ELITE ADVISOR BEST PRACTICES

The Intensity of Wealth: Advisor Perspective - Part Two

The power of trust, listening and service

By Gary Shunk and Megan Wells

Key Takeaways:

  • As an advisor, your future depends on building trust with your clients.
  • With sincere curiosity and patient questioning, an advisor can gather a rich description of what really works for a client.
  • If you understand the inner-world experience of the wealthy client, you will help your clients come closer to achieving the freedom that we all dream about.

As we discussed in Part One, you can alter your reaction to "difficult" clients and take control of the underlying conflicts that might have been sabotaging your effectiveness. Now we’ll look closer at deep listening, empathy and the power of patient questioning to unlock what really works for each of your clients.

It may seem too simple, but deep listening is what each of us wants. If we are heard, seen and validated on a deep level, we build a bridge of trust. Clients want to trust; they want to give advisors their confidence. Trust comes slowly, though. The vulnerability a wealth holder feels is often not evident to an advisor for years. But that vulnerability is always underneath the surface.

A wealthy client’s money needs are front and center, but underneath the financial conversation is a human being with depth and emotion. Wealth intensifies that emotion, and also intensifies the potential for mistrust in relationships. If a client does not feel heard, they retreat within. The advisor/client relationship shrinks to the level of transaction. Eventually, the energy dissipates and the relationship becomes hollow and empty—or worse, it becomes hostile.

I recently listened to a senior executive who was dealing with a liquidity event. When I asked if she was using an advisor to help the situation, she replied, “No, no. It’s too draining. I’m not always clear whether an advisor is in sales or in service. Sales I don’t want. Service is what I need.”

How would you listen to this client if they came to you for financial services? What kind of internal reaction would you have to that comment about sales?

The sales comment is actually a nugget of opportunity. Move beyond your internal reaction and move toward deep listening. Try an inviting question. During the actual conversation, I waited a few moments after I heard the comment, and then asked, “Have you ever felt served by an advisor?’

“Oh yes,” was the quick reply. I encouraged her to tell me about her former advisor. She then spoke at length about this advisor as a friend and admitted she was deeply saddened by his death.

This kind of response creates a golden opportunity for the listener. And responding with empathy builds a bridge of trust. The inner strain relaxes as the wealthy client feels fully heard. With sincere curiosity and patient questioning, an advisor can gather a rich description of what really works for a client. This can save an advisor years of hits and misses.

Keys to building trust

As an advisor, your future depends on building trust with your clients. The two keys to building trust are your willingness to discipline your internal reactions and your commitment to practice quality listening.

It is not necessary to be a psychologist in order to practice self-awareness and empathy. Nor should you attempt to analyze or diagnose the emotional lives of your clients. The goal of awareness and listening is to build trust. The result of this trust will be a decrease in conflict and an increase in your financial success.

If you listen with empathy and a client opens the door to reveal not only strain, but also deep emotional turmoil, you should act as a trusted friend, referring the client to a psychological professional, then following up to demonstrate consistency and sincerity.

In fact, you should be careful not to move too far into the emotional struggles of the client. When you remain focused on the financial aspects of the relationship, the client learns that the advisor has clear boundaries and will remain, first and foremost, on the financial tasks.

Conclusion

The answers that you seek are inside your client. As long as you don’t allow your own judgments and agendas to get the best of you, as long as you ask the right questions and as long as you practice attentive listening, the clients will guide you to their true financial needs and desires.

Then, if you understand the inner-world experience of wealthy clients, you will help them come closer to achieving the freedom that we all dream about.


About the Author

Gary Shunk, Principle of Family Wealth Dynamics, consults with families in business, families of wealth and the advisors who serve them on the nonfinancial issues of intergenerational relationship dynamics, communication and trust building. He can be reached at www.familywealthdynamics.com or by emailing gary@familywealthdynamics.com.

Megan Wells tours nationally as a story artist and consultant. As a Facilitator with Witmer and Associates’ Unleashing the Leader program, Megan coaches top level executives to flip their storytelling upside down for eyebrow raising results.