The definition of communication is the imparting or exchanging of information or news; the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings; a means of connection between people or places. The definition of trust is firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something. 

How do you connect with your clients and prospects and effectively communicate with them? Do they want you to offer financial solutions or financial strategies? A solution implies a problem and a one-time fix. Strategies mean opportunities to develop ongoing relationships. The language we use is critically important to effective communication and building trust.

The key to effective communication is the connection between the brain and our intuition (informally known as a gut feeling). When we talk with our clients and prospects, what we say must travel through their ears, then to their gut and then to their brain to rationalize their intuition.

Communication and trust used to be easier, but culturally we have all been burned. We have more information than ever before in the palm of our hand and that access to information helps confirm our biases. Did you know there is more computing power in your smart phone than President Ronald Reagan had at his fingertips in 1985? Think about that for a moment. The challenge in this era of unlimited access to information is a lack of trust.

In many cases, we have lost the benefit of the doubt, our motives are always questioned, our facts are challenged and we all know at the end of the day, facts matter less — it’s all about emotion.

How do you build trust? Start with understanding that your audience has been let down before and they carry that experience with them into your relationship. 

When you say, “We only recommend products that are right for our clients,” the translation to your prospect suggests you have an agenda. Or the comment that, “We really care about our clients,” is something everyone says. Your prospects are thinking, “Prove it to me before I buy from you.”

Build effective communication and trust with these four principles:

1. Personal: It’s not about you, it’s about them. Your job as their trusted adviser is to help them achieve their goals and develop a strategy that is right for them. Ask your clients how they want to be communicated with and how often to make sure they are getting what they want.

2. Keep it simple and transparent (KIST): The world is moving faster, the speed of change is exponential and the unlimited access to information makes life more challenging than ever before. If your clients can’t understand you, it’s your fault. Don’t avoid a conversation about your compensation, be transparent. Don’t assume they know or could defend if asked what you charge vs. what they get.  Provide a stewardship report for your clients with an accounting of services performed and compensation they paid to you.

3. Positive: Negativity breeds contempt. Frame things as opportunities rather than risks. Develop plans for your clients to keep them on course. Provide them with vision and help them create a positive future.

4. Plausible: Nothing else matters if they don’t believe you. Acknowledge your flaws, be real and imperfect. Reassure your clients by crafting a plan that you can change/adapt and evolve over time as the market changes. Credibility is critical. Nothing is perfect. Acknowledge weakness to demonstrate strength.

Communication and trust are closely related. To be viewed as a trusted, strategic adviser, consider these seven best practices:

1. Move the complex to straight-forward

2. Turn problems into solutions

3. Relate personally and positively

4. Make your clients believe, in order to hear you

5. Make it plain and plausible

6. Ensure they trust you, so you can do your job

7. Be consistent and authentic

Gaunya is principal at Borislow Insurance and an EBA advisory board member. He can be reached at mark@borislow.com.

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