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Financial Planning > Trusts and Estates > Trust Planning

Clients, Trust and Human Behavior: Thoughts and Resources

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If you’ve been following this blog over the past month, you’re aware that we’ve been discussing the subject of gaining client trust (for example, see last week’s blog, How to Tell if Your Client Trusts You.)

Trust is at the core of our discussion, the natural result of which is a client who follows through on your advice. However, at times a client may do the opposite, even if the recommendation is exactly what they should do. When the client fails to follow through, the advisor might naturally wonder why. There are two primary reasons for this. The first is a lack of trust and the second is a client who just doesn’t understand the complexities of the recommendation. The latter is something that you can address through additional explanation. The former? That can be murky. Perhaps an example will help.

If I go to the doctor, and for some reason, rational or not, come to distrust him, I would likely question his advice. Not that I know better, it’s just that I need to be comfortable that he has my best interests at heart. Conversely, if I did trust him, then I would do exactly as he said. Why? Because I know he has years of medical training and experience. In other words, I believe he is competent. Moreover, because I believe he has my best interests in mind, I would trust him. 

Why would a client not trust an advisor and how can the advisor determine this? The first thing an advisor needs to do is ask the client about past experiences. How many advisors has the client worked with in the past and why did the relationship end? If you find the client has fired their past advisors, and especially if the tenure with each was relatively brief, perhaps the client finds it difficult to trust. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper into this line of questioning. Your mission is to understand the client. If the client hasn’t had a history of multiple advisors then perhaps the client doesn’t understand what you’re recommending or doesn’t feel like you really understand what you’re trying to accomplish. It could also be the case that something in your interactions has influenced their ability to trust. Before the client will be able to move forward, they must be comfortable with their decision.

(For another take on clients and trust, see my feature story in the May 2014 issue of Investment Advisor, Why You Get Fired.)

Advisors are entrusted with a great responsibility. Whenever one abuses this position, it damages the entire industry. Being an advisor is not a short-term sales position. Unfortunately, this industry is focused on generating revenue and in many companies, if you don’t do that, they’ll replace you with someone who will.

That’s regrettable for the client as it creates distrust. Instead, if we focus on providing quality advice, the income will follow. However, this requires more patience than treating it as a sales gig. 

As promised, here’s a list of three excellent books on the subject of human behavior. 

The Best Seller

Copyright 1984; my version 1993.

Publisher: Sales Success Press

Author: D. Forbes Ley

Subject: Discusses the four primary personality types and provides specific recommendations on how to interact with each.


Reading People


Publisher: The Ballantine Publishing Group

Author: Jo-Ellan Dimitrius and Mark Mazzarella

Subject: Discusses how to understand people and predict their behavior. Based in the arena of Scientific Jury Selection, the author, Jo Ellan Dimitrius, was instrumental in the jury selection of the O.J. Simpson trial. This book covers body language and voice inflection as well.


The Art of Profiling

Copyright: 1997; my version is the eight printing (March 2005).

Publisher: International Focus Press

Author: Dan Korem (Forward by James Reese, former member of FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit)

Subject: Discusses techniques on how to accurately profile an individual within a few minutes to predict how the person is likely to:

1) communicate;

2) perform on the job; and

3) make decisions. 

Each book is an excellent read. 

Thanks for reading and have a great week!


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