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DocFox Masterclass:
why empathy based listening matters in banking

3 simple steps to become a great listener and build better client relationships

DocFox recently held a Banking Masterclass where Eric Maddox, expert in the art of empathy based listening shared how this technique can be used by bankers, BSA officers and business executives to gain a client’s trust.

You can watch a recording of the webinar here.

When you have trust, you can maximize influence, and this is particularly useful in business banking when tough BSA conversations around source of funds, ownerships, and invasive risk rating for high-risk customers are unavoidable.

How do you rapidly build trust with clients when sometimes all you have is a few minutes of their time?

Trust has to be earned and can be built through the practice of listening, empathy and having awareness in conversations. Lack of listening results in lost trust and ultimately missed opportunity. The first step to increasing awareness and gaining maximum influence is by removing distractions. When you are familiar with the distractions of listening you take the first step towards becoming a better listener.

Here are three fundamental distractions which if removed can increase your ability to listen and gain your client’s trust:

1. Be present in a conversation instead of thinking about what you are going to say next

One of the most significant distractions during a conversation is thinking and planning about what you are going to say next. When you are thinking about what to say next you are not truly listening to what your client has to say at that point in time, and this is when you miss out on opportunities.

Here’s a practical example:

Banker to Client: Hi John, I’d like to tell you about this new banking product

Client to Banker: Thanks , that sounds interesting, but at this moment in time we are swamped, and our team doesn’t have the capacity to even think about a new product for the next 6 months.

Banker to Client: That’s great to hear that your team is so busy, but this product can do xyz, even saving you time in the long run.

What the banker should have said

John, tell me a little more about why your team is so swamped. What’s been happening?


Instead of the banker pushing his next thought onto the client, and trying to sell his product he turned the conversation around and showed that he was actually listening to the client. The client dropped a hint, a breadcrumb, that there is something bigger happening within their organization. If the banker had given the client the opportunity to share more information and find out the reason behind the lack of capacity, he may discover that there is a new unexpected opportunity where the bank can help the client.

2. Don’t let your objectives and agenda drive the conversation as you’ll miss out on important information and opportunities

When contacting a client you are most likely doing so because you have an agenda and a desired outcome for the conversation. It could be an upsell, maybe to request important BSA information or financial information. Whatever the reason you will have an agenda for the call, and likely a checklist of questions you’ll want to get answered.

If you focus too heavily on the agenda and the outcome we tend to not listen to what the client is really trying to tell us. This is often when important information is missed or where the client becomes guarded and doesn’t volunteer information freely, revealing lack of track.
This does not mean that your agenda is not important, is it very important. How you approach the conversation and how you listen to your client will determine the outcome of the conversation and whether you in fact meet your agenda.

If you remove the distraction of your agenda and listen to your client you will build up trust with the client. While you may not get all the information you need there and then in that call, you will have gained your client’s trust, and long term this is far more valuable. You’ll find as a result your client will be more open to sharing and providing you with the information you need.

3. Remove any biases towards the subject

We often have clients who we know are maybe conservative, slow to make decisions or like to shop around for the best rate. Any one of these factors contributes to client bias. Even if that client has earned that bias we naturally filter out the information they are sharing through that bias, and this drastically lowers our listening.

Before you start any conversation removal all bias and listen to what your client has to say at that point in time.

If you can identify the distractions and put in place the skills to empower your teams to remove the distractions we can rapidly build trust with clients.

When you truly listen to your clients and members and counter intuitively remove the pressure of closing the deal or getting through your agenda you can actually drive more business and cement your place as their trusted advisor. This is when you will find your client’s willingness to openly share information, be it information for a new business or important BSA information.

Eric Maddox is the Army interrogator who, while attached to a Delta Force team in Tikrit, Iraq, collected the intelligence which led to the capture of Saddam Hussein. Eric has repeatedly been able to influence those who have zero trust in him, to make the decision to give him information, even more than he asked, without using torture. Eric honed his systematic methods of creating influence in hostile environments but has found they are equally as useful in building or retaining business relationships.

Information on Eric Maddox can be found here: