The three most important assets in financial services are trust, trust and (yep, you guessed it) trust.
Without it, you have no business. And while the visibility of trust as a pillar of the financial services industry may ebb and flow with the economy, no one can doubt that in today's climate, it is front and center for investors.
No one becomes a client, especially in this industry, unless they trust you. Trust is a simple concept that becomes particularly complex and turns into a huge challenge when talking to someone about being the guardian of their dreams. Earning trust isn't just about producing solid, consistent results in money management; it is about the emotional relationships that you build with your prospects and maintain with your clients.
Trust isn't business; it is personal.
The crucial element in building trust with your clients is doing what you say you will — plus a little bit more. You have to keep your promise and then some — not just once but over and over again.
Keeping trust is a relentless pursuit, but the question of how to be successful at it doesn't come up enough. When it does, our industry tends to attack the challenge with a broad stroke. That doesn't do us much good.
“Build strong relationships” just doesn't cover it anymore. Successful relationships take a lot of work, and the answers we need are found in how to go about doing that work. Some of that trust-building work depends on the specific needs and goals of each client, but some of it applies to everyone.
In addition to strong returns, each of your clients will appreciate a prompt response to their questions (within 24 hours), honest communication when issues come up, regular contact and personalized service that goes above and beyond their expectations. That is the base line.
To find opportunities to raise your service to the “above and beyond” level, information is key, and fanatical observation is your best means of getting it. Ask lots of questions. Listen even when they don't think you are listening. Make note of important details such as occupations, alma maters, the schools their kids attend, sports played, favorite vacation destinations, the cookies their grandma made at Christmas growing up, hobbies and passions. Then put that knowledge to good use. Keep tabs on their favorite subjects using the technology available to us all today. Show them you care about their lives and well-being, not just their assets.
Small, thoughtful actions can yield big dividends in terms of keeping your client relationships healthy. Send them a handwritten card when their school wins a national championship. Stop by with a first-day-of-school kit when their oldest child starts kindergarten. Start your monthly check-in call with some banter on the latest advancements in their field. If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. But remember, that is what a trusting relationship needs to thrive. Your clients want to feel that they are worth the work you put in, so don't skimp on effort. Even with all that work, trust will always be fragile and may take a long time to gain. Conversely, losing trust is a lot easier to do than maintaining it. All it takes is the simple failure to deliver on your promise.
If you haven't done the legwork to build up the relationship, sometimes it just takes one slip to break a client's trust in you as their financial adviser. But if you have overdelivered and transparently communicated with your clients on a consistent basis, that one slip will likely be less damaging.
How do you know if you are on the right path? You know you have developed a strong level of trust when your clients are more personal with you and more upfront about the tougher aspects of their lives.
When you have earned a client's trust, you will see results in the form of unsolicited referrals that replace a need to advertise. It will appear out of nowhere in an unexpected call for financing advice on a second home mortgage, or a consultation request to plan the education funding for a little one on the way.
So instead of spending time and energy making New Year's resolutions about how many more clients you are going to bring into your firm, or goals of how much money you want to be managing in 2021, focus on fostering and maintaining trust.
You will like the results — trust me.