Whom do you trust? Do you trust that your veterinarian always has your pet's interest behind every recommendation? Do you trust that your dentist always has your interest behind every proposed x-ray or procedure? Do you trust your local politicians always have the best interests of your community behind every vote?
If you're like many of today's affluent consumers, the answers are too often a qualified “no.” Our neighbor's dog didn't really need his teeth cleaned any more than our two Shih Tzu puppies needed a recommended nasal procedure to supposedly improve their breathing when full-grown. Regardless of whether you continue to use these professionals, the bond of trust has been weakened.
To put this into perspective, let me ask a question I frequently ask in my workshops. Of all the advisors you know, how many do you trust to oversee your family's financial affairs if anything happened to you? I've stopped waiting for a response; it's too awkward, and my point's made. Trust among financial advisors has room for improvement.
Earning professional trust with affluent clients and their centers of influence is the equivalent to Olympic gold for today's financial advisors. Do so and you have an advantage that cannot be purchased.
So the issue is to make certain that you've earned this level of trust with every affluent client. And this can not be assumed. As a psychologist friend likes to remind me, most people have skewed opinions of their abilities. Using driving to make his point, he asks, “Do you consider yourself a good driver?” After an affirmative response (most always), he asks if talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous (most think so), and finally he asks about their driving ability while using a cell phone (most consider it safe.) His point: we all have blind spots.
The following are five simple steps designed to help you gain trust with your affluent clients, prospects, and strategic referral partners. To make certain that you don't have any blind spots, give yourself an honest assessment for each step.
Step 1: Spend a lot of personal time with your affluent clients, affluent prospects, centers of influence, and strategic alliance partners. Remember, in the world of intangibles, you are the product! The more you increase your face-time, the better people get to know you, and the more they will trust you. Personal interaction is the number-one preferred medium of communication for today's affluent investor.
Step 2: Always be thinking in terms of wowing affluent clients, prospects, and strategic alliance partners on a personal level. We call this concept surprise and delight. What's their passion? What coffee table book should I send? Where are the kids going to school? And then use this information to “wow” them. This helps develop raving fans.
Step 3: Keep your mouth shut and listen. The 80/20 rule holds — let your affluent clients and prospects spend 80 percent of the time talking about themselves. Ask questions, listen carefully, and you will develop stronger rapport and more easily gain trust. Proactive listening is a must; you need to remember what you hear.
Step 4: Let your actions speak louder than your words. Say what you're going to do, and do what you say. Provide the comprehensive array of wealth management services your affluent clients are expecting (financial planning, investment management, outside experts, financial organization, etc.) Periodically send a small surprise and delight gift (step 2.) Follow up all personal meetings with a note; snail-mail or email.
Step 5: Make certain your affluent sales skills are so well-refined that they are virtually seamless. Nothing will break this trust bond faster than a client or prospect getting the feeling that they're being sold to. Remember, they dislike sales people and don't trust the financial services industry.
Gaining and strengthening affluent trust is the linchpin to an advisor growing his or her business in today's environment. With this as your platform, every affluent client should be able to lead you to six similar clients that come from their centers of influence. This is why gaining affluent trust is the equivalent to Olympic gold.
Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. oechsli.com