Four Communications Secrets from the Emily Post Institute

Now more than ever before, financial advisors - like other professionals - can benefit from improving their communications skills, says Peter Post.

Developing client trust takes conscious effort: First, gain client confidence. Next, deliver on your promises.

Such is the stuff of business etiquette as a driver of business success, according to Peter Post, a director of the esteemed Emily Post Institute, founded by the renowned good-conduct authority in 1946.

"How you treat people absolutely makes a difference in how successful you are," says Post, one of famed Emily Post's four great-grandchildren and creator of the institute's business etiquette seminars, held for such firms as Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan Chase.

Nowadays, financial advisors, among other professionals, need more help than ever with communications skills, Post says.

As a follow up to an earlier piece on communications technology and etiquette, Post share his key points for successful communication:

(1) "Think before you act -- then make choices to build strong relationships. Take a breath before you respond with your gut instinct," Post says. "Ask yourself: Is this really the right way to be handling this situation?"

For FAs, "it's not merely a matter of communicating information to clients but how you make them feel while you do it. Communicate in a way that builds confidence in you," he says.

(2) Critical to developing trust is follow-through.

"When you don't deliver and your reason is a lousy one in the client's eyes, they'll begin to lose trust. You can do 10 things right and one wrong. But then, boy," Post notes, "those other 10 don't count for anything."

To be sure, failing to return a client's call is playing with fire. But, in general, avoiding them by not phoning back is bad form. For starters, "It's burning bridges," says Post.

"There are a million different ways the world comes around and bites you in the butt. One day you might be applying for a job and the person interviewing you is someone you've ditched. And now they're in a position to make the difference in whether or not you're going to be successful," he adds.

(3) Beware of anger.

One critical test of proper business etiquette is dealing effectively with clients that blame the FA when their account is down. "Don't let their anger become anger in the advisor's voice," Post says. "If you're angry in return, the conversation will degenerate into anger feeding on anger."

Suggest calling back in 10 minutes -- after you've, say, checked out some information. "By stopping the conversation, you're getting the client to take a moment to calm down. You maintain calmness regardless," advises Post.

In the second call, "reassure them that you've been on top of everything that's going on in their account: Their frustration comes from feeling you don't have a sense of the problems they're facing. They want to hear concern from you."

(4) Treat office colleagues, including your staff, with the same Emily Post principles of etiquette: consideration, respect and honesty.

If you don't, Post says, "how do you turn it back on the minute you walk out the door and meet with a client? That's really hard. These are principles to adopt as a way to treat [everyone]. It guides how you make choices and interact."

He adds: "Your image is built on others' perception of you. That perception of the way people see and hear you is key."

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