Many people experience a great deal of insecurity around money and feel apprehensive when faced with talking about the future. Therefore, engaging the services of a financial adviser is not something that most people will take lightly. From an advisers perspective gaining sufficient trust to have clients engage with them at a meaningful level is almost certainly the biggest obstacle they will have to overcome.
The late Stephen Covey wrote an insightful article titled ‘How the best leaders build trust’. He points to the fact that low trust places a hidden tax on every transaction, every communication, every interaction and every decision, bringing speed down and sending costs up. He said that significant distrust doubles the cost of doing business and triples the time it takes to get things done.
So, it might be useful to look at trust in a little more depth, highlight a common mistake that advisers can make and touch upon what it really takes to build deep trust and rapport quickly.
If you begin to explore the available material on building trust you will notice that it most often points to trust being a behavioural issue. For example, in Covey’s article he mentions such things as keeping commitments, listening and transparency.
Whilst helpful this does not get to the core understanding of what really creates trust. For instance, I expect we have all had the experience of someone who seemed to be doing or saying all the right things and yet we have had an uneasy feeling that tells us not to trust what we are experiencing on the surface.
At the very core of what communicates trust, or not, is our state of mind. What people really pick up on, far more than words and deeds, is our feeling state. Any kind of insecurity, self-interest or even just having a lot on your mind will create a barrier to building deep trust and rapport. Although this may seem an obvious point, our own thinking and habits are not always obvious to us in practice, so let me give you an example.
One of the most toxic questions we can ask ourselves when with a client or potential client is “How am I doing?” because it generates feelings of insecurity in us. In a client meeting, if we try to evaluate whether things seem to be going ‘our way’, think about the business we might get or if the person might make a good client or not then this can only have a negative impact. Trust develops when we are willing to do what it takes to understand our clients world – something that is impossible if we are lost in our own.
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 as much to me – “They buy from me, therefore, I must have their complete trust”. However, there is always potential to significantly deepen rapport and trust. The question is that if clients are buying anyway then why would this even matter?
The reason is this hidden tax. When clients experience incredible value in financial planning it is because it is deeply meaningful to them and improves their quality of life. It is far more than simply a transactional relationship. What clients really care about is the degree of difference you make in their lives. The bigger the difference you make to them the bigger the difference it makes to you, in many ways.
To create the most powerful impact you want your clients to do their very 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 they are not being judged or evaluated.
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 have to dig for it and it requires a very deep level of rapport and trust. 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. This is a form of hidden tax. I know advisers who get lots of high-quality referrals. They get them because the referrer wants the people they refer to have the same high impact, life-changing experience they had.
So, ultimately, building trust is not an outer game of trying to ‘do’ the right behaviours. It is, first and foremost, an inner game built upon the quality of mind that you bring to the relationship. When we are in a clear mind, free from the burden of our own perceived needs, we don’t have to try and ‘do’ trust because we ‘are’ trust and clients can instinctively feel it rather than having to try and decide if they want to trust us 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.