Building Bridges and Fences, Part I

Brokers are in the business of building bridges and building fences. Your success and longevity is directly related to your skill in these two vital construction projects. The following is a look at the tasks and dynamics involved in building bridges. Building fences will be covered next month. Bridge building is the effort you expend to develop and maintain good working relationships with prospects

Brokers are in the business of building bridges and building fences. Your success and longevity is directly related to your skill in these two vital construction projects.

The following is a look at the tasks and dynamics involved in building bridges. Building fences will be covered next month.

Bridge building is the effort you expend to develop and maintain good working relationships with prospects and clients. The goal is to build sturdy structures with solid supports that will withstand market storms and winds.

The bridge-building process begins during the first contact with a prospect. It is important to identify the starting point (the bridge's foundation) and the destination (the finished bridge). When you meet with a prospect, you gather information to assess where the prospect currently stands with his or her investments and investment experience. When you have a good grasp of the person's background, you can work toward identifying a feasible, reasonable result. You must calibrate the prospect's expectations so the bridge you build can cover the span safely and effectively.

Once the prospect is a client, it is your responsibility to make sure you and he are on the same page. Clients may be ill equipped to make sound judgments about how long it takes to build a bridge, which includes developing a relationship, establishing a portfolio and seeing investment results. They may want, suggest or demand shortcuts to get to the finished product quickly. But it is your job to separate what clients want from what they need.

Similarly, you need to separate what you want from what you need. You may want a certain prospect to become a client, but you do not need the prospect to become a client.

How Elaborate the Bridge?

In the past few years, there has been much emphasis placed on serving your clients and staying in close contact with them. But there is a fine line between service and “over-service.” What one client thinks is stellar service, another may consider unwanted and unnecessary contact.

In any particular situation, you must build the bridge that needs to be built. Maintain what needs to be maintained. Nothing more, nothing less. If you care, clients will know regardless of how often you call. And if you don't care, clients will figure it out sooner rather than later.

Learning From Bridge Construction

It is helpful to review your bridge-building history. Think of all the bridges you have built in both your business and personal life. See what elements contribute to the formation and maintenance of good relationships. Next, consider your best relationships with your best clients. What about those interactions works so well?

Conversely, review a few bridges that never got completed or that collapsed. What happened and what was your contribution to the failure?

If you give careful scrutiny to both your successes and failures, you will gain valuable clues to help build a solid book. This activity will help you get better at separating the effective from the ineffective. You can learn from your mistakes, but you can also learn from your successes.

We'll continue next month with Part II.

Theodore Kurtz is a psychoanalyst based in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. He coaches brokers in overcoming performance issues. He can be reached at [email protected].

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