Don't Get Thrown Off By Your Clients

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Do you every wonder where some clients go? Why does the communication go dark? Watch this video very carefully of a woman being thrown off her horse to help you better understand people.


You might be asking yourself right now, "how on earth can this video help me be a better Financial Representative (FR)?"

Ask yourself: What do you notice in general? What clues are there that something is going wrong? Was the woman paying attention to the horse's feedback? Could the woman have had a different outcome? Could the horse have had a different outcome? How is this situation like losing a prospective or current client?

Horses serve as a mirror of you. (This is why Unleash Your Practice coaches use them to provide interactive feedback to clients in equus coaching.) Humans can be a mirror, too; however, we have the ability to filter our feedback unlike a horse. If you are willing to "listen," horses provide you with a deeper understanding of yourself and how you are perceived by others.

In this example, imagine that the woman and her horse are a metaphor of the relationship you have with you and your client or prospective client. Watch carefully how the horse is very tense all over from the very beginning. Do you see the stress from head to toe? The shaking of the horse's body? As the rider kicks to ask the horse to move forward and jerks repeatedly on the left rein, the horse braces strongly against her. The horse's front legs are actively pushing back rigidly, tilting back as its hooves grind deeply into place. There is no willingness for the horse to move at all. What does the rider do? She ignores the feedback and instead tries to force the horse despite all of the cues from the animal. Notice the big tail swish, the head tucking under, the back legs gaining leverage and the front legs pushing...and boom! The rider is off the horse and flying through the air! Did it really come out of nowhere? If you have never ridden a horse, I can tell you that the rider can feel everything. The horse was using every means to tell the rider "NO!"

Most of your client interactions will (hopefully!) never be this dramatic. I use this example to magnify the signs. How is this horse like a client who will likely: disappear/go dark, start an application process and never finish it, not take their policy, cancel their policy, back out of a huge plan and choose something small or refuse to give you referrals?

The client was likely showing signs of tension or stress, giving objections that you blew past, asking questions that were never fully answered, showing concern or worry, feeling discomfort and distrust, hesitating, agreeing to things to take pressure off and avoiding you. Most often, the FR does not want to see these signs and ignores them. It feels good to put the case in the case open inventory and believe it's a go.

If your pipeline has a pattern, pay attention. If you are not addressing your client's non-verbal signs you will get fired and it will catch you off guard. You will probably get up like this rider, shake your head, brush yourself off and blame the "horse." Pointing the finger at the horse will not change anything.

Here's what you can do. Notice ALL of the feedback your client is giving you--good, bad and neutral. Slow down, check in and make sure everything is okay all along the way. When you get a sign that things are not okay, STOP. Address the concern thoughtfully. Work through it completely before you move on. Repeat back feedback to make sure you really do understand, "I think you're telling me that you read that whole life insurance is not advised, have I got that right?" Wait for the client to answer, then ask, "say more about that." Really listen openly without formulating your answer in your head. If you ignore these signs, you are likely to get "thrown off" later and left baffled. The signs were there all along if you were paying attention.

What clues are there that something is going wrong? Watch your client's body language. Is he or she leaning forward and tilting his or her head? Or leaning back and crossing his or her arms? Is the client engaged and participating or distracted? What types of questions is the person asking (or not asking!). What are you afraid to voice that may need to be brought out into the open?

The woman and the horse in the video could have had a completely different outcome. The solution: partnership. Because the rider was pushing her agenda so hard despite the horse's feedback, the horse resorted to an extreme measure. Had she tried to understand the horse's objection, she could have worked through it. In real life, people who ride horses tend to check for signs of resistance, strong feelings in the horse, pent up energy, lameness and all sorts of things before getting on the horse. That way, from ground level, the rider can safely work out any and all issues before entering into the riding partnership.

You can do the same with your clients. Prospecting might be one of your "are you with me?" checks. If it's a "no" find out why. Be curious about objections, concerns, worries and fears that you detect in your client. If you resolve everything you can along the way, you can avoid unhappy surprises down the trail.

Coaching Tip Pay attention to your own body language, too. What might you be "saying" to your client. Bored? Distracted? Engaged? It goes both ways.