An advisor with two clients (Credit: iStock)

Your success as an advisor is built on the strength of your relationships. The rapport you establish with prospects directly impacts whether they decide to work with you, and the connections you develop with your clients determine how deep the relationships go, which influences how much they recommend you to family and friends. To establish better relationships with prospects and clients, we must focus on finding the shared experiences that connect us as people.

(Related: 4 Ways to Create Your Own ‘Random Luck’)

Many salespeople feel tempted to force new prospect connections as quickly as possible. They cram the relationship-building process into three months by blasting emails, dialing phone numbers, and sending social media messages. Building a lifelong relationship naturally takes years, but they look for shortcuts anywhere possible.

We have all been on the receiving end of these tactics. I recently received a cold email from someone in the executive search space. I sent a brief reply explaining I was uninterested and the service was not appropriate for our business. I was surprised a few days later when I received another email from the same individual with this subject line: “John, can you do a 6-minute call on Wed, Dec. 4 at 9:20?” The sales rep had completely ignored my previous email turning down the offer, and they instead decided to blaze forward to try to force a conversation between us. Upon reading the subject line, my next thought was sarcastic: “Oh, wait, did you say six minutes? Gosh, I can’t wait to spend six minutes together!”

These tacky approaches to building relationships are destined to fail because they offer little respect to other people. Prospects know when someone is trying to sell to them, and these signals make them annoyed and even angry. Instead, we should focus on establishing relationships through shared experiences.

When we find something in common, we can connect on a personal level. When I think about my kids graduating from high school, for example, I rarely think about the graduation ceremony. Instead, I think about the good and bad times we spent together to reach graduation. Those are the experiences we shared over time that bind us together today. Too many salespeople resist investing that same amount of time. Instead, they want immediate results without the shared experiences. We all know this strategy will eventually fail, but many continue to push as if it will work.

Discovering where your shared experiences lie with clients can be a long process. We use three strategies in our own office to help us make connections:

1. Learn more about them, especially in the first year of working together.

We maintain a personal file for each client with a list of questions we need to ask in the first 12 months of the relationship. We track their birthdays, whether they have kids, where they like to vacation, and other characteristics that define them as a person. This information helps our account representatives dive deeper into conversations and develop personal connections with each client.

Many of these details will arise organically when you’re onboarding a new client as an advisor, but be sure to take notes so that you remember in the future. Depending on your methods for engaging with clients, your list for the next 12 months may need to be more specific than ours, so customize accordingly.

2. Empower your team to build relationships.

We give our team members time to foster personal relationships with each client and their team. In the advisor world, budget time to develop relationships in meetings and schedule events that allow you to have shared experiences.

Try booking an appointment over breakfast or inviting your clients in for a holiday party. Though the conversations and experiences you share may seem like distractions from work, they will result in better relationships as long as your clients can see that you are genuinely interested in getting to know them better.

3. Engage with clients on their anniversary.

We celebrate our client anniversaries to commemorate the day we started working together. The action we take will depend on the length of the relationship and the client’s personal interests, but it could be as simple as sending a handwritten note or as engaging as inviting them into the office to meet our team.

We are all accustomed to hearing from vendors on our birthdays and holidays, so make your relationship anniversary an event to remember.

Thanks to our comprehensive approach, our team consistently finds those shared experiences they have in common with our clients, generating closer personal ties that help them work together.

There are no shortcuts in building professional relationships. Instead of using technology to reach as many people as possible, focus on improving the quality of conversations you have around your shared experiences. When we find the common connections between us, we’ll have better relationships with our clients and prospects.

— Read 6 Ways to Capture the Rewards Hiding in the Unknownon ThinkAdvisor.


John Pojeta

John Pojeta is vice president of business development at The PT Services Group. Before he joined PT, he owned and operated an Ameriprise Financial Services franchise for 16 years.