Why Advisors Should Communicate Like First Graders
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You will get more results with messy communications. Here’s is how to communicate like a first grader while gathering assets as a consummate professional.
I ran a survey on LinkedIn, asking my followers if they would hold it against someone who sent them a LinkedIn message misspelling their name.
Most people said they would not hold it against the sender. Somebody said that at least it showed they are a real person and not a robot. All of this prompted me to ponder, are these perfectly constructed messages making us sound fake?
Moreover, by communicating with proper grammar, spelling, and syntax all the time, are we making ourselves sound the same as the next person?
Nobody wants to be regarded as improper, especially in a sales situation. That’s precisely why you have to be different from these goody-two-shoes.
Slightly imperfect communications signal authenticity. When a prospect meets an advisor they don’t know, (and especially when they meet an advisor they don’t know over the internet), their biggest concern is if you are who you say you are. Language that seems too perfect comes off as inauthentic, as if you are hiding behind the guise of professionalism instead of being a real person.
Famous historical figures such as Jane Austen, Andrew Jackson, and Former Vice President Dan Quayle were notably bad spellers. Should you throw spell and grammar check out the door?
Just be a leeeeetle bit messy through acts of omission, not through flawed spelling or grammar.
Slight messiness = better delivery
Consider the difference between these two passages.
We’ve been connected here on LinkedIn for a while. I wasn’t certain if my updates here in the feed have been helpful to you or not.
Been connected a bit. My updates helpful?
In the first passage, you envision a person glued to the computer screen typing intently, taking a pause every so often to munch on some Pringles. Almost like a security guard. You’re giving the recipient the impression that you are totally focused on impressing them.
In the second passage, you seem like you are writing on the fly, not trying too hard, not a professional marketer. In the second one you sound like you are laid back, with your mind on your money and your money on your mind (hat tip to Snoop Dogg’s 1998 song, Gin and Juice).
Now, let me ask you:
- Which email makes the sender look more confident?
- Which email sounds more authentic?
- Which email would you be more inclined to respond to?
Cleary passage #2.
Communicate like a first grader
Advisors are constantly cluttering up their sentences with long, clunky words. It’s as if a word is required to have four syllables to be allowed into their sentences.
I am a financial professional who helps people participate in retirement correctly by arranging their asset allocations.
Use monosyllabic words. And get those adverbs out of there, while you’re at it!
Let’s think about how our brains digest information within sentences. The length of words does have an impact on how successfully they’re recalled. According to a study published in the Journal of Learning and Behavior, memory span is inversely related to the length of the words. The longer the word, the lower the recall.
Given that short-duration words are recalled better than long ones, here’s my rule of thumb. When communicating with someone on social media, keep the words short enough that a seven-year-old (first grader) could respond. In fact, if you have any children this age, it might be a good idea to have them review it.
Check out my Two Sentence Rule for more tips on how to communicate concisely.
Guidelines for omitting text from your words
The next time you write an email or LinkedIn message:
- Omit all implied information.
- Minimize syllables (monosyllabic words versus di-or trisyllabic words).
- Use only 3-4 words per sentence.
- Use ellipsis.
- Omit all pronouns.
See how it played out in my example?
- Passage #1 has seven multi-syllabic words, while #2 has only three.
- Passage #1 has four pronouns, while sentence #2 has one.
- Both the sentences in passage #1 have more than four words, while neither sentence in passage #2 does.
Furthermore, passage #2 omits cluttering phrases such as “connected on LinkedIn” (connected), “helpful or not” (helpful).
But Grillo, you say, how will I get my point across and give the prospect the impression I’m the smartest/nicest/most experienced person in the world?
Remember what the point of communication is. It’s to get the person to react to what you said. Seeing that people listen to only a small portion of what you say, you’re better off communicating well in smaller increments than scattering a ton of blather on them that they have to sort through.
Nobody likes having to rummage through a mess. Take it from a mother of four kids under eight years old.
Now that I’ve sung the praises of brief communications, I’m ending this article! I wrote two (also, incidentally, short in length) books that you should read;
That’s all I’ve got for now – see you in the next article!
Baddely, Alan D, Buchanan, Mary, and Thomas, Neil. (1975) Word Length and the Structure of Short-Term Memory. Journal of Learning and Behavior, University of Stirling, Scotland, 14(575-589).
Mancini, Mark. (2018, August 30th). 11 Historical Figures who were really bad at spelling. Mental Floss. Retrieved from https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/650386/interview-with-the-vampire-book-facts?utm_content=infinitescroll2
Sara Grillo, CFA, is a marketing consultant who helps investment management, financial planning, and RIA firms fight the tendency to scatter meaningless clichés on their prospects and bore them as a result. Prior to launching her own firm, she was a financial advisor.