Over the last 20 or more years, I've studied a lot, taught a lot and written a lot about building high-trust client relationships. Lately I've found myself saying to advisors, "Trust is not the objective; trust is a byproduct of the other things that you do, like your behavior, your communication and the quality of your work."
I've come to believe that if gaining your clients' trust is your objective, you're focusing on the wrong thing: you. Your agenda is likely this: "I have to get them to trust me-so they hire me, so they give me assets; so they buy my product or idea. Etc, etc. etc."
Instead the focus should be on them, and your point of view should be this: "I am going to show up relaxed, be authentic, behave with an extremely high level of professionalism, ask great questions, listen with empathy, be well-organized and be respectful of their time by not bragging about myself or my company or boring them with over-explanations of financial concepts and ideas. I'm going to be selective and only let people who fit join my community of clients. If I behave this way and they trust and hire me, fine. If not, that's OK too."
Some advisors try to force things to happen with everyone they meet by using persuasion tactics to "close the deal." This is akin to a woman desperately seeking a husband because her biological clock is ticking, instead of looking for a partner with similar goals and values as hers, someone who is best suited to create a life of happiness and fulfillment with her.
I'm in the business of helping successful advisors double to quadruple their business revenue in four years or less, so I'm not just talking about altruism. You may be concerned that relaxing or abandoning a more intense sales focus will diminish your results.
Think of each client relationship more like a professional marriage. You want people to have the best possible experience with you, whether they become your clients or not, and you only want those who are the right fit to become clients.
Here are a few time-tested rules to create trust (and a few thoughts about how you erode it):
1. Find the clients who fit. In other words, you should avoid the mentality that says "those people have money, therefore I want them." Create an ideal client profile where the personalities of the people you meet are equally important to the money element. Notice how different it feels when you invite people to do business with you rather than just try to close a deal with them.
2. Ask your clients good questions. Ask the clients about their values. (For instance, "What's important about money to you?")
Then ask them about their goals. "What are your tangible goals that require money and planning to achieve? How much do you want to have for that goal? When do you want to have it? What are two or three words that describe what you are thinking and feeling once you have achieved that goal?"
Ask them if it appeals to them to have a comprehensive financial plan-one that would make it more likely they would achieve their goals and fulfill their values. Then you can ask them if they would like to join your client community so you can do this work for them.