The Competency Trap

Photo by Shivendu Shukla on Unsplash

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You are about to meet a new, high net-worth couple. You desperately want to convert them into a client. If you had to pick either “warmth” or “competence” as a personal trait to convey, which one would you choose?

A little-known conflict

I’ve met hundreds of advisors. None came across as incompetent. But few projected warmth.

According to a new book, The Trust Mandate, by Herman Brodie and Klaus Harnack, this is a serious problem. Brodie and Harnack believe projecting competence can be a curse.

The authors believe warmth conveys a feeling the advisor will act in the best interest of the client. Yet, in their efforts to be perceived as competent, advisors can come across as cold and impersonal, leaving a negative impression and reducing the possibility of a successful outcome.

Some tips

In the ideal scenario, you would project both competence and warmth. Brodie and Harnack have these tips for doing so:

Convey good intentions

In my Smartest Sales book, I recommend you “ditch the pitch.” Instead, ask open-ended questions intended to get to know the prospect and elicit their agenda.

Brodie and Harnack go one step further. They suggest you share a story showing how you always put your client’s interest first.

Stories showing your motivation should take precedence over presentations intended to demonstrate your competence.

I found this observation compelling: When the plan sponsor says, “Tell me about yourself,” he is not asking for further demonstrations your competence – he is offering an opportunity to convey warmth. He wants to learn about good intentions.