I have said for years that advisors don’t sell investments or plans – what we really sell is trust. Trust that you can help a client be prepared for retirement, trust that there will be enough to send Junior to college and trust that the client’s assets will be distributed (with the least amount of tax) to the correct beneficiaries. But how do you build that trust? How do you know that you have 100% trust? In today’s guest post, Grant Hicks, president and national director of practice management at Advisor Practice Management, looks at processes that can help build the trust of your clients.
As a financial advisor, what is your process to build trust and become a trusted advisor to high-net-worth clients? Do you have a process, including a well-documented value promise, that you give to your best prospects?
We understand that your clients trust you. The question is how much do they trust you? On a scale from 1 to 100, what percent would you say your top clients trust you? How do you know if it is 100%? Bill Bachrach once said, “The truth is that most financial professionals have little or no idea why their clients trust them or how to replicate high-trust client relationships. Trust is not something that should happen by accident. We understand that your clients trust you. The question is how much do they trust you?” How do you get your client’s trust meter to 100% and gain all of their business and referrals?
Building a high trust process
Do you have a consistent framework or key process for each interview structured in such a way as to build trust and gather all of the relevant information to help this person? Years ago, as an advisor, I was taught to probe for hot buttons and ask all kinds of questions. Then one day I came across Bill’s book, Values-Based Selling: The Art of Building High-Trust Client Relationships.
Soon after I read the book, I contacted Bill and his team about their processes. Since practice management is all about processes, I wanted to find out about how they do it. This lead into reading his next book, Values-Based Financial Planning: The Art of Creating and Inspiring Financial Strategy.
As Bill says about his process with clients and prospects, “In the grand scheme of things, money’s not that important. It’s important only to the extent that it allows you to enjoy what’s important to you. And not worrying about your finances is critical to having a life that excites you, nurtures those you love, and fulfills your highest aspirations.”
As I wrote in Guerrilla Marketing for Financial Advisors, whether you use Bill’s process or not, having a system of gathering the client’s goals and financial information, gaining trust, and getting commitment in less than one hour can be challenging. According to Bill, “sales training addresses the symptoms, not the problem. When people do not respond to your advice, they are really telling you they don’t trust you enough to take action on your ideas. When they rebuff your approach, they are telling you they do not believe you have their best interests at heart. There simply is no trust. The key to attaining your ideal clientele is the art of deliberately and sincerely building trust.”
How do you speak the language of trust? Bill believes it boils down to three things:
- Know the right questions to ask, when to ask them and how to ask them.
- Listen with empathy.
- When it’s your turn to talk, be able to make an offer or give advice that is relevant for them, with confidence and conviction, and in a way that tends to inspire action.
What are some of the right questions to ask? In the beginning of a potential business relationship, the questions are open-ended and about things that are meaningful, important, significant and compelling to the client prospect. Questions like:
- What’s important to you?
- What are you most passionate about? People? Causes?
- What’s more important in your life than money?
- Who do you care about?
- What are your aspirations for the future?
Notice how the questions are oriented to draw out things that are positive and tend to stimulate positive emotions. Consider the positive orientation of these questions in contrast to how the old-school salesperson would tend to focus on questions that draw out problems and fears. Don’t be a salesperson; be a trusted advisor.
Speaking the language of trust means that you ask questions where the answers inspire people about their futures, not scare them about the future. The better you understand what inspires people, the more likely it is that they will feel good about you, even trust you. This puts you in a much better position to make an offer that might help them have the future they aspire to.
Building a system of trust is a process. Do you go deep enough in the questions you ask? Do you get deep enough emotionally? To do this, you ask clarifying and expanding questions in response to the answers you get from your initial meaningful, important, significant and compelling questions. An effective clarifying question is, “What do you mean by __________?” An effective expanding question is, “Tell me more about _______________.” Clarifying questions provide more detail about their answers. Expanding questions give you more information about their answers.
As Bill says, “Impact questions are some of my favorite questions. They take what you have discovered during a conversation that’s gone emotionally deep from someplace meaningful and bring it to a crescendo about the impact and results this will have on a client’s life. Impact questions are questions like, ‘And what impact will that have on your life?’ ‘Once you have achieved ____________, what will be the result of that?’
You have asked good questions, gone emotionally deep with clarifying, expanding and impact questions, and listened with empathy, so what do you do now? It’s your turn to talk. And what will be music to their ears when you do speak is if you make them an offer or give them advice that is relevant for them. How do you know what’s relevant for them? That’s what you discovered while you were listening to the answers to all of your excellent questions.”
Create your consistent process to building trust and attract your new ideal clients.
Grant Hicks, CIM, is president of Advisor Practice Management and co-author of “Guerrilla Marketing For Financial Advisors” 1st and 2nd edition.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Advisor Practice Management blog on February 26, 2017.
The opinions and views expressed herein are those of Grant Hicks. SEI bears no responsibility for their accuracy. Grant Hicks and Advisor Practice Management are not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries