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Become a Best-in-Class Adviser: Use the Power of Curiosity by James W. Kerley


Have you ever wondered what makes the top advisors stand out from all others? Is it their command of the products they sell, or their case design strategies? Maybe it is the team that supports them in the local office, or the great sales concepts offered by their primary carriers. While critical to being competent and professional, I don’t think any of these actually lead to being a best-in-class adviser.

The very best advisers have one thing in common; they are unfailingly curious. That is right, they understand the power of curiosity and its role in building long-lasting client centric relationships. Think about it - how do you feel when someone goes out of their way to ask about things that are important to you and your family? Don’t you love telling your friends about your business and the value you deliver every day?

Have you noticed when you have the opportunity to visit an old friend that most of the conversations consists of a series of questions and answers, designed to express interest, concern and understanding about the things that have happened to each since

the last time you visited. It is curiosity at work. It feels great to be with someone who expresses genuine concern, and empathy. This is true both personally and professionally.

Recently, I had the great pleasure of working with our team of sales professionals from all over the world. We spent a lot of time talking about the importance of curiosity when working with clients. People are people, no matter where we live. We all appreciate an expression of interest. Curiosity selling works in China and in Chile, and of course, in the United States. Is it working in your practice?

So what is curiosity? One definition I recently saw was this – “curiosity is a strong desire to know or learn. It is having an interest in a person, thing or experience, which leads to making an inquiry.” When you are curious about someone’s life, you are asking “the expert” to tell his or her story. Once their story is told, they may actually consider you someone they trust to offer expert advice.

Research suggests that during the first meeting, prospects develop trust in you in a matter of just a few minutes. LIMRA’s Trustworthy Selling program describes four facets of trust:

integrity, competency, dependability, and benevolence. It turns out the most critical facet in the early stage of developing trust is benevolence; not being pushy, or self-serving, but rather tailoring the conversation to the client. In other words, being curious about the client, which in turns provides the client with a feeling of concern and interest on your part.


M. Dale Baughman, the famous motivational author and speaker once wrote, “An adult asks a question because he wants to do something with the answer; children ask questions and want to know just because they want to know.”

“Curiosity is a strong desire to know or learn. It is having an interest in a person, thing or experience, which leads to making an inquiry.”

When thinking about benevolence, think about asking questions like a child, simply because you want to know. There will be plenty of time to ask questions to do something with. Display curiosity and the fact finding questions will flow naturally.

“An adult asks a question because he wants to do something with the answer; children ask questions and want to know just because they want to know.”

The discipline of using curiosity-based discovery questions can help you build client-centric relationships by establishing empathy and understanding, which will assist in uncovering the client’s hopes and desires.


They help to create a relationship in which, together with the client, you will reach a mutual willingness to solve the client’s needs. Most importantly, the answers to your curiosity-based questions often grant you permission to offer solutions, upon which the client will actually take action.

Want to become a best-in-class adviser? Be more curious with your prospects and clients and they will see you as an adviser they can trust. Then it is time to use your product knowledge, case design strategies and service excellence. The best designed financial plan all begins with client-centric curiosity. It just happens that way.

James W. Kerley

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