In 1965 recording artist Otis Redding released a song he had written called Respect. Aretha Franklin re-arranged the song from that of “a plea from a desperate man”1 to “a declaration from a strong, confident woman.”1 The song became a 1967 hit and a signature song for Franklin.
All around the world people became familiar with Franklin’s innovative addition to Redding’s song:
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T—Find out what it means to me!”
People are occasionally singing this song still today, but it seems to this writer that many elements of society have generally forgotten what respect means. In particular, there is a paucity of respect shown to others in social media. It does not have to be this way. Respect for others starts with each of us doing our part. I have made a personal commitment to contribute positively to conversations, interactions and to make respectful contributions on social media.
Climbing down off my soapbox, I want to urge you to consider how you are demonstrating respect for others in your work.
Respect for clients and prospects
Aretha Franklin sang:
“I’m about to give you all of my money—And all I’m askin’ in return, honey—Is to give me my propers...”
As an independent financial professional, you ask clients/prospects to trust you to guide them regarding their money, whether that’s with their life insurance, an annuity or otherwise. In return, are you giving them their “propers?”
Six habits that demonstrate respect to your clients/prospects
1. Respect their time!
a. Ask yourself, “Have I formed the habit of always sending an agenda before every appointment and client meeting?” An agenda allows others to know what will be discussed. It communicates respect for another’s time. It also helps you control the conversation, stay focused and achieve your objectives.
b. Be prompt! “Remember, they are sacrificing their time for you. Don’t make them wait. Show up to your scheduled meeting on time, be prepared and don’t drag your message longer than it needs to be. Sometimes the quicker the better, get to the point and be respectful of their time.”2
c. Send follow-up notes that summarize the conversation, decisions made and next steps.
a. Construct your agenda items to indicate your commitment to listen. Examples:
b. Show humility. “Respect for your customers is essential to marketing success. Respect requires listening and it requires humility. One of the New York window washers who founded Snapple® put it like this: ‘We never thought of ourselves as any better than our customers.’”3
c. Discover what they know. Your clients/prospects have access to unlimited information and are habitually looking for it. Pay them the compliment of seeking what they have discovered. You will find that most people are not seeking more information, but rather, understanding.
3. Remember your customer’s name!
a. “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”—Dale Carnegie
b. Use their name at the beginning and end of a conversation with them.
c. For difficult names, ask for a pronunciation.
d. Do not call them by a nickname unless they have agreed to this. You can always ask “And you like to be called Michael, not Mike, right?”
e. Use their name when asking “tie-down” questions to verify that the client understands the explanations you provide when presenting potential solutions. (Examples: “Rachel, do you know what I mean?” “Wouldn’t you agree, Nabeel?”)
4. Remember your client’s preferences!
a. Given a client’s occupation, family situation, shift hours and other commitments, there are certain days, and times of day, that are inconvenient. Learn these and remember them when scheduling future conversations.
b. People prefer to be contacted in various means. Some want to receive a phone call. Others prefer texting. Email is preferred by others.
c. Meeting in their personal homes is awkward for some people, while meeting in offices is intimidating to others. It is not unusual for people to prefer meetings in coffee shops.
Keep your commitments! Ask yourself these questions:4
a. Am I following up with my clients annually for a “client review” to ensure that their evolving needs are met?
b. Do I treat every client with respect at all times by keeping them as a priority in my frequent contacts?
c. How many connection points do I have with my clients? (Facebook, Twitter, texting, phone calls, face-to-face, FaceTime, Snapchat, etc.)
d. Am I sending a thank you note and small token of appreciation when a client provides me with a referral?
e. Do I honor my commitments to my clients?
Ask for their feedback!
a. When you ask a client for feedback, it communicates respect. Seeking your client’s viewpoints implies that you will take them into consideration when refining your process.
b. Ask your clients, “How important were each of the following attributes in your decision to purchase the product/service?”
Showing respect to your clients/prospects is vital to your success. It can be as simple as complimenting them on a choice they made during the appointment, or as profound as showing up in person when the unexpected happens. “Respecting the customer is really just treating them the way you would like to be treated.”5
In his novel Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be.”
You care about making a difference in your clients’ lives. You may not be able to truly love every single one. Perhaps the greatest impact you can have is to show all of them respect. They may not be finding it in very many places.
The opinions and ideas expressed by Dave Murphy are his own and not necessarily those of North American Company for Life and Health Insurance or its affiliates and they do not endorse or promote these opinions and ideas.
David J. Murphy
CLU, ChFC, FLMI, is sales vice president, national accounts, for North American Company. Murphy sold insurance after graduating from Miami University with a BA in economics. After several years as an agent he worked in marketing, advanced sales, product development, career-agency development, illustration design and distribution, agency management, agent recruiting and BGA recruiting. Murphy currently manages a region comprised of four states and 21 partner MGAs, and he also manages the company's eight national account relationships. Murphy can be reached at North American Company, 553 Meadowtrail Court, Cincinnati, OH 45231. Telephone: 800-800-3656, ext. 87612. Email: dmurphy@SFGmembers.com.