Gain Access and Build Trust

Sue BerginSue Bergin

A training manual from a decade ago may have highlighted the importance of mapping your traits to one of three communication styles: aggressive, passive or assertive. Awareness of your own communication style helps you understand how others perceive your interactions, and allows you to adapt your approach with clients who have different styles.

While the advice is still relevant, there is another communication style to consider—mobile.

The mobile communicator believes in access. He or she should be accessible to clients 24/7, and vice versa.

Advisors with a more aggressive communication style should be able to alter their style when working with passive clients, but they must also demonstrate flexibility to move across the mobility spectrum.

Spectrem Group recently reported that 55% of high-net-worth clients use mobile devices to correspond with their advisors.[1]  Most mobile devices offer a variety of communication methods including telephone calls, text messages, e-mails, video chats, and social networking.  How do you know which is the best to use with which clients?

1.19.13_Bergin_GainAccess_BuildTrustThe answer is quite simple. Don’t make assumptions. Find out if the clients want their appointments confirmed via text, e-mail or a phone call. Do they want newsletters and routine correspondence delivered in their mailbox at home, or their inbox? Would they prefer Skype sessions in lieu of face-to-face meetings? Is the landline number you have on file in service, or are they exclusively mobile users?

Adjusting to your clients’ communication method of choice will win you favor in a highly valued category. According to a recent survey, clients are more forgiving of poor investment advice from their advisor than they are of poor communication skills.

25% of the survey respondents indicated inaccessibility and unresponsiveness as the top reasons for lack of trust in a financial advisor. Coming in a distant second, at 13%, was poor investment advice. The third most prevalent reason for losing trust in a financial advisor was the lack of a personalized approach.

As with behavioral nuance, you must learn to respect other styles and adjust accordingly. By using your clients’ preferred communication methods, you will gain efficiency and build trust.

How Advisors Can Use New Media to Communicate More Effectively

Bev Flaxington, The Collaborative

Many advisors have an aging client base. Investors in their 60’s through 90’s may not care about technology, while their children and grandchildren do. The next generations are people who have grown up with the internet, playing video games and generally getting their information in a fast-paced, more interactive manner. While investment information doesn’t necessary lend itself as easily to game playing, advisors can find new and different ways to tell their story using some of the new media available.

What is new media? In many ways, it’s not that new. It involves taking information and delivering it through something other than the static email or newsletter. It is video, audio, webinars or slideshows that can be posted to an easily accessible place, such as your website, and accessed by clients and prospects.

New media can make your information come alive. If trust is a basis for relationship and selection in the investment advisory business, wouldn’t it help to see the person you might give your money to rather than just reading about them? Or would hearing an advisor give a talk about their philosophy on investing make it easier for a prospect to understand that philosophy? Would having a clip on YouTube replaying a speech that had been given, or an educational workshop for clients to pass along, help with referrals?

The answer to all of these questions is “yes.” Adult learners need to access information in a variety of manners to have it stick and make it understandable. Defaulting to the written word for all communication leaves a number of people without a way to truly comprehend why an advisor might be right for them. It is intuitive to think that many people learn and engage much more effectively through audio and video than by reading alone.

In addition, with clients and prospects busier and more preoccupied than ever, fewer and fewer are taking the time to read material on screen – let alone in hardcopy. And with the ever-increasing power of mobile devices, all media forms are available for these busy people to access regardless of where they are. Giving people choices and different access points increases your availability to them. Think of the number of places now where there is a live person to talk to you 24/7. Many firms know that data on a screen isn’t sufficient. People need to engage more actively to learn and understand.

What are some advisors doing now in this area? Many are providing audio- and video-based newsletters or commentary, firm or service overviews, and interviews with firm leaders telling the firm’s story or advisors explaining the markets (among many other examples). Some are creating a YouTube channel and posting quick snippets of their perspective on the market, or updates on trends. If an advisor lacks the time to do some of these things, there are vendors available to write copy or interview questions, record remotely or in person, and then complete all production work.

Using new media can help with marketing. Video sales letters – animated overviews sent in email blasts – are eye-catching and help increase “open rates.” Posting audio and video forms on your website, YouTube, SlideShare, iTunes and other free posting sites enhances search engine ratings and allows your existing clients or centers of influence a place to direct friends, family or clients to see what you can do.

Of course, the compliance issues are the same as with any client-oriented or marketing material. An advisor needs to consult with their internal compliance, or broker/dealer, to find out what’s acceptable and what’s not. The rules around testimonials, guarantees and making broad claims are the same. But this doesn’t mean an advisor cannot tell stories about the kinds of clients they have helped, give insight into their philosophy and approach, or talk generally about market trends and the impact on investors.

The beauty of new media is that it can be taken a step at a time. Start with an audio, or a video of a speech or educational workshop. Ask clients what kind of media they enjoy. View what others are doing to see the variety of options available. New media is going to continue to grow. See if there is a way to learn more about how it could work for you.

Understanding Behavioral Style in Developing New Business – Part 1 by Bev Flaxington

Have you ever been taken completely by surprise by a client or prospect? Or have you ever been unable to close a sale because you just couldn’t “get through” to them? Today, investors are being bombarded by so many advisors and business development people – all trying to connect and persuade them to become clients. However, one of the most fundamental ways to connect with prospects is often overlooked by those in a selling role: understanding behavioral styles and adapting one’s communication approach to the people s/he’s trying to persuade.

You may have at one time taken a training course on relationship-building, face-to-face selling skills, or something similar, but the key to understanding the buyer’s perspective necessarily begins with an understanding of behavioral style. This is because behavioral style is the crux of understanding communication style – and true communication is the key to developing great relationships in both your personal and professional life.
So, is it really true that your likelihood of signing new clients could come down to your behavioral style? Research conducted in 1984 and validated again every year since has proven three things: 1) people buy from people with similar behavioral styles to their own, 2) people in a selling type of role tend to gravitate towards people with behavioral styles similar to their own, and 3) if people in a selling or business development type role adapt their behavioral style to that of the prospect, sales increase.

Many advisors, business development and client service personnel have excellent communication skills, but have difficulty in relationships with prospects and clients – and don’t understand why. Something just doesn’t feel right, but they’re not sure how to diagnose the problem or modify their behavior for greater success. Often times, it’s not technique (i.e. the questions asked, presentation or negotiating skills, etc.) but rather a lack of understanding of one’s own behavioral style and motivators, and of knowing that behavioral differences can cause significant communication difficulties that hamstring closing a prospect or an ongoing relationship with clients.
One scientific way to understand behavioral style is through an assessment called DISC (Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness, Compliance). Based upon the work of Carl Jung, the DISC approach was invented by William Moulton Marston, inventor of the lie detector and holder of a Harvard MBA, over 80 years ago. The statistically based profiles show a person’s preferred styles on four scales of behavior – Problems, People, Pace and Procedures:

• Dominance (“D” factor) How one handles problems and challenges
• Influence (“I” factor) How one handles people and influences others
• Steadiness (“S” factor) How one handles work environment, change and pace
• Compliance (“C” factor) How one handles rules and procedures set by others

Depending on our differences in style and approach, we can either get along very easily together (because we’re so much alike!) or we can have significant clashes in our relationship.

A person’s behavioral preferences have everything to do with their communication approach and style. People who operate with very different styles have a difficult time “hearing” one another and communicating effectively. For instance, if I communicate only within my own behavioral comfort zone, I will only be effective with people who are just like me. However, in the corporate environment we are dealing every day with colleagues, prospects, clients and management – all of whom can be very different behaviorally. Not only is communication difficult where there are differences, but often individuals become hostile and conflict-oriented toward one another. Significant time, effort and corporate money is wasted because people are unable to “get along” and work together effectively toward common corporate goals. (Refer to the Brinker blog “Dealing with Difficult Clients” for a complementary discussion of this topic.)

In the next blog, we’ll take a “deeper dive” into behavior style – how you can identify it in your prospects and use this knowledge to improve your selling effectiveness.