When I meet a new advisor and tell them that I speak about the psychology of business owners and how to make it easier for them to let go when the time comes to exit their business, they usually groan and say something like “Good grief, I spend half my time in every deal playing a part-time psychologist for my clients!” They often seem surprised when I reply, “How lucky you are!”
I recently met a wealth manager named Amy who had that very reaction. She asked me why I thought that made her lucky instead of cursed. I invited her to join me for lunch later that week and promised she’d see what I meant.
She and I met at a local restaurant for lunch with a lawyer, a banker, and an accountant – I know it sounds like the opening to a bad joke or, perhaps, the most boring lunch you can imagine depending on your perspective (and no we hadn’t just walked into a bar!) but keep reading.
The four of us first met as the team of professionals involved in helping our mutual client, Jeremy, sell his business and we have continued to meet for lunch or a drink every other month since then, even though Jeremy’s sale has long-since successfully concluded. Amy was surprised to learn that it’s an appointment each of us keeps, no matter what else might try to intrude into our calendars. She wondered why we continue to invest this kind of regular time with each other even when we’re not working on a current deal together.
Here’s what we told her.
“Amy, remember when I told you that you’re lucky if you’re spending half your time as a part-time psychologist with your clients?” I asked.
“Sure,” she replied, “but I can’t imagine why you think that makes me lucky.”
One of the others pointed out that, in every single deal he’s ever been involved in, he realized someone was playing that role of “therapist” and, most often was someone who resented it and wished the business owner would “just get a grip on their emotions” and “act rationally.”
“The reason Denise says you’re lucky if you’re the person the owner has chosen to bring their emotions to is it means you’re the person they feel most safe with in the deal. It means that the other professionals AREN’T making the owner feel safe enough to let down their guard and share with them what’s really going on inside,” my banker friend said.
“That’s right,” continued one of the others. “Once I realized that I was the one person the owner felt safe with, I recognized it was an honor, not a burden. But, I also realized that with that honor came a greater sense of responsibility. If they were trusting me with their emotions, I knew I needed to dial up my own understanding about how I could help them better. I began to look for ways to bring even more of that sense of emotional safety into the relationships I built with my clients.”
My banker friend added, between bites of his burer, “That’s right, while it started when Denise pointed it out in this deal with Jeremy, once I caught on, it happened for me in other deals, too. Clients started to tell me what was really going on under the surface for them, instead of making stupid moves and unrealistic demands. I began to see how much easier it is to solve the issues that used to cause things to inexplicably unravel at the eleventh hour and I started closing more deals.”
Amy said she thought that made sense but that she was worried she wouldn’t know how to handle it if her clients started to get too emotional. Several of the others admitted that, at first, they were worried about that, too. But that it got easier with practice and as they continued to learn more skillful ways to show up for their clients. Especially as the other professionals in Jeremy’s deal were also learning these skills. They each started to notice that Jeremy was sharing more openly with all of them and not just dumping all of his emotion on one person in the transaction. They didn’t have to wonder what was going on and the chaos and drama they’d been used to virtually vanished and everything got easier.
I told Amy how we had used , an intimate conversational-style dinner event, with Jeremy when we wanted to deepen his sense of connection and trust with the deal team. We talked about how it created the conditions for psychological safety and how it transformed Jeremy’s relationship with us and ours with each other.
One of them shared that, although his partners had initially thought this approach was a bunch of hooey, as they learned more about what creating emotional safety for their clients meant, they realized that their clients actually seemed to crave that kind of deeper connection with them. They started to see that the deals which had inexplicably fallen apart before had signs which now seemed obvious and fixable.
“Who knew,” I added, “such simple things could help clients bond to us and bring us into the fold as their most trusted advisors, the ones they come to early when they’re considering selling their business.”
Amy shared that she had been caught off guard a couple of times in the past year when clients of hers had sold their businesses and she only learned of it when the client was moving their accounts to a new wealth management firm. She wondered whether some of these tools and experiences could help her strengthen the bond with some of her own clients.
Over the rest of lunch, we talked with Amy about the different ways we had learned to build trust with each other and with our clients and how it had radically changed each of our businesses. She seemed especially interested in exploring whether she and her partners could learn how to do this with their own clients and the referral partners she had been trying to cultivate relationships with.
Lest you think we’re just a bunch of lazy bums with nothing else to do but lounge around over lunch or drinks, let me assure you that each of us have busy professional and personal lives, but we’ve seen just how important it is to create the ideal conditions for psychological safety and unshakeable trust for our clients and each other.
Our commitment to our client Jeremy in that deal ad beyond it has been to deepen our respect and rapport so that we can collectively be the safest nest for our clients in the future as we help them weather one of the most challenging transitions in their lives.
Guess what, since that lunch, two of the five of us are already engaged in a relationship with a new client together and that client is already sharing the kind of information that shows us he feels safe. And every one of us is confident that this deal will close with ease. As it should when an owner is surrounded by professionals who care about their client and each other
Most Advisors don’t believe me when I share they can
consistently close more deals with ease.
Then, they experience it for themselves.
Once you experience an inbox full of referrals and both you and your sellers expect a trustworthy sale process…you never go back to seeing the work as a numbers game.
Want to learn more about how YOU can find this same success with your clients and referral partners?
Reach out – I’d love to show you how.