Giving better financial advice by making sense of the senses

Written by on February 16, 2019

Whilst some of us accountants and finance professionals may be quite robotic and machine-like when it comes to our jobs the majority of us still have been endowed with 5 senses, you know sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. But when was the last time you used all of these to give better financial advice?

The reason why knowing our senses is important is because just like in a previous article around leaders and clients having a preference for a particular decision-making style, well they also have a sensory preference too. And knowing this preference will help your financial advice be constructed in a way that will be better received, better understood, and so deliver a greater impact for you as well as them. As the old saying goes:

“You will get what you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar

An in this case what they want are to receive communications in a way that they can understand and which in effect means they take into account their own sensory preferences.

Some senses matter more than others

The most common sensory preferences are for: how things looksound or feel in some shape or form (those for taste and smell are much less common). And we can identify people’s preferences by observing their speech and language. This in turn will give us an indication of how to interact with them on the level at which they are most comfortable.

For example, can you guess the sensory preference of the person behind the following sentences:

  1. In hindsight, it appears to me that we should have looked into the variances and get a view on the scenario. Perhaps next quarter we can shed some light and get a better picture of what numbers we should be focusing on.
  2. We need to get to grips with what we’re reporting because the Board are breathing down my neck and putting pressure on us to get to the bottom of what’s driving the variances to plan.
  3. In a manner of speaking, there was a lot of noise recently on our last report and I got an earful from the Board to make a better call on where we will end the quarter, so it sounds like we need to be able to tell themword for word, what the numbers are saying.

Answers: 1. Sight; 2. Touch/Feeling; 3. Sound/Hearing

In this example I’ve taken observations from people’s speech patterns however paying close attention to what’s written in emails, which have replaced many of our voice communications, is another way to make sense of others’ sensory preferences.

So now you are armed with the knowledge of their sensory preference how should you use this to give them financial insights and advice in a meaningful way that’s going to deliver the most impact?

Preference for Sight

If we want to connect on a meaningful level with decision makers who prefer sight then we’ll have to give them visual explanations. So in presentations it is wise to make use of diagrams, pictures, photos or any other type of visual media. Showing them how to do something or in the terms of an example scenario is the quickest way to get the message across (i.e. paint a picture for them).

Preference for Sound

Where the preference is for sound, and perhaps we want to get an idea across to them, then sending them an email is going to be far less effective than picking up the phone and talking them through it, particularly, face to face is most effective.

Preference for Touch

Giving financial advice to a person with a touch preference will be all about giving a sense of comfort. So taking your time, slowing down your speech, and giving them room to process their thoughts will be very much appreciated by them. If you want them to take action on an insight or bit of advice you’ll have to walk them through it as if they could see themselves following it.

Or if you’re ever unsure, just incorporate a bit of all three of them, and you’re bound to ensure the content of your message gets received.

And that’s why we bring guest mentors onto our Strength in the Numbers Show, to help you peer over the fence to see what’s worked and not worked for them when giving advice and insights to others. They deconstruct word for word and share with you their stories and hard won lessons so that you can digest their knowledge to make better calls and practically sniff out how identify more meaningfully connect with others and make a better impact from your advice and insights.

[If you were paying attention you’d notice that I’ve used the main three sensory preferences in the last paragraph (well done if you spotted them) as well as the least common ones, taste and smell, see if you can identify them].

So what techniques do you use to get your financial insights across to others?

The author Andrew Codd is the producer of the Strength in the Numbers Podcast which interviews real finance practitioners to break down their hard won lessons and deconstruct their practical methods that work on the job and which you won’t typically find in textbooks or exams so that we create more influential finance professionals worldwide who solve meaningful problems for their organisations and in return have fun, rewarding and successful careers in finance.

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