It’s amazing how an office environment can transform the way your clients perceive you.

Years ago, I walked into my dentist, went to the front desk, told them who I was, sat down in the lobby, and waited. I looked down to see what they had to read and couldn’t find anything but outdated magazines and tabloids. After realizing there was nothing to distract me for a few minutes, I started to scan the office with my eyes. I looked up and saw holes in the ceiling from recent construction, walls with the recent applied texture of sandpaper, the old paintings that remained slightly tilted, dated computers at the front desk, old carpet, a 12-inch TV in the top corner hanging by threads of the screws that were used to support its weight, all the way down to the uncomfortable chair I was sitting in. And then there was the overpowering odor of new paint and wood clippings mixed with a hint of sterilizer used to clean the dentist’s tools from the last appointment. After being called in, I sat down in the dentist chair, saw the spotlight glide over my face, and couldn’t help but clench my teeth in anticipation for what was to come.

This forced me to rethink my own office and the experience my clients receive when they walk into my front door. Today, my clients are greeted with a smile as soon as they walk through the door. Tasteful yet comfortable leather seats fill the lobby, music plays, and the smell of cookies fill the air. Current and potential clients instantly make an impression about what they feel when they walk in.

What impression do your clients get when they enter your office before even saying word? Are they comfortable and receptive or turned off?

As advisors, we have to be reminded there is more to communicating than what comes out of our mouths. In fact, the most powerful form of communication doesn’t include words at all. Nonverbal communication is around us at every moment. Whether you know it or not, you are constantly communicating without ever saying a word. The way you invite visitors, the ambience of your office, and the way you and your team dress are all ways of sending a message without speaking.

Nonverbal communication accounts for 60% to 70% of what we communicate to one another every day. Oftentimes, and what can be most frightening, is we are not even aware we are doing it. Here are a several ways advisors can become more aware of nonverbal gestures and surroundings, and deliver the right message when interacting with their clients, prospects, and employees:

1. Upgrade Your Office – The feeling people get when they walk into your office should be felt within the first few seconds. Some things to think about are:

  • Greeting – an immediate greeting from your Director of First Impressions is the fastest way to set the tone for a great experience.
  • The layout of the office – is the entrance inviting, how are the meeting rooms situated, and how do clients and prospects move from the entrance to the meeting room?
  • Décor – from artwork to furniture and color of the walls, be sure your style reflects the type of client you want to attract.
  • Odor – the scent a person smells when walking into an office can make or break their experience. At Carson Wealth, we have fresh cookies baked every day to give off a soothing aroma for those who visit us.
  • Music – decide what type of music best suites your environment within the office. Certain genres of music have implications on a person’s mood and could set the tone of your appointment.
  • Accommodations – do you have refreshments for your guests and updated reading material while they wait? Be sure to select appropriate magazines that connect to the type of person you have visiting.

2. Dress for the Occasion – Two schools of thought are most popular for dress attire: dress impeccably for any occasion (suit) or match what’s appropriate for the particular client or prospect. At Carson Wealth, we dress professionally every day to give our clients and guests the best impression.

3. Be Aware of Your Tone – As we’ve all heard, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it!” A valuable lesson for all advisors is to be aware of how you communicate with your voice when not using words. Pitch, volume, inflection, and tone of voice provide powerful clues into your true feelings. For example, tone of voice is a quick indicator of sarcasm, confidence, frustration, or agreement. Be sure your tone reflects the manner in which you are delivering your message. It’s the fastest way to change an attitude in a conversation.

4.    Avoid distractions – Today, advisors face more distractions in the workplace than any other time in history: e-mail, phone calls, texting, social media, television, games, apps, and the list goes on and on. All are distracting us from giving our full attention where it needs to be – on the other person in the room. When a client, prospect, or employee enters your office, give them your undivided attention by turning off and shutting down. This gesture tells the recipient you are their priority at that given moment.

Every one of these areas is crucial to sending an effective message without saying a word. If you’re looking for ways to improve in nonverbal communication, click here to see where you stand by taking the Body Language Quiz on the Greater Good Science Center’s website.

Advisors have an innate sense to sell, and all of us want to make a lasting impression with clients and prospects. We’re motivated by the idea of growing our business, and nothing excites us more than having the opportunity to close a potential client looking to join the firm. But successful advisors know how to do it by saying so little. The power of connection, both in how you present your firm and yourself, is extremely underplayed in our industry and it can be easily used as an advantage if you know how to conduct yourself accordingly.

The bottom line is the more comfortable your prospects are with you and their surroundings, the more effective you will be in closing business and, more importantly, establishing a deeper connection.

Ron Carson is Founder and CEO of Carson Wealth Management Group, a comprehensive wealth planning firm, and Founder of Peak Advisor Alliance, the largest advisor coaching program in the country. He also co-authored the practice management book Tested in the Trenches: A 9-Step Plan for Building and Sustaining a Million-Dollar Financial Services Practice and its revised second edition Tested in the Trenches: A 9-Step Plan for Success as a New-Era Advisor.

Joe Steuter, Marketing and Communications Specialist at Peak Advisor Alliance, contributed to this article.

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