The ClientWise Blog

Financial Advisors: How to Train Clients to Trust Your Team

Posted by Chris Holman on Jan 17, 2013 11:04:00 AM

In Patrick Lencioni’s classic business leadership fable, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the first dysfunction is the absence of trust. As he aptly notes, trust must first be developed internally within the team, before it can be developed outwardly with the team’s clients.

For successful financial advisors who are on teams, and who want to train their clients to trust the entire team, this brings up an interesting, relevant, and timely question: Does the team trust each other? 


Instilling Team Trust

In The Wisdom of Teams, authors Katzenback and Smith define a team as, “a small group of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” Although there are many, many factors that go into building team trust, two of the more relevant in this case are: Shared Core Values and Defined Team Service Standards.

When there is a disconnect regarding shared core values within a team, e.g. a passion for client service, honesty and integrity, work ethic, etc., trust among team members is much more problematic. Similarly, when there is a lack of agreement amongst the team with respect to defined team standards regarding service criteria, e.g. accessibility, responsiveness, accuracy, etc., there is often a significant internal trust gap with respect to service expectations.

Coaching Insight: At the next team meeting or offsite, raise the issue of team trust, especially as it relates to core values and team standards. Through open discussion, guide the team to identify the team’s collective core values and defined service criteria. Write them down, and begin to hold the team accountable to maintaining them. Without clear expectations on the table, it’s hard to expect team members to meet firm standards.

Introducing Team Members

The process of introducing fellow team members is equal to the process whereby you might make a referral or introduction to some other trusted advisor, friend or colleague. In fact, you might view this introduction opportunity as a way to “model” for your clients as to how to make high-quality introductions…to you.

As you all know from hard-earned experience, there are good and not-so-good ways to get referrals. A not-so-good way is when a client says, “Oh yeah…I gave your business card to a friend of mine, and they might be calling you.” Riiiiight! However well intentioned, the client has just barely inserted themselves or their personal integrity into the introduction. If it doesn’t work out, “No problem”, it was just a card anyway.

On the other side of the referral spectrum is the client who arranges a lunch that will be attended by themselves, their referred friend/colleague, and you. Their introduction goes something like this, “I have wanted the two of you to meet for quite some time. I really think that both of you will get along fabulously on a personal level, and believe that you could also work together on a business level really well.”, or something like that.

See the difference between the two?

How to Introduce Team Members

When introducing team members to your clients, you can follow the same principles as above. The more of you and your personal integrity that you invest into the introduction, the more likely that the client will “trust” the introduction.

Here are some additional ideas that you can use to encourage a relationship of trust between clients and team members:


  • What’s best for the well being of the client? That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Presumably, the team has been assembled with complementary skill-sets and specializations for the benefit of the client(s), and it befits the whole relationship for the client to work with multiple team members.
  • At the very outset of the relationship and as part of the new client onboarding process, introduce all team members to new clients as a standard practice.
  • When appropriate, schedule a private breakfast or lunch with one of your team members, where you make the introduction…much like the introduction that you’d prefer to receive from a trusted referral source.
  • Ensure that all bios of the team (on the website or in hard copy) are current, descriptive, and laudatory; giving the client added confidence in the skill-sets of the entire team.
  • Hire a professional photographer to create a flattering team picture. Visual clues can send really important messages.
  • When introducing team members, emphasize to the client that the team is growing, and that the team’s increased specialization and competencies are intended to match, and benefit the growing and specific needs/concerns of the client.
  • Ask for client feedback with periodic surveys. Frame questions that gather information about the client’s relationship with the entire team, e.g. what is working, what could be improved, etc.

Could part of the problem be you?

One last point. Could the problem be you? By way of example:


  • Do you have a strong proprietary feeling about your clients, and are you reluctant to give up any control in the relationship?
  • Are you concerned, deep down, that someone else on your team might do a better job?
  • Do you feel that it’s too much time and effort to introduce your team members because you can do the best job anyway?
  • Or something else?


If any of these examples are the case, you may want to get an outside opinion. Consult with a trusted colleague, mentor, or your coach.

Concluding Thoughts

For clients who lead busy and complicated financial lives, successful financial advisor teams can be a great help. The assembled knowledge, understanding, and competencies are an important modality that can deliver a valuable wealth management experience to your clients. From the client’s perspective, they are the ultimate beneficiaries of knowing, and working with, the entire team.



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Topics: Team Development