Raleigh:  “I’m meeting with a new prospect on Friday,” said Jim, a newer advisor (LOS 2 years).  He continued, “How do I build trust quickly?  No one is going to do business with me unless they trust me - right?  Do you have any tips on building trust immediately?”

Trust is visceral.  “I trust you” means that I am relying on both your intent and your ability to meet my needs in the future - tomorrow, next week, next year.  For that kind of trust to occur, something must be happening right now that provides the evidence and gives me the assurance that my trust in you will not be in vain.

Trust is dynamically intertwined with two other concepts.

  • Credibility– Being believable and trustworthy as a human being.     
  • Integrity– Strictly adhering to the ethical principles that guide your profession.

Both of these qualities are measured by each action you take.  Earning a person’s trust starts with your reputation as a person. It officially begins with your first encounter, and then continues throughout the life of your relationship; personally and professionally.  This is extremely important for new advisors as prospects often have a high degree of skepticism regarding the knowledge and expertise of younger or newer professionals.  However, if you’re a trustworthy person you’re three-quarters of the way there.  Thus, evidence and assurance of your credibility and integrity must be visible in the little things consistently.

It begins with the mindset of, “I function at the convenience of my prospects and clients – not myself.”  Without this mindset, it will be too easy to overlook thelittle things by doing what is convenient for you.  Being 10 minutes late for a meeting is no big deal, right?  Wrong!  Being right on time, or even a few minutes early for your first face-to-face encounter with a prospect is where it all begins.

We wanted to make sure that Jim was paying close attention to the so-called little things during his first encounter with this new prospect.  It was important for Jim to…

  • Arrive 10 minutes early to the meeting
  • Pronounce the prospect’s name correctly and introduce himself with confidence
  • Make good eye contact
  • Handle the crucial first three minutes effectively
  • Project a professional image, neither over or under-dressed
  • Speak clearly and conversationally, not mechanically
  • Avoid talking politics, religion, etc.
  • If possible, mention people they both mutually know (use LinkedIn connections)
  • Never speak disparagingly of the competition (even if it’s tempting!)
  • Develop rapport; get the prospect talking about what interests and concerns them, while listening attentively
  • Never interrupt, no matter what you have to say
  • Focus on solutions and processes not products
  • Apply the 80/20 rule (Listen 80% of the time and speak only 20%)

If Jim could accomplish all of these tasks, he would lay the foundation for developing trust.   He then must continue to build credibility and integrity by doing the following on a continual basis, with no exceptions:

Build Credibility:

  • Continue to be on time, every time
  • Promptly return all phone  calls and emails
  • Never say, “Trust me.”  Instead, state what he will do, and then do it
  • Admit when he doesn’t know the answer, promise to find the answer, and then do exactly as promised.

Establish Integrity:

  • Answer questions specifically, rather than evasively
  • Don’t do the things he said he wouldn’t do
  • Never over-promise and under-deliver
  • Don’t lie about anything – ever!!
  • Don’t mislead – ever!
  • Maintain eye contact, unless it is culturally inappropriate to do so

Sit back for a moment and read through the above lists again.  You will be amazed at the collective impact thoselittle things have on building professional relationships.  Jim seemed overwhelmed with our response.  We assured him, that trust takes time, effort, and commitment.  As the Scottish author George MacDonald put it so eloquently, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.”   Are you doing the little things that build trust?

Stephen Boswell and Kevin Nichols are thought-leaders and coaches with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry.  @StephenBoswell  @KevinANichols  www.oechsli.com