Adjectives, Adverbs, and Bears…Oh My!
As agents, we’re taught to qualify our clients by using questions, so we understand what they really want. The answers to our questions are important but, the words the client choses to give us those golden answers are often more insightful and revealing. Luckily, you don’t have to be a psychologist to interpret these subtleties. You just need to pay as much attention to adverbs and adjectives as you do to nouns and verbs.
Wait! Don’t run away! This isn’t your high school English teacher talking. Let me explain.
In my role at OutsideAgents.com, I do a lot of fraud investigation for our agents through our Fraud Prevention Program. Some of it is technical – hackers and the like – but much of it is just a matter of listening, carefully.
For example, I had a person try to sign up with us using a fake identity. I requested a utility bill from her residence to help verify her identity. She provided one but it showed no electricity used for over a year. When pressed to explain how she had used no electricity at her house, she became angry. She insisted it was her home, and explained “I have provided you with my ID, my Social Security number, and an electric bill.” Boom! I knew she was lying. How? Look closer: “my ID, my Social, and an electric bill.” That was not her utility bill (and we proved it later).
Do you see how the words she chose to use told me more than the nouns and verbs did?
Let’s apply this idea to a nicer scenario. For example, one of my favorite questions to ask when qualifying a client for a cruise is “What’s your favorite hotel brand and why?” The client might answer “Oh, I love brand x, because of their service and prices, and those cute little private sitting areas.” Do you see all the information the client just provided?
To that client, service and prices are important, but only important enough for one adjective shared by two features. The sitting area, though, warranted three modifiers for just the sitting area: cute, little, and private. Oh boy, we just struck gold because now, we have an idea of what’s really important to them; cute, little, and private.
So, when I’m making my cruise recommendation to this client, I might mention the ship and great pricing, but I’d focus on the cute little retreat they have for grownups, and how they can spend time with the kids and then get away for a little alone time for mommy and daddy.
When you do this, you align your information with your client at a subconscious level, by speaking directly to the part of the brain called the Amygdala (who we’ll call Amy). Amy reacts on patterns and emotions, rather than facts and figures. Amy is there to help us run from the sound of a twig snapping without having to think about it. If we had to sift through 980 Terabytes of information (a stack of floppies 2027 miles high) to find every instance where we heard a twig snap in the past, and then determine if it’s a bear this time, we’d be eaten before we could decide. Amy just recognizes the pattern of twigs snapping, recalls feeling terrified at seeing their friends get eaten, reacts instantly by setting our feet in motion before we even know why. That’s the part of the brain we want to talk to first and often.
When we mirror adjectives and adverbs, we bypass the process of analysis because Amy sees a familiar pattern and reacts to it. Since we’re not challenging what they know, only modifying it, their brains tend to just accept it. For us, this means that the client is more likely to agree with us than not, and that’s a huge advantage.
So, in a nutshell, questions are powerful. Listening, though, gives us superpowers. So, listen to what the clients say, and pay particular attention to how they say it. From there, you will know exactly how to talk to Amy and get your clients what they really want. It doesn’t get better than that!