Seeing Through Your Clients’ Eyes

Greek Philosopher, Epictetus, mused, “What concerns me is not the way things are, but rather the way people think things are.”

My daughter Leah owns a cat. Her name is Holly. Holly looks intently at me when I am sitting with her and petting her. Those eyes!

Cats are predators that need to be able to sense movement well, and they are nocturnal, so they also need to see well in very low light. “Humans have a 20-degree range of peripheral vision on each side. Cats can see 30 degrees on each side. Their visual field overall is just bigger—they see 200 degrees compared to our 180 degrees.”1 And yet, humans have better distance vision. Cats have to be roughly 20 feet away from something in order to clearly see something we can see sharply from 100 feet away.

Photo courtesy of Leah Perry, 2023.

All mammalian eyes contain photoreceptors that convert light rays into electrical signals. These signals travel via nerve cells to the brain, where they are translated into the images we see. There are two types of photoreceptors: Rods and cones. “Rods are responsible for peripheral and night vision. They detect brightness and shades of gray. Cones are responsible for day vision and color perception.”2

Cats have a low concentration of cone receptors. “Cats can see blue and yellow colors, but not red, orange or brown.”3 Although somewhat color blind, cats’ eyes have more rods, and consequently see approximately six times better than humans in the dark. In addition, their pupils are elliptical and can open widely in dim light. Like owls, cats have a tapetum lucidum, the reflective layer of tissue that bounces light from the cornea back to the retina again for a second chance to be absorbed by the rods. The tapetum lucidum gives cats those terrifyingly glowing eyes in the dark. It is also why they can careen crazily all around the apartment or house at night.

All this weirdness is what makes me nervous when I look deeply into the eyes of my daughter’s beloved feline.

Point: Scientists have collaborated to study how cat vison compares to human eyesight in order to better understand their perspectives that lead to their behaviors.

Seeing through Your Clients’ Eyes
The human eye is a miracle of engineering. The eye has amazing wavelength sensing, in the form of color discrimination. “Photopigments are made of a protein called opsin and a molecule that’s sensitive to light. This molecule is known as 11-cis retinal. Different types of photopigments react to certain color wavelengths that they’re sensitive to, which results in your ability to perceive those colors.”4 It is estimated that humans can see about one million colors.

While all that is fascinating and useful, the human brain is not always able to conclude what it is the eyes are reporting. Much of what we perceive through our eyes is repetitive. We have seen it before. We know its relative size, textures, shapes, and colors. We know which direction it is traveling. Sometimes, however, we see something unfamiliar. Perhaps it is familiar but just out of place. That is when we must use “mental rotation.”

Mental rotation helps us recognize objects in their environment. “Mental rotation can be described as the brain moving objects in order to help understand what they are and where they belong.”5 This is a skill that happens automatically sometimes, but in other circumstances, takes hard work.

Mental rotation is required for us to virtually see things from another person’s perspective. It begins with imagining we were them. We need to form a mental image of how the world looks to another person. As we interact with other people, we are more effective when we understand how the world looks from their point of view.

Simple examples:

  • When we are reading books to children, we know how to hold the book so they can see the pages.
  • When we are presenting before an audience we know how to move, where to stand, and how loudly to project our voice because we imagine we are sitting where they are.
  • When we are sitting in rows, and everyone is asked to stand, we each make sure to tuck in our shirt or smooth our skirt, because we know what it is to sit behind other people.

Matching Vision with Client Perspective
You likely have a vision statement or mission statement. In whose voice is it told? One wealth management firm states their purpose as follows: “We are committed to helping you pursue your long-term financial goals. As specialists in retirement planning and estate conservation, we can help you answer the questions you may have about your financial future.”


  • Number of times first person pronouns are used: Twice. (We)
  • Number of times second person pronouns are used: Five. (You, Your)

Contrast the above to this: “We make lives better by solving the financial challenges of our changing world.” The client might very well wonder, “What does this have to do with me?”

Client’s expectations change quickly. To see things the way clients do requires constantly thinking about the client experience. Seeing through the clients’ eyes starts with knowing what new and creative ways can be created in order to take great care of those clients. The client must be at the center of every single interaction and decision, and abundantly present in the vision statement.

Perception is largely a matter of expectation. If the clients’ expectations are met or exceeded, they perceive the service or product received as excellent. This, then, demands that we understand their expectations.

Business Needs and Priorities
Many independent financial professionals (IFPs) look at their clients through the eyes of their own corporate needs, or the needs of their financial services businesses. This is revealed by how success is measured. Consider these metrics:

  • Assets Under Management
  • Average Revenue Per Client
  • Net Profit Margin

It is understood that all of us are in business to make a profit. We all know that the lesson of Nature is you are either Growing, Dying, or Dead. Still, what if, instead of the usual profit and growth metrics, IFPs measured the following:

  • Percentage of recommendations that are implemented
  • Time horizon it takes for them to be implemented
  • Average gain in invested assets per client
  • Average rate of return enjoyed by clients this quarter
  • New lives insured for life Insurance
  • New lives insured for disability income
  • New lives insured for long term care
  • Number of clients who transitioned successfully into retirement
  • Number of new clients referred by existing clients

Point: How you keep score influences how you see. Your ability to see through your clients’ eyes is directly proportional to what you measure.

Be Where They Are
Many IFPs make elements of their service overly-complicated and confusing. Clients want things simple, quick, and easy. The beginning of client-centric vision is summarized in four simple words: Be where they are.


  1. Ask yourself, “Do my clients know the sound of my voice?” Similarly, if your clients saw you at a sports event or restaurant, would they recognize you? How personally relatable are you?
  2. “If you have an audience online, be where they are. This is especially true with your website. Make sure that you visit each page, use the contact us forms, walk through the purchasing process online, etc. If you have a live messaging system, have you used it first? Outside of your website are you visible on social media? Your business will need a platform where your customers can voice their concerns, sing your praises, and where you can inform them about new things your business is doing, and capture their attention not just so they will buy from you, but so that they will feel connected to you and even share your business with others.”6
  3. Try sitting in the chairs reserved for clients. Have someone sit behind your desk or on the side of the table you usually sit on. Ask them to act like you. What do you see? What is behind you where you normally sit? Is it distracting? Where does the light come from? Is it ample? Are windows in line of sight? Can the clients look at people passing outside your office?
  4. Ask a trusted friend to stop by your offices unannounced. Request an evaluation of the following:
    • How were you greeted?
    • What was your first impression of the offices?
    • How soon were you attended to?
    • Would you describe the environment as warm?
  5. Practice reviewing documents upside down for you. When an object is placed upside down for the person opposite, it makes it harder for that person to fully comprehend it.
  6. Video yourself in a client meeting. What is your posture? How useful or distracting are your hand motions?

The truest way to see as the client sees is to try to apprehend what the client feels when working with you. This requires both empathy and imagination. The first step is to create your own sense of fresh awareness about your business practices. Knowing how you yourself feel when you are receiving advice, looking for solutions, or making a purchasing decision, how do your services compare? What do you imagine people feeling when they contrast your services with their universe of experiences?

Client Journeys
When your life intersects with a prospect’s life, your encounter is only one of dozens of interactions impacting their reality. Each person’s life is a journey. Your encounter can become nothing more than a scenic overlook, a rest stop, or a flat tire; or conversely, through the art of creating connection, a delightful destination.

The client’s journey has a clearly defined beginning and will eventually reach an end, but at present their life spans a spectrum of multiple touchpoints. One way to stand out is simply by providing a friendly experience. If you want to provide friendly service, hire friendly people. Ask the people who see you in your work life if you are someone worthy of the adjective—friendly.

Simple test: Listen for laughter in your office.

The Walt Disney Company has a common purpose that drives all of their employees: “We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere.” Happiness is a big objective, especially if you are targeting “people of all ages.”

IFPs need not aim quite so high. Rather than seeking to provide happiness to all clients, IFPs can strive to contribute the following to their clients’ journeys:

  • Replace negative or anxious feelings about their financial lives with positive direction.
  • Help clients successfully and confidently navigate the different stages of their financial lives.
  • Diminish their clients perceived snail’s crawl toward financial milestones by engendering a feeling of progress.
  • Place the client in the secure position as decision maker by providing simple options that give them a feeling of control and choice.

Sometimes to see things the way our clients see them, we need to make a mental rotation.
The artist Paul Klee once said, “The painter should not paint what he sees, but what will be seen.”

As an independent financial services professional, it can be easy to forget that you are actually serving your clients and not the other way around. IFPs work hard to build a successful clientele but sometimes forget that that is the goal. Clients get lost in the urgency to achieve profits, productivity, and prominence.

If a strong clientele is desired, the clientele needs first to be seen.



CLU, ChFC, FLMI, is a director, vice president, team leader, speaker and mentor for Global Leadership Partners.

For nearly four decades Murphy worked in the financial services industry, and has held positions in sales, marketing, product development, training and development, distribution, agency management, and recruiting. In his latest role he was responsible for managing National Account relationships. In this role he shared business leadership and practice management concepts with business owners, marketing organizations and independent financial professionals. He is a frequent contributor to industry trade journals and a keynote speaker at industry events.

After 37 wonderful years in financial services, it was time for Murphy to give back, to share with others the training, development and experiences he enjoyed by God’s grace, and encourage others who are just starting out or seeking to grow.

Global Leadership Partners identifies, equips and sends business leaders to speak at leadership seminars in partnership with organizations primarily in Eastern Europe, but eventually, around the world. The intent is to foster development of foreign leaders who will courageously stand for strong values and a high ethical standard. This work is based on the belief that the world will be a better place when filled with leaders who lead according to proven values and bedrock principles.

Murphy is a frequent contributor to industry trade journals and is available as a keynote speaker for life insurance industry meetings and training events. He can be reached by telephone at: 312-859-3064. Email: Twitter: