How to Gain Your Client’s Trust – Quick

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John, an experienced annuity producer, was meeting with a high-net-worth prospective client. As they talked, the prospect leaned back in his chair, so John leaned forward to the prospect’s side of the table. While John realized his prospect was relaxed, he still wished the man would show a little more interest and enthusiasm. He almost seemed disinterested. John consciously felt himself trying harder to make an emotional connection and ended up speaking faster and disjointedly. He was losing control of the interview and the sale.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? Have you wished you were able to generate rapport and trust more quickly? Once you gain someone’s trust, they will accept almost anything you recommend. However, trust is tough to earn and rarely given quickly. Trust is defined as the degree to which you can communicate competence and rapport. But is there a quick way to gain trust, especially with prospective high-net-worth clients? You haven’t got years to convince a new client you’re trustworthy — you need business now.

To gain trust, you first must establish rapport. Eighty-one percent of communication is nonverbal. Of the remaining 19%, the actual words account for only 7% of communication. The rest is the pace, timbre, pitch and intonation of how you say the words. If you depend on persuasion through logic, your closing ratio will be low. If you realize trust and rapport are built with your nonverbal skills, closing sales will become easier.

Many years ago, I spent a few hours observing an expert at gaining trust. Dennis Renter, a million-dollar producing financial planner in Newport Beach, Calif., invited a high-net-worth couple to his office. The first thing he discussed was the mutual friend who referred them. I was astounded by how quickly this once suspicious couple warmed up to Dennis.

Puzzled, I tried to stop listening and instead paid attention to what I saw. Surprisingly, all three were in perfect synch. Every movement was duplicated by the other. Dennis’s head was tilted in the same direction as both husband and wife. They leaned forward onto the table in the same fashion. Even their breaths were in unison. They had such a high rapport that I believe Dennis could have pulled out a photo of a used Chevy and the couple would have bought it. Afterward, I discussed what I saw with Dennis. Surprisingly, he was unaware of his nonverbal behavior. After 20 years of practice, he had become unconsciously competent. He was quickly able to generate trust, but didn’t know why.

Frank Triolo, an extremely successful financial advisor in Appleton, Wis., closes nearly 100 percent of the prospects he sees. He mirrors every nuance of the client’s posture. When a client enters his office, Frank watches how she stands and then mirrors her posture. If the client crosses her legs when sitting, Frank does the same. If she leans forward, Frank follows. People tend to mirror others they trust — they avoid those they distrust.

One of the most difficult tasks in communicating your ideas to a client is transforming their suspicion and concern into receptivity. This is especially important when “selling” new clients. Renter uses a technique called “leading” to get people to be more responsive. He will first match and mirror his client’s body cues until he feels rapport has been generated. He then leads the client into increased interest by moving forward in his chair. If the person has a high degree of rapport, he will follow Dennis, mirroring the same position.

I decided to test this mirroring and leading theory on my own. I attended a reception the night before at a conference at which I was to speak. The program chairman held a drink in his left hand, keeping his right hand in his trouser pocket. I also held a drink, but was motioning while talking with my other hand. I sensed very little rapport as we conversed, then immediately realized our mismatch in body posture. I then mirrored my host. I put my drink in my left hand and my right hand in my pants pocket. I felt our rapport level increase. He seemed much more conversant and candid. I then decided to check our rapport level and lead him. I removed my right hand from my pocket and switched drink hands. Within five seconds, he did exactly the same. When I told him later that he had followed me, he laughed in recognition. This process is called a “trust check.” If a high-net-worth client mirrors you back, you are in a high level of trust. If you’re interviewing a new client, stop talking — they’ve already accepted your ideas. Not paying attention to these cues will ensure that you’ll oversell yourself and buy your financial plan back.

Peak performing practitioners like Craig Beachnaw in Lansing, Mich., can also do wonders on the phone. Craig is able to raise or lower the pitch of his voice depending on his client’s voice qualities. Most importantly, Craig knows to change his speed depending on the way his client says hello.

If your clients already know and trust you, there is no need to use these techniques. But if you constantly deal with new people and you would like to attract more high-net-worth clients, you must develop high levels of rapport. Your high-net-worth prospects will always buy trust first — your product knowledge second. Trust is the skill that separates those who barely succeed from those who always do. If you want clients who give you business for life, become good at dealing with people. Use these techniques to start gaining your clients’ trust today.

Kerry Johnson, MBA, Ph.D. is a best-selling author and frequent speaker at financial planning and insurance conferences around the world. Peak Performance Coaching (his one-on-one coaching program) promises to increase your business by 80% in eight weeks. Visit, call 800-883-8787 or email for more information.

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