain to friends?” “What made you choose Spain?” “So, your neighbors recommended Spain—how many times have they been?” “How long have you known them?” “What do they do?”

To uncover “surprise and delight” information, you might ask: “Why did you choose to vacation in Spain?” “What attractions or activities most appealed to you?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” “If you go back, what would you want to see again?” “What was your least favorite part of the trip?” “What did you miss most about America?”

Additionally, everybody has a digital camera these days; ask to see their vacation photos. If you’re really on the ball, you can ask them to email a few of their favorite pictures and then frame the pictures for them—a great “surprise and delight” gift. You can even engrave the frame “Spain 2007.” An inexpensive frame with engraving will only cost you $20-$40 and will create a lifetime of client loyalty.

One result
An advisor we coach at the Oechsli Institute recently shared a story of personal success. During a semi-annual review with one of his clients, a retired physician, the advisor asked about the client’s summer plans. The client mentioned he was going to take a golfing trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. The advisor asked whom he was going with and how he knew those individuals. It became apparent the trip was hastily planned. Realizing as much, the advisor later purchased a $15 golf course guide to Myrtle Beach and hand-delivered it to his client a few days before the trip. It turns out the guide came in very handy and the physician couldn’t thank the advisor enough.

Weeks later, the physician invited the advisor to play golf with a couple of the same friends who’d gone on the trip with him—also retired physicians and ideal prospects. In the end, a $15 book turned into two personal introductions simply because the advisor had listened up front.

Matt Oechsli is president of the Oechsli Institute, a research and consulting firm that specializes in helping financial professionals attract, service and retain affluent clients. For Information on upcoming Rainmaker Weekends and workshops, visit or call 800-883-6582.



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