How to Quickly Gain Your Client’s Trust
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Once you gain someone's trust, they will accept almost anything you recommend. But trust is tough to earn and rarely given quickly.
Consider the case of John, an experienced CFP, who was about to meet with a high-net-worth prospective client. He persuaded the wealthy business owner to stop by his office to discuss his upcoming retirement. After a few minutes of rapport development, they both sat around a small conference table facing each other.
As they talked, the prospect leaned back in his chair, as if relaxing. John leaned forward on the owner's side of the table. While John realized that the prospective client was relaxed, he still wished the client would show a little more interest and enthusiasm. He seemed almost disinterested. John felt himself consciously trying to make an emotional connection and ended up speaking faster and disjointedly. He leaned even farther forward and felt perspiration beading on his forehead.
He was losing control of the meeting and the potential sale.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? Ever wanted to generate rapport and trust more quickly?
Trust in the process of securing clients is defined as the degree to which you can communicate competence, dependability, and the faith to do what is right for the client. If you believe that someone is competent and has a desire to help you achieve your goals, and if you believe they can produce what you want and need, you will do almost anything in return. If you can communicate dependability and competency, while keeping their needs in focus, you will be successful for the rest of your career.
But it takes years to develop this kind of trust. Your best clients hold you in high regard. They trust your advice almost without question. But is there a way to gain trust quickly, especially with prospective high-net-worth clients? You don’t have years to convince a new client that you are trustworthy.
You need that business now.
To gain trust, you first must establish rapport. Rapport won’t necessarily come from a broad smile or talking football for a few introductory minutes. Although finding common ground is important, there are quicker and more effective ways.
I recently spent a few hours observing an expert at gaining trust. Dennis Renter, a million-dollar GDC-producing financial planner in Newport Beach, California, invited a high-net-worth couple into his office. I played the part of a silent associate, sitting to the side and in back. Dennis seated the couple at a small circular table, within two feet of the husband, who in this case was the decision maker. Dennis sensed some initial reluctance. He first discussed their mutual friend who was the referral source. Dennis then started probing, asking for their short-, medium-, and long-term financial goals. I was astounded at how quickly this once suspicious twosome warmed up.
Puzzled, I stopped listening to the verbal exchange and instead paid attention to what I saw. Surprisingly, all three were in perfect synchrony. Every movement was duplicated by the other. Dennis' head was tilted in the same direction as both husband and wife. They leaned forward onto the table in the same way. Even their breathing rates were in unison. They were in such high rapport that I believe Dennis could have pulled out a photo of a used Chevy and the couple would have bought it.
I paid close attention during his next appointment. The same initial social amenities were discussed. This time I looked for only non-verbal cues. The new client, a high-level executive, was obviously as relaxed as Dennis. I noticed the client lean forward on the conference table. Within a few seconds, Dennis also moved forward from his chair on the table. What astounded me is how receptive the client was shortly after the first few minutes. I discussed with Dennis afterward what I saw. He was unaware of his non-verbal behavior. After 30 years of practice, he had become unconsciously competent. He was quickly able to generate trust but didn't know why.
This runs counter to everything you were taught about dealing with clients. You probably learned in client communication training 101 that you must at least be enthusiastic and positive when in front of a prospective client. If you are energetic, as the saying goes, your client will also become receptive. This approach is too simplistic. Through watching miles of videos, I have learned that very articulate and technically astute advisors fail to gain the business of especially high-net-worth clients because they don't establish a sufficient level of rapport and trust in the interview.
Frank Triolo, an enormously successful financial advisor in Appleton, Wisconsin, closes nearly 100% of the prospective clients he sees. He mirrors every nuance of the prospect’s posture. When a client enters his office, Frank watches how they stand and then mirrors their posture. If the client crosses legs when sitting, Frank does the same. If they lean forward, Frank follows. This makes a lot of sense. People tend to mirror others they trust. They avoid those they distrust.
Next time you're at a restaurant, try to spot a couple on a date. They will invariably mirror each other's gestures. They'll likely space themselves one to two feet from each other and engage in a courtship dance. If one smiles, the other will follow. If one's arms are folded, the other will unconsciously fold their arms in the same way.
Your first response may be to avoid being manipulative. Yes, it can be if done dishonestly. Ethical advisors don't manipulate. But they do strive to communicate better. The big hitters I have observed mirror so elegantly, it's impossible to spot. But they do it to gain higher levels of rapport and trust, not to manipulate. They first match the client's initial body posture. When the client moves to a new position, the peak performing FA will wait 20 to 30 seconds and slowly mirror the new position.
How to check trust
One of the most difficult tasks in communicating your ideas to a client is to change suspicion and concern into receptivity. This is especially important with new prospects. Renter uses a technique called "the trust check" to cause people to be more responsive. He will first match and mirror his client's body cues until he feels rapport has been generated. He will then lead them into increased interest by moving forward in his chair. If the person is in high enough rapport, he will follow Dennis, mirroring the same position. Have you ever seen Air Force jets flying in tight formation? The following pilots will strive to line up with the wingtip of the leading plane. After a few minutes in flight, these pilots report such a high level of flying rapport that they don’t consciously look at the forward wingtip. All planes in formation move as one single welded piece of flying steel.
I decided to test this mirroring and leading theory. I attended a reception the night before a speech at a conference. The program chairman held a drink in his left hand, keeping his right hand in his trouser pocket. I also held a drink but was motioning while talking with my other hand. I sensed very little rapport as we conversed. I immediately realized our mismatch in body posture. I then mirrored my host. I put my drink in my left hand with my right hand in my pants pocket. I felt our rapport level increase. He seemed much more conversant and candid.
I then decided to check our rapport level and lead. I removed my right hand from my pocket and switched drink hands. Within five seconds, he also removed his right hand from his pocket and switched. When I told him later about what happened, he laughed in recognition. If the high-net-worth client mirrors you back, you are in a high level of trust. If you are interviewing a new client, stop talking. They have already accepted your ideas. Paying attention to these cues will prevent you from overselling.
To gain rapport more quickly, mirror the person you are talking to. But if you want to lead them to your point of view, use the trust check technique. If they mirror you in return, rapport is at a peak.
Peak performing practitioners like Craig Beachnaw in Lansing, Michigan, can do wonders on the phone. Craig raises or lowers his voice pitch depending on his client's voice qualities. Craig instinctively knows that if he talks in a gravely deep tone, the listener will lose rapport and trust if the listener’s voice is high pitched. Most importantly, Craig knows to speed up his voice pace or slow it down depending on the way his client says hello.
I recently heard about an executive who received an insurance settlement after learning about voice matching and pacing. After his car was stolen, he spent weeks of negotiation with his insurance company. He phoned the Des Moines headquarters from his office in Newark. He became immediately aware of the slower voice tempo and tone of the manager on the other end. He changed his voice to match the listener. He not only received a larger cash settlement than expected, but the check was mailed the next day.
Your technical expertise is not as important as your client's level of trust in you. As I have written before in these pages, your prospect will only retain about three concepts at any one sitting. In fact, they will also retain only 10% of what they see, hear or feel after three days. In other words, your product and technical knowledge isn’t sufficient.
If you want clients who give you business for life, get good at dealing with people. Use these techniques to gain their trust today.
I would love to send you a free video of “How to Gain Trust.” Write me at [email protected] or call 714-368-3650. We will spend a few minutes talking about your goals for increasing your business this year.
Dr. Kerry Johnson is “America’s Business Psychologist.” He is the best-selling author of 17 books including the recently released, How to Recruit, Hire and Retain Great People. He is also a frequent speaker at financial conferences around the world. Peak Performance Coaching, his one-on-one coaching program, promises to increase your business by 80% in 8 weeks. To see if you are a candidate for this fast-track system, click on www.KerryJohnson.com/coaching and take a free evaluation test. You will learn about your strengths and what is holding you back. Or call 714-368-3650 for more information.
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