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Trust: Of all the commodities we trade in, it is the most precious metal, the most valuable asset class, and the one thing that, if squandered once, becomes immediately worthless. The trust our clients place in us takes years to earn— or does it?  

It’s long been a forgone conclusion that a prospect, even a strong referral, will be reluctant to do business with you until they trust you. Logically, they can’t possibly trust you until they get to know you. 

So, is it possible to hasten the speed of trust by hastening the speed of knowing?

When we enter someone’s home, their space immediately tells us about them. The effort given to décor, the warmth and tidiness of the rooms, the presence or absence of family photos—even thriving houseplants—speak to pride of ownership and attention to detail, i.e., how they show up in life. If you previously knew nothing about that person, you could replace days of conversation simply by looking around.

This is the handicap of advisors who still make house calls: Not only do they waste valuable hours driving to a client’s home, they deny their prospects the experience of being welcomed by an attentive staff into a place where their priorities are on display, where family photos, evidence of charitable involvement, community service or coaching, and industry awards enable them to know us better and sooner. 

While there are notable exceptions, advisors who see clients in their offices are more productive, solve more client problems, make fewer mistakes, and need not worry if they brought the right forms on a two-hour drive. They also tend to incur fewer complaints, and are widely perceived as more professional, established and respected.  

Equally important: A prospect that you go to see has made less effort to solve their issues. When you do all the preparatory work—and deliver it and yourself to their kitchen table—they have invested little in the relationship whereas you’ve invested a lot. Worse, you’ve set a precedent for all future meetings.  

In contrast, prospects who’ve driven to your office have invested “skin in the game.” Your building, conference room and personal office all say something about you. Upon arrival, your staff greets them warmly and expresses genuine interest in them. They may see your prior appointment leaving when they arrive, and the next client arriving when they leave.  

Perception/Reality: Your team runs an efficient office, your time and expertise are valued by your clients, and you have numerous others whom you’re helping.  

None of these intrinsic advantages are available to the road warrior advisor. 

Next month: Setting the Table, Part 1

Your office is the best setting to meet with prospects and clients.

Thomas K. Brueckner is president and CEO of Senior Financial Resources, Inc. in Nashua, N.H., and Strategic Asset Conservation, Inc. in Scottsdale, Ariz. He is a Senior Market Advisor 2011 Advisor of the Year Finalist.