Building ladders of trust in your Discovery meetings

The thought of handing over detailed financial information along with personal hopes and aspirations to a potential stranger is a huge leap for anybody. This is why we appreciate that financial advisors need to build trust with their clients from the very first meeting.

Trust can be a tricky thing. It is not binary; it’s not as simple as "I trust you" or "I don’t trust you". There are layers of engagement, communication, competence and emotion that all feed into the levels of trust an individual may have towards a person or an organization. It can be gained quickly, and it can be sustained but can also be slowly eroded over time or lost in an instant.

I often think the early stages of trust in a relationship is like the board game of snakes and ladders. If you played this as a child yourself, or play it now with your own children or grandchildren—you will know that as you progress through each square of the board, there is a chance of landing on a ladder that will take you up the board more quickly, giving you an advantage over other players. There is also a chance of landing on a snake that will send you backwards or even back to the beginning.

The same can be said in a new relationship between a client and advisor: the positive experiences will lead to building ladders of trust. Being intentional and investing in building these ladders can help accelerate the trust journey with a client. The more we can do to build ladders of trust, particularly early in the relationship, the stronger the foundation of the relationship will be and the more it can survive market setbacks and successfully navigate challenging times.

There will always be snakes. As in the board game, there will be events and experiences that will detract from your ability to build and sustain trust. Some may be within your control—so an honest reflection on your delivery and process as well in your client discovery process can assist in identifying them. But often there are detractors not in your control. Whether we like it or not, this may still reflect negatively on you and your service. Poor administration or lost paperwork, delays in issuing quarterly statements, technology failings—the list can be long.

To offset these negative experiences, advisors need to invest in building authentic and meaningful ladders of trust early in the relationship. The more positive the trust relationship is, the more it can endure the detracting or distracting events along the way. So, where do we start?

We start at the beginning — How can we deepen trust in an initial client discovery meeting?

First impressions last, so your initial engagement is critical to build a strong foundation of your relationship. Consider these things when reviewing your discovery meeting

  • Experience is everything—from website navigation, booking a meeting with you or potentially meeting in person. Make the experience simple, positive and memorable. Consider what you can do ahead of time to ensure the client sees the value in what you have created for them.
  • Get them talking and listen—our research shows that advisors run the risk of spending too much time talking about their service and process, instead of investing time in building deep connections and empathy with clients.
  • Understand their aspirations and vulnerabilities—once you get them talking, keep them talking. Find ways to understand not only their financial goals, but their personal aspirations and priorities. Find out about their current barriers to success or worries. Helping clients articulate and define their goals and express their vulnerabilities is a powerful way to build trust in a new relationship.
  • Reframe and support—use this information to reframe their story back to them, it shows you have heard and understood, and is an opportunity to clarify. From there, succinctly deliver how you can support them through your process and together work towards achieving their goals.

The key here as an advisor is to build trust quickly and keep that trust, even when things may take an undesired direction. It is the foundation to maintaining a long–lasting relationship with your client that will benefit both of you.

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