Building trust is a crucial part of selling. It’s all about helping prospects answer two questions. First, has a financial advisor behaved unethically in the past, suggesting a flawed character? And second, is the person still engaging in unethical practices today, indicating a threat of current fraud?
Prospects must answer both questions in order to get comfortable with a prospective advisor. How can you help them? By understanding that what’s really important here is being transparent (the first question) and becoming a fiduciary (the second).
But let’s go even further. Since many advisors today are focusing on transparency and on putting clients first, you must do and say something dramatically different to set yourself apart. Here’s how:
- Buy a background check on yourself so that consumers cannot question your level of transparency.
- Make a compelling gesture that says you’ll never, ever put your own interests ahead of the client’s.
So why order a background check on yourself? Because the standard transparency strategies only take you so far.
Sure, you want to discuss your background extensively on your web site. And you want to increase your online exposure by building a LinkedIn page, along with personal profiles on sites such ethics.net (provided by the National Ethics Association). And you need a compliant business brochure, with ethics and confidentiality statements front and center (and on your web site, too).
But again, these are expected strategies. The only way to convince a consumer that you walk the talk is to let your record speak for itself—by sharing the results of a comprehensive background check.
What should a reputable background-search cover? Here are the main elements:
- A county criminal record search, for both criminal and misdemeanor criminal cases. (Beware firms that claim to have one national criminal records database; there is no such thing).
- A federal criminal records search, for cases involving violation of federal laws, often crossing state lines.
- A sex-offender registry search, for cases involving sex crimes.
- A civil-action search, for lawsuits and bankruptcies that reflect on your fitness to advise on financial matters.
Assuming you pass, it’s time to communicate your background check to prospects. Here’s how:
- Feature the results on all sales and marketing tools (check with your compliance officer first).
- Say that you are background checked on your online profiles.
- Provide a hard-copy report during initial sales meetings.
- Say that you voluntarily offered to be background checked (crucial, since it suggests you have nothing to hide).
If you do all of the above, you will have more trust and be positioned to close the sale. However, this only gets you 50 percent of the way to trust. Earning the remaining 50 percent requires either becoming a fiduciary or acting as one.