Are You Still Relevant?
Become a Trusted Advisor
By Ross Shafer
still relevant enough to keep growing your market share? I’m not
talking about your new web store and your client back office
“dashboards. I’m talking about how you do business with the
humans who give you money for your goods and services.
this: Leaving voice mails, sending email, and blasting off a zillion
text messages is fast, rejection safe, and killing your business.
Worse, pedestrian electronic messaging “to stay in touch” reduces
you and your company to a commodity. You’ve become a vendor. You’re
a resource. You’re a supplier. Most of all you are vulnerable to
allowing trusted advisers to steal your business. Unless you become
a trusted advisor before your competition.
you do that? By creating an emotional, face-to-face relationship.
Some executives get it. Ramani Ayer, CEO of The Hartford, told me,
“We have built outstanding electronic tools to help our brokers
manage a clients’ account but I want our people to initiate 60% more
actual face-time. It’s the way we’ll grow our market share.”
nailing it. As powerful as technology can be, electronic
communications cause a disconnect of humanity from the transaction.
Now, that’s Ok if you happen to be an ATM or a self-actuating kiosk.
But, if you want to grow your market share – (translation: take more
of your competitors business) in a highly competitive economy, you
need to be physically present and friendly to your customers and
Consequences Are Horrifying: I met a stockbroker at a major
financial conference who told me about one of his biggest client
had this client, a quiet sort of guy who owned a print shop in town.
His portfolio with me was about $700,000; which was nice but not one
of my bigger fish. One day I hear from a mutual friend that he sold
his print shop to a major chain for $16 million. I had no idea his
little shop was worth that kind of money. So I call the guy to make
an appointment about investing. He says, ‘I don’t know what I’m
going to do yet. It’s almost Christmas and I may splurge and buy
something fun for myself.’ So, I backed off. In January, I call
again and find out from his wife that the man died just after
Christmas. I explained to his wife that I was their stockbroker. She
interrupts me to say, ‘I don’t know you. I’ve never met you. You’ve
never been to our house. I’m going to let our son handle our
This broker readily admits that he really blew it. He should have
valued the account enough to create a genuinely emotional
relationship with the man and his family. He focused on volume and
servicing the portfolio when he could have become the family’s
trusted advisor. In the banking world the axiom is “when people love
you they give you more of their wallet.” Well, if he had adopted
that philosophy, he would have been perfectly positioned to maintain
and grow the account; post mortem. He might even have been enough of
a trusted advisor to be referred to the widow’s friends. Instead, he
was shut down - and out - because he didn’t see the value in knowing
his client beyond the account balance.
Have The Advantage: It’s quite likely a woman would not have
made that mistake. Women have long had the reputation of being
better relationship builders and networkers. In fact, because women
speak over 20,000 words a day (compared to barely 6,000 words for
men) you could say that women were the first “viral”marketeers.
Women talk; especially to other women. So, to be relevant, we really
need to cater to the female demographics. Check that.
should primarily focus the majority of our marketing efforts toward
women. Not only due women account for 83% of all consumer
purchasing, they have all the money. Ken Dycktwald, author of The
Power Years, says that 70% of women will change financial
advisors if they lose their spouse. Delia Passi, author of
Winning The Toughest Customer says that by 2015, 15 trillion
dollars will land in the hands of baby boomer women.
know that emotions bind a relationship in ways electronic media
cannot. To women, business is personal and personal is business.
They don’t differentiate a business relationship from a personal
relationship. And since the only proven factor for repeat business
is a strong emotional connection between people, women are more
likely to create ongoing loyalty than their male counterparts.
Drink To That! Bob Walsh, creator of college basketball’s
March Madness, learned a savvy lesson about selling and culture
when he and media mogul Ted Turner wanted to create The Goodwill
Games – an Olympic level athletic competition designed to heal
the cold war wounds between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Afghanistan caused the
countries to boycott the
an act reciprocated when the
and other Eastern Bloc countries boycotted the
Bob and Ted wanted to sell the Russians on the idea of a jointly
sponsored world event, he quickly learned that “selling” had nothing
to do with the equation. It was all about trust. Naturally, all
selling is about trust but it’s critical to know how to achieve that
trust; especially in a wildly different culture. In Russia, trust is
won through the consumption of vodka. Lots and lots of vodka. Vodka
is the social and business lubricant that bonds people in those
countries. So, any business meeting started with passing the bottle,
laughing, sharing stories, and maybe some business. However, the
business usually took place days or weeks after the drinking. If Bob
had sat down and tried to hammer out a deal before getting sloshed,
he would have been thrown out of the country. The old saying, “When
in Rome,” also applied to Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg). As a
result, the Russians never thought of Bob as a salesman. He was a
comrade. And because they had so much trust in Bob, they offered him
real estate development deals, pharmaceutical company partnerships,
and even a wine distributorship.
Is That Tactic Relevant For 2007? Fair question. After all, the
entire world has become tech-connected since Bob Walsh’s exploits of
l984. You’ll like this.
week, the same Bob Walsh emailed me to say that he was staying in a
very remote Ger (a tent) in Northern Mongolia. He was on a
humanitarian mission when he “got wind” that a world famous Sumo
wrestler named Asashoryu (world champion) Akinori was nearby in a
heavily guarded compound. He was heavily guarded because the
Japanese paparazzi were hiding behind camels and yaks to snap a shot
of the controversial “crazy” wrestler. Bob passed the word along
that he was a “big time” sports promoter and wanted to meet the
wrestler. He was told that in no way could he meet Asashoryu. “The
Asasahoryu sees no one,” was the official retort. Here is Bob’s
account of what happened next:
two hours later a four wheel motorcycle approaches our camp. A huge
man was driving. My translator went nuts, ‘It’s him! It’s him! The
Asashoryu!!!’ He dismounted and we talked. We hit if off and he
invited me to his Ger for dinner at 9pm. To call it a tent is
ridiculous. It’s really a multi-million dollar resort. After 57
vodkas, 20 champagnes, and 100 laughs later (it’s now 4am) I walk
away as the western agent for a Sumo wrestling champion. Naturally,
I had to wrestle him. At 5’4” and 120 pounds, he had a slight
I’m in no way suggesting you have to drink your way into the good
graces of your clients, I am touting the powers of laughter, honest
talk, and “hitting it off” with your clients. Bob is a natural
practitioner of empathy and emotional bonding. Not just for business
reasons, but because he has a natural love and curiosity for people.
He has learned, as a by-product, that the best sales tactic is
not to “sell” but rather to become a trusted advisor.
relationships are always a relevant way to grow your business.
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