In this community we talk a lot about trust.
And trust is essential when it comes to being customer centric.
But building trust comes easier to some people.
So in this post, we’re going to break down some of the commonalities among the advisors who are best at building trust with clients.
Which characteristics do they share?
And perhaps more importantly – which pitfalls do they avoid?
One of the most interesting perspectives that clients mention when you ask why they chose (or chose not) to do business with a given advisor one particular answer almost always pops up.
They’re likable.
But it doesn’t take much prodding for them to elaborate and provide a bit of context and nuance to that picture.
Some of the most commonly mentioned aspects are that the they’re easy to get along with, fun, gentle, serious – but not overly so. In other words, they’re calm and confident in their ability without having to prove that to themselves or the client.
What happens when you interview enough clients (and could-have-been clients) is that a pattern emerges.
More than anything people prefer to deal with people who they perceive as
  • Authentic
  • Opportunistic
  • Vulnerable
What people mean when they refer to authenticity is the ability to be who you are, where-ever you are.
It is the trait that let’s your character and your personality shine through and light up any room that you’re in.
Authenticity means saying what you say with conviction, and doing what you say you will do. It means that you have the courage to speak your truth, and especially to tell the client when you disagree with him or her – even when it might not be in your best (short-term) interest.
And more than anything it means that you don’t change who you are or what you stand for regardless of who might be in the room.
For our purposes here, we are going to define opportunism as the ability to find ways to give value.
Find way to give value
Across the clients I’ve coached, they usually fall into one of three categories.
  • The very few who consistently remove value from a situation
  • Most advisors who on average neither hurt nor help a situation
  • The top advisors who consistently add value to a situation
The few who consistently remove value are few and far between, and most of them don’t last very long (and the ones who do, find ways to change).
Naturally, customers, look for partners who can help them create more value than they currently are on their own, and who can help them achieve better outcomes.
If the person they’re looking to cooperate with consistently removes value, then that’s not going to happen, and as a result they’re going to find someone else to work with.
What’s more interesting however is the middle 80-90% of advisors who more or less leaves situations the same as they find them.
Not coincidentally, these are the same advisors who usually are stuck competing on price, and find themselves suffering from commoditization of their products and services.
The reason is that it’s not intuitive to think in any other way, which means that if we don’t make a concerted effort to do it differently then this is going to be the mode that we’re stuck in as a default.
In my experience only the top 3-5% of advisors in any industry consistently add value to situations and improve the customer’s outcomes.
There is nothing esoteric about these people, except for the way they approach their customers.
What they do differently is that they consistently look for opportunities to add value.
Through the questions they ask their customers, they listen for where they might be able to make the situation better (and naturally you can’t do this if you start with your solution).
The more they listen for it, the easier it is to see where they might be able to help the client, and because the client senses that this is what they’re doing, it reaffirms them in the belief that the advisor have their best interests at heart, which is one of the most conducive elements of trust.
Last but not least we need to talk about…
Vulnerability is the willingness to be seen for who you fully are – to know that even though you’re not perfect (but close), you’re good enough as you are. It’s knowing that whatever happens, things are going to be okay, because you’re okay. This fundamental feeling of okay-ness is what Brené Brown calls standing in your own truth and it is one of the fundamental factors that determine your success as an advisor.
The reason why it is one of the most fundamental factors, is because it means that you don’t feel like you have to impress the client.
Countless assignments and proposals have been lost, because advisors have wanted to share all of their knowledge, and impress the client with everything they know and how intellectually superior they are.
When you see someone acting as though everything they do and see is perfect, and trying to give off the impression that they never make mistakes, you can be certain, that they’re uncomfortable with vulnerability.
Few things are more detrimental when it comes to building trust. No one likes a know-it-all, and while your expertise might be what got you invited to the table it isn’t what’s going to win you the deal.
In order to drive that point home, the following mantra might be of value:
Tell the client what they need to know – not all that you know.
Authenticity, opportunism and vulnerability are some of the most common factors that underlies the amount of trust we can gain with our clients and the speed at which we can gain it with.
And trust is essential to all that we do.
Thank you for reading
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