Let's Talk: Relationship Model

For years, experts have maintained that, before you can build trust, you need to build rapport. But these days, everyone knows the basics of marketing and selling—a strong handshake and straightforward eye contact, for example. These techniques are now so overused that the stronger the handshake and the longer the eye contact, the more uncomfortable the prospect becomes, feeling they are dealing with a used-car salesman rather than a professional. Over the last decade, surveys of baby boomers have consistently yielded the same result: investors are chiefly interested, when dealing with financial advisors, in information that can help them make better, more informed decisions. They want an expert, someone who knows what they are talking about and can provide them with better knowledge. Rapport building is not the beginning of the relationship process— expertise is. This is even more important following uncertain economic times.

How should you approach the "head, heart, feet" relationship-building process? First, you'll need to identify whether a client or prospect is a thinker or a feeler.

Prospects who are feelers tend to process information in their hearts. Typically, a feeler will accept the advice or recommendation of a third party regarding your expertise. When attending a conference or workshop where the speaker has the endorsement of a larger group, for example, the feeler will tend to assume speaker is an expert, then spend the bulk of their time trying to see whether they feel comfortable with them. They will ask themselves, "Do I feel I can trust this person and what their saying?"

A thinker, on the other hand, will spend the bulk of their time trying to figure out whether the speaker knows what they is talking about. They will continually ask themselves, "Is this person an expert?" Once they determines that the speaker is indeed an expert, they will trust them implicitly, then move quickly to the "feet" stage.

Very rarely do prospects have enough information to understand whether you can truly deliver on the promises you make. This is why using references or advocates is a critical step in the marketing process. A solid reference will bolster a prospect's trust and reassure them about the quality of your performance.

As you review this relationship-building process, take a moment to answer these three distinct questions:

• Do you have advocates up-front to disclose your expertise on the topic at hand? • During the conversation, do you allow an exchange of dialogue where trust can be built? • Do you use reference advocates to help the client better understand your ability to follow through on your promises?

Using this approach to building relationships allows you to better understand and meet your prospects' needs. And by identifying whether a particular prospect is a thinker or a feeler, you'll be able to focus your time and attention on the area of your presentation that's most important to your prospective customer.