It is very difficult to overstate the importance of reputation. In a corporate context, this is why a brand can acquire such a high value and why a good brand will attract a large premium in corporate valuation. As an individual, and particularly if you are an adviser in any field, your reputation is almost everything. It is why people would go to you, or perhaps avoid you, and why companies would employ you. You need to have a reputation of being trusted and having something of value to share. Once a reputation is damaged, it is hard to restore.
When you look at building client relationships, the key touch-points that you have with clients have evolved over time. In the past, you had client meetings, telephone conversations, mails and faxes. Today you have client meetings, less telephone conversations, and more emails which have to some extent replaced telephone calls. In building and maintaining client relationships you need to consider all of these, but in this book, I will focus on face to face meetings, as some of the principles can be extended to the other areas.
People are often failing in building good relationships because they are reading too little, planning too little, listening too little, and talking too much. You need to let go of short term self-interested agendas, or you risk destroying your client's trust.
Before you go into a client meeting, it is useful to consider what is the agenda for the meeting. If the agenda is suggested by the client or agreed in advance with the aim of giving information, expressing opinion, exploring the client’s needs, then you may well be building trust in your meeting. If, on the other hand, your plan is just to try and pitch a particular product, then take care. You may be positioning yourself as a product salesperson rather than a trusted adviser, and you may be destroying trust rather than building it.
Building a client relationship is about both relevance and trust. You may be completely trustworthy, but your lack of knowledge makes you irrelevant. Conversely, you may be highly knowledgeable, but the clients feel that they can't trust you. You need both.
If you have strong, up to date and relevant knowledge, and the client believes you have their interest at heart, you can be successful. The way to make clients feel you have their interest at heart is to genuinely have their interests at heart. In the long run, this will also be in the interest of your firm.
Be really sincere, open, and give the genuinely best advice you can offer. Anything else is not worthy of a trusted adviser.
Try to think and act like a true trusted adviser if you want to build trust with clients. Provide insights and information in an unbiased way. Where there may be some vested interest in, for instance, a new product idea, be completely transparent and open.
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Former Managing Director