The advisory industry and the DOL have been trying to protect and empower consumers through a shift to fiduciary standards and practices. But no rules or practices can substitute for a trust that is based on clients’ instincts and emotions.
And one of the best ways to connect with clients on this level is to open up about yourself. Sharing your personal story with your clients, particularly those you feel have a transactional relationship with you, can earn you massive trust, encouraging clients to see you as someone who really cares.
I once worked with an advisor who on the surface came across as someone who’s never had a struggle in his whole life. To the outside world, with his expensive watch and Tom Ford suit, he looked like he’d been the captain of his football team in high school, was the prom king, had the stereotypical perfect life, and his only trouble in life was getting a Ford rather than a Ferrari for his 16th birthday.
We both sat down in front of his client, who flat out said to him that he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing more details about his wealth and outside allocation because he can’t fully trust an “Abercrombie Model.”
Hearing that, the advisor shared his story: How his father had died of cancer when he was only a teenager. How he’d had to put food on the table as his mother became crippled from anxiety. How he worked two jobs, one as a carpenter and one as a waiter, to pay for his sister and him to get through high school.
The client and I actually teared up. Two months later, the client sent over his entire $20 million from the competing firms he was dispersed amongst, and agreed with the entire allocation that the advisor had suggested to him.
When I asked the client, through a survey I do on behalf of advisors, why he did that, he said that he felt he could trust his advisor a lot more than any of those “other brokers.” He believed that this advisor’s recommendations were based on someone who “gets me.”
Of course, your personal story doesn’t have to be as dramatic as this. It can include growing up in a small town and adjusting to a challenging big city. Or going through a divorce and learning valuable lessons. Or having to make it in this industry with just a community college degree, or something else that shows you overcoming some adversity to get to where you are today, and that shows how dedicated you are to this business and your clients.
If you think letting down your guard will keep you from getting hired, or earning more of a client’s business, consider what Michael Bloomberg, one of the world’s most successful businessmen, once said when talking about job applicants:
“What disturbs me is you talk to [people] applying today and they invariably say, ‘I cured cancer, I brought peace to the Mideast.’ Spare me. How about, ‘My father never existed, my mother is a convicted drug dealer. I worked three shifts at McDonald’s.’ That’s the kind of kid I want — with an ethic of taking care of his family — because then he’ll take care of others.”
In an industry where we are asking investors to trust us with the most important and intimate part of their life, their wealth, going beyond sharing your weekend stories with your clients will not only humanize your practice, but will help your clients see that you are truly on their side.
Amy Parvaneh is founder and CEO of Select Advisors Institute, a sales coaching and consulting firm that helps advisors humanize their practices and deepen social connections in order to grow their businesses.