Trust must be at the heart of every interaction you have with a client. If there is no trust, there is no client. Therefore, establishing trust with a client is priority number one.
So how do you quickly establish trust? There are many ways to establish trust, and one of them is through connection. People trust people that they can connect with and people that they genuinely like. One of the best ways to establish trust and connect with people is by listening.
Listening is often hard for some financial advisors, especially advisors who were brought up in sales cultures. The comfort zone of that advisor may be to “tell and sell,” but that may take the client out of their comfort zone. And, when someone is out of their comfort zone, it makes it harder to establish trust.
Instead, we suggest that advisors should operate out of inquiry. Be curious about what concerns and goals a client may have. Let the client do the talking. Let the client be heard and understood. This will help you better manage the conversation and, ultimately, lay the foundation for a long-term relationship, one that is built on trust.
The way you start a client meeting will forever set the tone for how your relationship will develop. We suggest leveraging the insights of experts who have dedicated their lives to helping people interact more effectively and build trust-based relationships.
Starting a Meeting with Inquiry
One expert, Dr. Robert Lauridsen, outlined a process for working effectively with people in his book, Boss Talk. Dr. Lauridsen, an expert in generating high-performance cultures, has been helping people be more productive and innovative for over 20 years.
He is now applying these concepts to the advisory community, and he has helped us develop a framework to use with advisors that helps to quickly establish trust with clients. It uses what we he refers to as the method of inquiry. Inquiry is essentially the opposite of telling and selling. It is more consultative and definitely more client-focused.
To help advisors have more productive meetings where they are quickly and constantly building deeper levels of trust, we worked with Dr. Lauridsen to design two questions that should help get your conversation started in the right direction.
The following script is the result of our work together. It has already been tested in numerous client meetings, and the feedback we received from advisors using this approach was very positive. Here is our sample script:
“Thanks for meeting with me today. I know there are things that you will want to know about our firm, our philosophy and the process that we use to manage your money. Before I do that, I’d like to ask you a couple questions if that is okay with you?”
“Certainly.” (Getting a person’s permission helps to build rapport.)
Would you mind telling me your concerns or issues regarding investing?
Discusses their goals and any worries about the markets, and investing.
Ask clarifying questions about some of their concerns. You might also add some potential concerns to see if the client cares about them, but let them voice theirs first.
“You are not alone with your concern about A, B and C. I will make sure that we address those concerns during our time today. Other clients have mentioned that they have been concerned about X, Y and Z. Do any of these issues concern you?”
Sample concerns may include:
- I didn’t know how my money was being managed.
- I didn’t know how much risk I was taking.
- I didn’t know where my money was being held.
- I am concerned about having access to my money when I need it (i.e., liquidity).
- I didn’t know how much my advisor was charging me.
“Yes, I am concerned about having access to my money. And, come to think of it, I never understood how much risk I was taking with my own investments.”
After your client is done listing their concerns, ask about their prior investment experiences and what they may have wanted more of, done better or done differently.
“What would you like to see more of, have done better or done differently from past investing?”
Responds to question. Be prepared for a short answer like, “I kind of covered it in my concerns.” If they did cover it, then move on. If they really didn’t answer the question, try asking the question a different way. Here is a different way to position the question:
“When working with your prior advisor, what do you wish they did more of, did differently or what could they done better for you?”
Be supportive of the client and encourage them to share. You’ll be surprised how much information and perspective you will gain from the client through this line of inquiry based questions.
“Thank you for sharing your concerns and providing perspective on what you’d like to do more of, do better and do differently. I took some notes on our discussion. Let’s start by addressing some of your specific concerns with regard to how we can better manage your investments and goals.”
When you are trying to connect with the client using the method of inquiry, you need to be an active listener. Here are four ways you can actively listen:
- Give your client context, but keep your questions open-ended.
- Ask clarifying questions.
- Write down their answers.
- Use empathy to connect. An easy way to show empathy with a client is to repeat what they said.
Depending on the level of service you provide your clients, you can easily incorporate a discussion on the client’s financial goals, tax matters, and other planning needs you can service. Starting a meeting with the method of inquiry provides a very flexible format that you can adapt to most situations. You start by asking about a client’s concerns, and then ask what they’d like to do more, better or different.
Conducting meetings using the an inquiry-based approach helps you address what the client is truly concerned about, helps foster an open discussion and lays the foundation for a long-term relationship built on trust.