How important is listening to the success of your business? Of 611 financial advisors surveyed, more than 95 percent report that listening is indeed a critical skill and essential to their effectiveness. Moreover, across the array of professionals working with the affluent, the importance of listening skills is widely recognized.

With listening being one of the foundations to a successful practice, a question arises: “How good a listener are you?”

Listening seems  easy, yet finding a professional that does it well is the exception, not the rule. In business and in life, at one time or another you’ve probably heard the accusation, “You’re not listening to me.” Repeating verbatim what the other person just said only makes matters worse, because that’s not listening—that’s just parroting back their words.

People usually love to talk about themselves, and this is often the case when it comes to the affluent. As you’re motivated to do business with the affluent, it’s your responsibility to capitalize on this phenomenon. The way you accomplish this is through active listening.

Active listening is all about capturing and truly understanding the messages another person is sending. It includes assessing nonverbal as well as verbal messages. A person’s posture, tone of voice and facial expressions are all examples of nonverbal messages. Active listening also entails understanding the context—the current situation, the person and scenario’s back-story and the person’s expectations.

For most people, “listening” means waiting for your turn to talk. They’re patiently biding their time until they can say something they consider to be insightful, worthwhile and very important. Self-made millionaires, by contrast, tend to be astute, truly active listeners. They’re highly engaged and commonly quite interested in what other people are saying. To some extent, their listening is indicative of caring behavior, of emotional empathy. It’s also critical to the effectiveness of their business dealings.

Active listening is a very potent means of intelligence gathering. Ultra-successful professionals carefully and discerningly attend to their wealthy clients so they can collect information and perspectives that will further empower them. This enables these professionals to be ever more responsive to the expressed and implied needs and wants of their wealthy clients.

Active listening with this level of commitment and intensity is the answer when you lack experience dealing with your people in business situations. It’s not only their positions that are important. What’s eminently more valuable is gaining an understanding of how they think and react. By listening to their arguments and perspectives, and how they express them, you better understand how they think, which enables you to be more responsive to their desires and perspectives. Your proficiency at active listening is instrumental to your success with the affluent.