How often do you trust a complete stranger? If you’re like me, you’d like to think you’re too street smart for that. But the reality is that we’ve all done it. Many of us are social creatures and derive pleasure from connecting with others. According to Paul Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and professor at Claremont Graduate University, our brains have “two neurological idiosyncrasies that allow us to trust and collaborate with people outside our immediate social group.”
The first idiosyncrasy is being able to put ourselves in another person’s shoes. Zak tells us this involves our hypertrophied cortex on the brain’s outer surface. This part of our brain enables us to better understand what another person is thinking and adjust accordingly in order to connect. For example, when you meet with a prospect who’s had a bad experience with advisors, you may slow down your process to make sure that person is comfortable.
The second idiosyncrasy is empathy; our ability to connect with another person’s feelings. This has long been known as a key quality in building rapport. For some people, this requires dialing down a type “A” personality. Talking too much or being too forceful are counterproductive when it comes to developing trust.
Let’s take action on this. The following is a simple 3 step guide that should help you weave trust into your client, COI, and prospect relationships:
- Make a game out of putting yourself into the shoes of others. Whether it’s your spouse, children, colleagues, friends, or neighbors—this will be good practice and open your eyes to the impact it can have on these relationships. This should help you develop this as a habit, which will have you fully prepared for interjecting this skill into your professional life. Incidentally, you can’t fake it. Either you’re trying to see reality as the other person does or you’re not. It’s all about them. And people do love it when it’s all about them.
- Take empathy to the next level. When people know that you understand how they feel and truly care about them, they will do almost anything for you. Further, when you understand how they feel, you’re in a natural position to share how you feel. This is a key element in emotional connectivity.
- Engage in activities that activate oxytocin. Whenever you make someone feel good inside, you’ve activated oxytocin and instinctively make them feel good about you. You can do this by making a personal phone call to check in, sending a small personal gift, taking a client or COI to a social lunch or dinner, or simply engaging in any act of kindness directed towards them.
It’s been my experience in over 40 years of coaching financial advisors that there's a tendency to overlook soft skills, not fully understanding their importance, and thus not making them a priority. This is why I continue to frame this type of messaging around neuroscience as it provides complete validation of its power—the science behind it. Forty years ago the message was there, but not the science.
Now the science is here for everyone to see, aptly, that it builds trust, improves relationships—and for financial advisors—will increase AUM.
Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. www.oechsli.com