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Why Advisors Need To ‘Read’ Other People


WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. – Sometimes it pays to be a reader of people, according to Polly Merritt Maglio. Those times often come when a financial advisor is sitting across from a prospect or client and wondering how to make the presentation most effectively.

Too often, she said, the advisor doesn’t really know who the person is in terms of the values that influence and motivate that person to take action.

That can ruin sales opportunities, she told InsuranceNewsNet in advance of a workshop she will give today at LIMRA’s annual distribution conference.

Maglio told of how one advisor blew a deal while meeting with a married couple. The advisor had made his presentation and then left. The husband was very impressed, she said, but the wife was completely turned off. In fact, the wife was “offended.”

The offense was that the advisor had completely missed the clues the wife had given about what she wanted and needed to know before she would agree to do business with him.

Maglio knows a lot about the encounter because she was there — she was, and is, the wife.

Maglio also knows a thing or two about detecting the clues that others provide. She is vice president at SpeedReading People, a Hartford, Conn., company that specializes in helping professionals learn how to know people in ways that can lead to more successful connections. The firm teaches how to get buy-in by “reading” people, uncovering what motivates them and presenting information that aligns with those factors.

The problem with not knowing

Clearly, she said, the advisor who visited her home that day did not know how to read her.

The man did make a very detailed and analytic presentation, she recalled. “My husband is also very detailed and analytic, so he liked that and he trusted the data and the advisor.”

But Maglio said she tends to be more “broad brush and big picture.” For instance, she would have liked to have learned about how the advisory process would work and how she, her husband and the advisor would build an ongoing relationship. But he did not talk in those terms.

“I needed that information to bridge the gap, to get to the point where I could feel trust,” she said.

A savvier advisor would have given both types of information during the presentation, she said, pointing to both the broad brush information as well as details about his background, the products and so on. He could have provided a logical analysis followed by a look at the ripple effect on the people involved, she added.

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“If the advisor had engaged me, he would have seen the energy coming from me. He could have read on my face what was resonating with me.”


The good news is that advisors and other business professionals can learn how to become readers of people. “Not everything we do resonates with every person,” Maglio observed, so it pays to learn how to connect with the individual based on what the individual wants and values.

This ability will help people become more successful not only in sales but also in leadership, team work, project management and other activities where motivation is critical.

She plans to cover some how-to tips on these topics during her workshop. Here are three of them:

Learn who the other person is: Ask the other person some questions that evoke answers that help reveal personal values and motivators and how the person likes to communicate. Then “craft” the conversation in a way that resonates with that person.

Find out how the other person receives information: Some people are “sensing” individuals who have a need for detail, while others are more intuitive and need to understand the big picture before considering any detail, she said, noting these informational styles are not gender-specific. The key is to learn how to spot the other person’s dominant style and provide the information in the way the person wants to receive it. (If speaking with a couple, identify each spouse’s style and then include information suited to each, as indicated earlier.)

Notice what the person’s face reveals: If the person looks away, does not respond or gives off a “disengaged look,” that’s a signal to refocus the presentation.


Many advisors give one-hour presentations they have “honed to what they think is perfection,” Maglio said. “But the reality is that about 40 percent of people don’t get it or don’t respond to how the presentation is crafted.”

The presentation may have bullet points and useful charts and graphs, but if absorbing that information is not how the other person’s brain works, the presentation won’t help build a meaningful connection, she said. The challenge for the advisor is to adapt the presentation and conversation according to the clues the other person is providing.

Her firm’s motto is, “You’ve got to read them right to reach them the right way.”

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, MBA, is a contributing editor to InsuranceNewsNet, specializing in life insurance, annuities and income planning. Linda may be reached at [email protected].

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