The Client-centred Blog

The best way to build unshakeable trust with clients

Many people experience a great deal of insecurity around their finances and feel apprehensive when faced with talking about the future. 

Therefore, engaging the services of a financial planner is not something that most people will take lightly. 

An experienced planner once said to me that it takes a great deal of courage for a client to engage a financial planner in the first place and I think for many people this is probably true. 

Gaining sufficient trust to have clients engage with you at a meaningful level is almost certainly the biggest obstacle you will have to overcome.

So, how do you best accomplish this? 

If you explore available material on trust building you will notice that it offers ways of behaving that demonstrate you can be trusted.  For example, such things as keeping your commitments, listening and being transparent in your dealings.

Yet trust is more fundamental than this.    

For instance, have you ever had an experience of someone who seemed to be doing or saying all the right things and yet you have had an uneasy feeling that tells you not to trust what you are experiencing on the surface?

Behaviour emanates from the way that we feel, and it cannot be faked. 

As Sigmund Freud said, “We leak the truth from every pore”.

Any kind of insecurity, self-interest, self-consciousness or even just having a lot on your mind will create a barrier to building deep trust. 

In the book ‘The Trusted Advisor’ by Maister, Green and Galford, they write:

“There is no greater source of distrust than advisors who appear to be more interested in themselves than trying to be of service to the client”.  

Although this may seem an obvious point, our own state of mind is not always obvious to us unless we take the time to pause and reflect from time to time. 

One of the most toxic questions you can ask yourself when with a client or potential client is:

“How am I doing?” 

If you try to evaluate whether someone likes you, whether things seem to be going ‘your way’, or if the person might make a good client or not then this is highly likely to undermine trust. 

I was speaking with an adviser last week who had been in conversation with a consultant about providing a service for her business. She liked what was on offer but said that the consultant seemed almost desperate for the business and this was enough to put her off entirely. 

Trust develops naturally and easily when you are 100% orientated towards your client’s world and their benefit – something that is impossible if you are lost in your own world.

Imagine there was a scale of trust, going from zero to ten, with zero being no trust whatsoever and ten being the kind of trust you would have in someone to let them look after your child.

It is easy to think that because a client buys products or invests some money then the level of trust must be up at or near ten on the scale. 

I have had some advisers say to me, “They buy from me, therefore, I must have their complete trust”. 

But there is often potential to significantly deepen trust. 

The question is that if clients are buying anyway then why would this even matter?

To create the most powerful impact you want your clients to do their absolute best thinking in your meetings, meaning that they get reflective and in touch with what really matters to them. They are only going to do this when they feel safe, secure and that you are not judging or evaluating them in any way. 

Without sufficient trust another human being is never going to open their heart to you and tell you what really matters to them. This kind of information is rarely on the surface. You must dig for it and doing this requires a very deep level of rapport and trust between you. 

Without this people will play their cards close to their chest and their defences will remain up. At best, under these conditions, the relationship will simply be a transactional one.

One of the advisers who told me that because his clients buy from him he must have the very highest levels of trust also told me that in over twenty years in the business he had very rarely received referrals from his clients. 

I know advisers who get lots of high-quality referrals. They get them because of the level of trust that exists between them and their clients.  

So, ultimately, building trust is not an outer game of trying to ‘do’ the right behaviours. 

It is, first and foremost, built upon the quality of mind that you bring to the relationship. When you are in a clear mind, free from the burden of your own perceived needs, you do not have to try and ‘do’ trust because you ‘are’ trust. Clients can instinctively feel it rather than having to try and decide if they want to trust you or not.

With nothing on your mind and having only the intention of genuinely understanding your client before moving to advise, consult or recommend, you are free to create a conversation of real substance and build a foundation of much deeper value.

P.S. Going back to earlier in the article it is useful to pause and reflect on how we show up to client meetings. Are you fully present? Are you sometimes distracted or doing a lot of thinking? Just awareness itself is the beginning of making positive changes.  

John Dashfield

John Dashfield spent 14 years as a self-employed adviser. Since 2006 he has been a coach, mentor and author helping advisers create transformations in their business and personal lives.


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