Trust is one of the key ingredients in any advisor-client relationship.
I like to use the following acronym to emphasize this importance: Trust requires you to give clients your Time, your Re-commitment to their needs, Unbiased information, Strategies and Total empathy for their lives, not just their checkbooks.
First, you need to realize just how much competition you face in this industry. In many towns today, Main Street is cluttered with pharmacies, coffee shops, a few fast food restaurants and more banks than all the other stores combined.
The point is, your neighborhood depositor (your prospect) is able to deal with a number of professionals at any number of financial institutions-all within a short walk from wherever they parked their car. They can visit the branch, they can drive through or they can visit the bank online.
The pertinent question for you is how to set yourself apart as an advisor. What makes you different from the competitors in the client's eyes? (By the way, I stress the word client and not customer because a client is someone with whom you have a relationship that has been cultivated over time; a customer is a person who buys something-or is sold something-and may never come back.)
If you are working for a bank, or as a financial planner who has a "selling" agreement with a bank, a few words of caution: Without real trust, which can only be earned, you will be hard-pressed to grow or even maintain your business.
Let's further explore the Trust acronym. The first "T" stands for time. Time to reveal your personal truth to yourself, and reveal yourself to your client. The client wants what you want; that is, straight talk from a perspective of what you would want to hear, and the way you want to hear it. It is not about the sale-it is about anticipating their needs, concerns and fears.
Think how you can reduce stress for your clients. We need to be there with them and our voices of guidance need to be heard.
And it will only be heard if we give of ourselves. Are you really equipped to explore their wishes, dreams and what they feel is fulfilling?
The "R" in trust stands for re-commitment. Think of this as a re-commitment to understanding. And that means really understanding, not just showing how well you have performed for the client or how you can pick investments better than the next person.
Picture yourself in a chair and the client is standing on the other side of the desk expressing their concerns telling you what they want. (Warning: This mental picture may bring flashbacks of your college days when you would try to pay attention to the professor but still not fully understand when they were lecturing.)
However, most advisors listen down to the client instead of listening up. That is, they are mentally standing up in front of the client and attempting to assume the position of power. They are really just waiting for a break in the "lecture" so they can embark on the "this is what you need to do or buy" pitch. But at the end of the day, it comes down to this: If you don't listen, you won't hear, it's that simple.
The "U" in trust stands for unbiased information. This is about how you help or hinder a relationship, and something that many advisors forget to focus on. It's how we teach and how we believe that allows for relationships to grow deep. Remember, your clients are another advisor's prospects. If you maintain this thought you will deliver the correct and full information, every single time.
The "S" stands for strategy. Advisors who tell clients things like, 'I don't see any investments out there that will produce the yield you need' should change their thinking and their communication to the current situation that the client finds himself or herself in. When you're talking about, say, lower interest rates that seem to be having an effect on their long-term goals, try saying, 'I wanted to discuss your concerns based on the potential reduction of income that you could see later in life.' This will help establish a dialogue with your client which should lead to further and deeper discussions.
The second "T" in trust stands for total empathy. It's not about the next investment that will become the new comparison to "sliced bread."
It's about the concerns that your clients have about a neighbor who just got downsized-and they worry that they could be next. It's about their kid struggling in school and listening to their fears surrounding SAT test scores.
You have to solve problems in such a way that they know you care, not just think you care.
The other big no-no is the terminology-the jargon that people use in the industry. Don't fall in line. In fact, try to just forget it and talk like you would if you were addressing someone who's not in the industry and does not have a Series 7 license. Only then will you truly be talking to your audience because your clients are not likely to be in the industry and probably do not have a Series 7.
It's fine to talk about financial concepts like duration, but make sure you can explain compound yield first- and make sure that they understand.
Here's the bottom line: Trust is crucial when it comes to your clients and your business partners.
On the client side, it's harder for a client to leave you if you're viewed as a true friend and confidante. Work on growing the relationship. With empathy you can position yourself over time as a trusted advisor within the banking channel.
And as for the internal partners, your centers of influence (say, the lenders at your bank) will not feel comfortable referring and working with you if you do not earn their trust first.
So remember, build that necessary trust, with the handy acronym T-R-U-S-T.
Skip Massengill is a senior vice president and financial advisor at Baird.