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How to Overcome Skepticism and Earn Trust with Prospects and Clients

Posted by Mark Triplett, CEO of Triplett-Westendorf Financial Group on Wed, Oct 23, 2019 @ 12:00 PM

In a world of skeptics — how do you earn the trust of your prospects and clients? Well, you’ll have to read this blog post to find out.


In it, I'm sharing some big ideas I took from the book, "The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics" by Michael Malansky, et al.

These ideas are ones you can start using in your financial practice IMMEDIATELY to help create better relationships with your clients and prospects by building trust and credibility.

I highly recommend you also read the book if you want even more guidance on effectively communicating in this new era of consumers who listen less and question more.

As a financial professional and salesperson, it can be hard to gain the trust of your prospects and even your existing clients.

What makes it worse?

A lot of what we've been taught as far as how to "get the sale" is completely wrong for the world we live in today the PTE.


What is the PTE?

In the book, the author explains that we’re living in a Post-Trust Era, or PTE. American’s Trust in America died a tragic death in 2008. And it hasn’t been resurrected.

According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, there’s been an extreme loss in American’s trust in government, media, business, and non-governmental organizations. 


Source: The Atlantic

The Language of Trust points to a few key reasons for this decline in trust:

·         We have too much information

·         We’ve seen behind the marketing and communications curtain

·         We don’t want to be told what to do

·         We have shorter attention spans


Acknowledge Your Prospect 

In this new era, trying to force someone to accept the “facts” as you see them can easily be refuted by a quick internet search saying something contradictory, or a belief that what you’re proposing is just to benefit you.

Forcing someone to believe what you believe doesn’t work. From the time we’re children, we resist being told what to do. We want freedom of choice.

Just try telling your teenager what they HAVE to do based on your years of experience (with all the best intentions) —

Let me know how that goes!

My guess is they’re going to do the exact opposite. And this doesn’t change much as we grow into adulthood. If you look at top negotiators or study the psychology of persuasion, what works is expressing empathy and giving someone choices. 

If you want to get anywhere with them, you also want to acknowledge and validate their truth. Even if it’s irrational from your perspective, you can’t discount it if you want to build credibility and trust with them.

Remember: there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth.

When communicating with our clients and prospects it’s important that we make it about THEM, not us. The surest way to get someone to tune you out, is to talk about yourself and what YOU want.

Instead, you want to focus on THEIR needs, concerns, and hesitations.

Showing empathy and understanding around prospective clients’ needs is the foundation that sales conversations are built on today.

Which means, before you even begin the discussion about the products and services you offer…  

you must establish a level of trust.

The authors say this about their work in the financial services industry —

“The most effective financial advisors rarely need to talk about products…. Selling is about building trust, then offering facts in a neutral, non-intimidating way and allowing the consumer to decide.”


The Four Principles of Credible Communication

One of the worst things you can do when communicating with a skeptic is insinuate that there is only one “right” answer. This leaves a prospect feeling as though they have no options.

Traditional selling methods would have you saying, “here’s what you should do or want” or “what you need is”, but today’s methods put the control back in the hands of your prospective clients.

This happens through the language you use. But it's not JUST the words -- trust is earned by backing your words up with actions. This makes for credible communication.

The authors outline four principles of credible communication:

1)      Personal: Make your messages about them, not you. In The Language of Trust, they identify four ways to do that:

·         Make it relevant- Based on what you’ve learned about the prospect, why would it matter to them? Even addressing the client with the word "you" in your conversation can have a positive impact on how what you say is perceived. 

·         Make it tangible- Put it into terms the client will understand. For example, it can sometimes be better to talk in terms of dollars versus percentages because that’s easier to grasp.

·         Make it human- Share stories that connect with your prospect on an emotional, personal level.

·         Make yourself real- Let the person you’re working with know that you’re a real person, not some corporate drone.


2)      Plain spoken: Scrap the industry jargon — fancy words and phrases don’t make you look smart; they destroy trust and drive prospects away.


Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “if you can’t explain it to a 6-year-old you don’t understand it yourself.”


Clients can tell if someone’s “B.S. -ing” their way through a conversation. I’m sure you can too!


3)      Positive: Stay away from fear tactics and instead paint a picture of what realistically could be.

   Based on a study by Invesco comparing how consumers reacted to different

   phrases with the exact same meaning, they discovered which ones people were more interested in.


You may want to consider swapping some negatively-charged phrases for more positive ones as described in The Language of Trust:


Instead of “Managing market risk” (37% positively received), try “Making sure you can participate in the upside while reducing your downside risk” (63% positive)  


Instead of “Managing inflation risk” (19% positively received), try “Making sure you can afford to maintain your lifestyle” (81% positive)


Instead of “Managing longevity risk” (10% positively received), try “Making sure you have money for as long as you live” (90% positive) 


4)      Plausible: Avoid exaggeration or absolutes because they aren’t believable.

Nothing is perfect so acting like it is, can be a major turnoff to a prospect. Instead, they just want you to be up front with them. And it might seem counterintuitive but agreeing with objections can work wonders.


Yes, we were taught to “overcome objections”, but that rarely works when selling to skeptics.

           Here’s what does work:

           Being transparent.

           It shows you can be trusted. Let the prospect know that there are downsides            to what you offer (yes, I’m serious).              

           Your prospective clients want to believe they can achieve their desired                      retirement, but they want that grounded in reality.

It might surprise you, but if you were to ask people whether their top priority is a “dream retirement” or a “comfortable” one, by more than six to one — Americans want a comfortable retirement over a dream.




Because as the authors point out, a dream is implausible. They want something they can actually achieve —


So, no more selling hopes and dreams!

Words to Use With Skeptical Prospects

Prospects and clients fall on a continuum from Optimists, meaning they are very agreeable with anything you have to say (those are few and far between these days), to the Pessimists who you’ll never get through to because their mission is to shoot down everything you say.

But the people you can have a meaningful conversation with fall somewhere in the middle of the continuum —

Those are your Skeptics.

Most of your prospects will fall under the category of “skeptic”. It’s the world we live in.

And you’ll likely see better results if you use communication strategies designed for skeptics. They aren’t going to accept something at face value, but they could be more likely to engage with you when you approach the conversation objectively rather than using an over-the-top hard sell.

Using words that convey trust can help. There are words and phrases that offer a "better" way of saying the same thing.

Need more words that appeal to skeptical prospects? Here are few the authors suggest:

Words to Use vs Words to Lose

Words-to-lose-words-to-useSource: The Language of Trust

Two Opportunities to Earn Trust with Prospects

When we share our Elevate process with financial professionals, we encourage them to hold a Discovery Meeting and an Analysis meeting. Both can be perfect opportunities to start developing trust with skeptical prospects.

In a Discovery Meeting, you ask questions that will help you decide whether working together makes sense.

As opposed to jumping into what you do/sell, you give them an opportunity to talk about themselves. That way, you aren’t bombarding them with information, you’re gathering information. And they have no reason to be on the defensive.

In the book, they contrast asking about sales with asking about wants.

Have you ever fallen into the trap of asking about sales?


After asking your series of questions to drill down on what’s going on in your prospect’s world view, you can explain your process and let them know if it doesn’t make sense to work together — that’s OK.

Letting them know they can always “opt out” can actually give them even more reason to want to work with you.

This consultative approach with a defined process is an alternative to the traditional way of doing business in our industry: a transactional sale.

Now, let’s assume they choose to move forward —

your next opportunity to build on the trust you’ve built so far is in the Analysis Meeting.

Once you’ve gathered all the information to provide an analysis of your prospective client’s situation, you can enter it into a software program like Retirement Analyzer1,for example. Using a tool like this allows you to provide a comprehensive picture of the prospect’s situation using cold, hard data.

But even more importantly —

An objective look at where they stand financially.

Not your opinion and not a look at just one piece of the puzzle that serves a specific agenda.

You’ll be able to show them what the implications of certain actions are and then allow THEM to decide if they are willing to acknowledge their current circumstances, take ownership over the outcome, make a decision to correct course, and hire you to guide them towards taking positive actions.


Meet Your Prospects Where They Are

Skeptics are people too.

We’ve all been there because unfortunately, many of us have been burned. So, we can empathize with our prospects who are aren’t sure who they can trust.

Our job as financial professionals in this “Post-Trust Era” is to adjust our sales technique to communicate more effectively. It’s about meeting the clients where they are:

·        Overwhelmed with information

·        Very little time to devote to long, drawn-out explanations

·       Looking to exert their independence and choose for themselves

·       Wanting to believe that there’s a plausible solution to their problem


Your Call-to-Action

Your actions will always speak louder than your words. But by choosing the words you use with your prospects and clients in mind -- you create an opportunity to earn their respect and help bolster their trust in our industry. As the authors of The Language of Trust say –

“Embrace the values that should have always mattered in the first place. Honesty. Transparency. Empathy. Acknowledgement. Traits that build long-term relationships.”

There's a proven formula for creating valuable client relationships, and when mastered, those loyal clients will repeatedly and happily refer clients to you. Get the ebook that covers the five eye-opening client retention truths that can help you turn existing clients into your personal walking ambassadors.

I want to create valuable client relationships


Tags: sales techniques



This content is for informational and educational purposes only and is not designed, or intended, to be applicable to any person's individual circumstances. It should not be considered as investment advice, nor does it constitute a recommendation that anyone engage in (or refrain from) a particular course of action.

The opinions and ideas expressed by the speaker are their own and may not reflect the views of Partners Advantage – A Gallagher Company. The presentation is for informational purposes only. You should not treat any opinion expressed by Mark Triplett, CEO of Triplett-Westendorf Financial Group, as a specific inducement to make a particular investment or follow a particular strategy, but only as an expression of his opinion. Mark Triplett’s opinions are based upon information he considers reliable and Mark Triplett’s statements and opinions are subject to change without notice.

1The Retirement Analyzer is not, by means of this output, rendering business, legal, financial, tax, investment or other professional advice. This output is not a substitute for professional advice, nor shall it be used solely as basis for any personal decisions or actions by your client. Before making any decisions, your clients should consult with a qualified financial professional. Retirement Analyzer and its affiliates do not give legal or tax advice, and shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies solely on this output.