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Financial Planning > Trusts and Estates > Trust Planning

How to Build Trust With HNW Prospects and Clients

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Trust is the foundation of most client and advisor relationships, but if you asked most advisors how to earn it, they might stumble over their answers.

On Monday at the IMCA annual conference in Boston, David Richman of the Eaton Vance Advisor Institute provided tips on how advisors can get high-net-worth individuals to want to work with them by building trust.

“Trust has always been the elephant in the room,” said Richman, before asking attendees if they would trust someone merely because he said “Trust me!”

To begin building trust, Richman recommended that advisors familiarize themselves with the three levels of trust:

1) The Visceral Level

This occurs when clients feel at a gut level that they like their advisor, so Richman counseled to first listen to yourself before asking questions of the client or prospect. “Hear the words that come from your mouth.”

A common flaw advisors have is they can make even very successful individuals feel stupid, Richman said. If that is the case, there’s a low probability of the prospect agreeing to a second meeting.

Richman used a football analogy to explain the importance of asking good questions. A running back on a football team gains yardage on a play by using blockers; for advisors, questions can play that role. “It is the questions you ask that propel you forward,” he argued, not your prepared statements. That, he said, is “why scripts fail.”

There can be two types of people: learners and judgers, he said. Those that judge, and do not listen, are less likely to ask questions and appear less empathetic to others. Richman recommended that advisors try to see and feel the world through the eyes of those they are working with, and asking questions is a good place to start to do so.

2) The Objective Level
Advisors do need to demonstrate their competence to build trust, so providing real-time advice on the state of  the markets can give clients and prospects confidence that they are in good hands. 

Richman asked the attendees if they would hire themselves. Assuming most of them would do so, he followed with a one-word question: “Why?”

He then recommended a best practice. “Be disciplined,” which encompasses everything from the fees you charge to the client experience you provide. For example, “It’s hard to deliver [excellent service] if you have a team that is dysfunctional,” said Richman. 

He also encouraged the attendees to avoid small accounts, as they can drain resources.  He compared them to mosquitos, making the analogy that a couple of the pests can be dealt with, but 15 or 20 is a more significant problem.

Richman also discouraged advisors about asking for referrals. If a doctor or dentist appeared too needy in their patients’ eyes, he said, they would begin to doubt that the medical professional was highly competent; the same applies for advisors.

3) The Experiential Level
Richman proceeded to ask the attendees, “What does it feel like to be a client of yours?”  His point was that not enough advisors are focusing on the emotional aspects that go into the relationship that eventually build a strong level of trust.

The best advisors do a deep diagnostic with clients, he argued. As for the next generation of clients, the best advisors don’t see Next Gen as some hot new trend, but rather something they already do. Richman ended his presentation by saying, “People need your advice. They are willing to pay for your wisdom.” In all, if trust can be increased, it can have numerous benefits in attracting and retaining clients, and thus in growing your business.



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