A few days ago, an insurance company branch manager I’m coaching, Brian, was complaining that his agents were not doing what he told them to do.
“I wanted them to talk with their older clients about introducing them to their children,” he told me, “But most of them didn’t do it.”
“How did you ask them? What exactly did you say?” I inquired.
His response was, “I hope you’ll remember to speak with your older clients about those introductions we discussed.”
Hmm, precatory language, I thought. Precatory language is a wish or desire that doesn’t rise to the level of a command and doesn’t have to be granted. I had learned about this when I was practicing law. A client’s father had left him some property in his will, adding: “…It is my wish that he share the property with his nephews.” My client didn’t want to share the property, and the judge ruled that he didn’t have to, because “It is my wish” is only precatory.
Brian’s problem also reminded me about my discussion with Jim awhile back. Jim’s managers did not use powerful words to get the attendance of their advisors at an important meeting. But Brian’s precatory language in addressing his agents here was weak in an elevated way. “I hope you’ll remember…” did not even attempt to mandate anything. It was just a wish or desire.
Brian could have said something like this:
“I want each of you to speak with at least three of your older clients about being introduced to their children and report the results back to me by Friday. Will you all agree to that? Pete? Bill? Joe?”
This would have been a clear request. Even better, it would have created an agreement. Managers who complain to me that their teams aren’t meeting their expectations, are usually not getting agreements from their teams.
Similarly, many sales professionals complain that their expectations with respect to the actions of their clients aren’t being met. But as long as they have only expectations between them and the people they want to take action, they will continue to be disappointed. They need agreements.
Use clear, powerful language, and obtain agreements. The result will be significantly less disappointment. Whatever you do, keep wishing, keep asking, and keep REACHING…