Qualifying – Episode Transcript

Hi, this is Chris Venn. Welcome back to the podcast. We’re glad you’re here again, and today we’re going to talk about qualifying. Spent a lot of conversations recently with advisors about how do I know if I qualify to be in these qualitative conversations, to be in these “softer” conversations, and people call them softer, but they’re not. They’re actually the harder conversations. They’re also the more meaningful conversations. So how do you know if you qualify? And there’s a few things that are at play.

So, part of it is definitely your competence from a technical perspective. Are you stepping into conversations where you know what you’re talking about? Do you have the skills behind it? And so part of it is on a technical side of it, but part of it is in terms of your ability to elicit the conversation or elicit the ideas or draw out from other people the things that really move them, the things that drive and compel them to take action, not just to put a product or a service in place, but to take action on their own lives and take action on their own future. This is what you’re compelling people to do.

So, how do we know if we’re there? And there are a variety of things, but I want to talk about the quality of the relationship that you have with them, and unfortunately it brings us to this nebulous region of trust. How does that work? How does it play out? And there’s a lot of different thoughts on it, and I want to share a couple with you today that may spark some new perspective for you, may confirm a few things or actually explain a couple of things for you. It’s like, “Oh, so that’s why he does that,” but I want to give you a few nuances or vectors of ways to look at it. If you think about it this way, there’s certain things you can do something about it and certain things you cannot do anything about it when it comes to trust in the quality of the relationships.

So first, what in the world is trust? Normally we think about it as a feeling or a sense I have for the other person, or can I count on them, but in the psychology space, it’s defined as a willingness to accept vulnerability in exchange for a positive outcome. I’m going to say that again. It’s a willingness to accept vulnerability in exchange for a positive outcome. So what has people decide to do that or not do that? So first let’s start with the obvious. There’s a key overarching thing, and that is some people will never trust you, period. They’re not going to trust you, and it has nothing to do with you. Some people have been through such horrific things or such difficult situations that they’re not going to trust anybody, period. And maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe that’s good advice.

There are other people who’ve been through horrific things, and they have great perspectives around trust because we’re shaped in different ways by our experiences. Some people step up based on them. Some people get knocked back and never rebound. So, I just need you to understand that. So, there’s two things that you cannot do anything about, and one is the neuropsychology, what’s going on in the brain and the psychology that emanates around trust, and the other is around socialization. How are other people thinking about it? So, what do other people think, and what do other people do about it? So let’s talk first about the socialization.

So, in general, and a generalization means lots of times it’s not true, so rest easy as you hear this, but in general, most people see trust as a binary issue. It’s an on or an off. It’s there or it’s not there. Okay? So, it’s like, “I trust him,” or “I don’t trust him.” “I’ll never trust him again on anything.” Right? So, people get a little bit strange that way. The other is that people tend to see it as a one way street, especially in a sales type context. It’s like, “Well, you have to earn my trust. So, this is something that you have to do, and if you pass an invisible hurdle, then I will trust you, and I’m not going to tell you what it is because I don’t actually know, but when you pass it, then you’ll have my trust.” So, it’s a bit of a one way street.

Stereotypes get hammered in it. So, unfortunately, if you do a free word association with people and you say a word like salesman to them, they will think words like slick, fast-talking, pushy, bad suits; essentially the Herb Tarlek kind of concept is going to come to mind when we know that that is not true, when we know that that’s not true because we also have compelling, empathetic, thoughtful, caring for the other person, want to ensure value. It could go all kinds of different ways, but a stereotype from a sales perspective is that. Also, once you bring insurance into the equation as well. People have all kinds of stereotypes that are stereotypes. They’re not true. They’re just stereotypes.

So, the conditions in other people’s thinking is typically based on an unspoken code or set of rules. There needs to be continuity, so you’ve got to do it over and over and over. They may have sources of distrust that have been in their lives that you remind them of. So, again, it’s got nothing to do with you, but you remind them of the person who used to bully them when they were in elementary school, therefore they can’t trust you because it’s triggering things off, and communication is a big deal. So, it’s like, “Yeah, Chris, thanks very much for that. I’ve got to be a good communicator.” Well, it’s a little bit more than that. We’ll talk about it.

So, the other thing you can’t do too much about is the neuropsychology, what is going on in other people’s brains, and so let’s talk about that for just a second. So first of all, in the brain, trust is an emotion that indicates safety. So, it is an emotion. It’s not math; it’s an emotion. It’s a feeling that people have. Now, they may approach it through math, and I’ll tell you about that in a second, but it’s an emotion that indicates safety, and it works on concrete alignment indicators. Three words: concrete alignment indicators.

So, the brain is looking for indicators, looking for signals that say the way you think and the way that they think is aligned; it aligns up, and it’s looking for concrete examples. It wants to know … So, it’s like if you drive a Jeep and they drive a Jeep, oh my goodness, we’re both Jeep people, and if you’ve ever had a jeep, you know what I’m talking about. In that moment, you can trust them. Brain is funny that way. So, it’s looking for concrete alignment indicators. Rapport is critical. There’s got to be some degree of liking. There’s got to be some degree of connection with the other person, an in-syncness.

Now, here’s a really interesting one. In order for the brain to have trust and to provide that emotion that indicates safety, it must have historical information. So, this is a key one for you as an advisor. For someone else to cultivate trust with you, they must have historical information. Now first impression, how’s that going to work? Well, that’s going to work if someone has already told them something about you; that’s historical information. If they have read things about you, that’s historical information, but there’s got to be historical information. If you show up and there’s no background, it’s like, “I don’t know anything about you,” period. Nothing. So, you can borrow credibility from what other people say, what’s been written about you, what organization you’re with. “Oh, I’ve heard of that organization. They’ve been around for a long time. They have a good reputation.” Well you’re borrowing that history, but there has to be historical information. So, the faster you can create history with someone, the better opportunity the brain has to assign some trust.

Here’s an interesting thing from the drug world in your brain, a high presence of oxytocin increases the likelihood of trust. A high presence of testosterone decreases the likelihood of trust. So, you may want to start to give some thought as to what are things I can do that will reduce the opportunity for the presence of testosterone in the other person. So, when we argue, testosterone goes up. When we feel fearful, testosterone tends to go up. When we feel challenged, testosterone goes up. If someone’s hurrying, testosterone tends to go up. So, these are things that that caused it to go up, but we don’t want that to go up. We want it to go down. Oxytocin, longer handshakes tend to do it. Now, hugs do it, but I’m not suggesting you go and hug people. Eye contact that carries on for a little while, that tends to release oxytocin. So, there’s a variety of behaviors that are there.

So, these are things you can do very little about. You’re not going to be able to change what other people think and do, and there’s not much you can do about the way the brain is wired up to behave around this stuff. But here’s something you can look at. You can look at your own mindset. So what are you thinking, and what are your beliefs around what qualifies me to have a close enough relationship with someone to be in a qualitative discussion? And there’s a few things to think about, so I’m going to offer a couple of things here that you may want to reflect on and say, “Hmm, do I want to adopt that, or do I want to use that?”

Here’s the first one: Trust is less of a quality and more of a skill. Now, I do not mean this in a method of manipulation of others. The way that I mean it is that there are things that you can do to increase your ability to be perceived as someone who qualifies for those conversations. Now, I’m not talking about inventing things; you’re creating dynamics that will force a person into trusting you because it doesn’t take long before the brain just sees through that stuff, knows that it’s garbage, and writes you off even worse. What I’m talking about is that there are things that you are not doing that if you could be doing would shift a perspective toward trust that is warranted.

So, if you’re looking for a way to trick people, it’s not going to work. It might work for a moment, but they’ll see through it. But if you’re looking for a way to help somebody else see the true picture of you who wants to help, who wants to see them get the results that they’re after, who’s compensated for it as a side effect, but that your primary purpose is helping that other party, then you got to take on the fact that trust is a skill, and I’m going to learn it; I’m going to get good at making sure that people have clean ground conditions. You can’t make somebody trust you. You can’t reach into their brain and do it, but you can create the ground conditions that will allow for the maximum amount of trust that’s possible to happen. And why wouldn’t you? Because you’re there to help.

So the second is to understand that trust is not a switch; it’s a dimmer. So instead of on or off, actually it’s more like a big music mixing board like those sound studios have where you see all the sliders, all the dimmers there or faders that they have. You might have very high trust with certain issues, but somebody may have a lower amount of trust with you in others, so they may trust you with lending you their lawn mower, but not lending you their Learjet. They may trust you with a simple secret or a small piece of personal information but not a critical family secret that’s key to them. So, it’s a dimmer switch, and it’s context sensitive. Someone may totally trust you on the golf course but not in the boardroom or vice versa. Or vice versa. So, you’ve got to understand that it’s in many different vectors in life that it shows up.

The next is recognizing that trust is your responsibility. It is not their job to trust you. It’s your job to create the ground conditions to allow what’s possible to happen. So, that’s your job. That’s up to you. You’re the one who’s got to connect them and help them feel safe enough that they can have qualitative conversations because it’s only when you get to those conversations that you can truly serve their longterm needs because without it, you won’t even know what their full needs are because they can’t articulate it yet, so you got to do it.

The other is that there can be no gaps. So, in order to have trust in place and to create those ground conditions for it, there can be no gaps in time, task or relationship. You can’t drop the ball. It’s like you want to make sure that there’s no gaps in time, that there’s good frequency of communication. You want to make sure that there are no gaps in task, that you’re actually getting things done along the way, and you want to make sure that there’s no gaps in relationship, that you’re not undermining their relationship, you’re not compromising the relationship, you’re not doing something outside in that relationship so that you maintain it and sustain it over time. There can be no gaps.

And the last thing I would encourage you to have in your mindset around it is that there is a difference between trusted and trusting. Like I said earlier, some people will never trust you. So, for someone to be trusting, you have no control over that, but you can be the kind of person that could be trusted by them, but they’ve got to make the decision about whether they’re going to step up to that or whether they can accept that. For some people, the willingness to accept vulnerability in exchange for a positive outcome, is it a positive enough outcome for me to take on some vulnerability, or do I take on no vulnerability at all? Like think about it. There are people you know where they do not make themselves vulnerable.

So, what can you do? So, two things you can’t do anything about: socialization and neuropsychology. Okay, fair enough. Two things you can do something about. One is your mindset. We talked about that, and the other is actions, and the actions are, actually, they’re simple but they’re important. So, the first is you’ve got to make sure that you have the ability to do whatever it is you’re talking about doing, so if you’re going to help someone deal with a complex estate planning scenario with estate equalization across kids who are estranged and past family members, and so you better have the chops to do it. You better know what you’re doing on it. So, you have to have the ability, and you want to make sure that you can forecast that there’s some history that people can refer to and that they can look forward and say, “Okay, I think this person has the ability to do it.”

The next is there has to be rapport. There has to be connection, and you’ve got to be in sync with that person. And so there’s a basic likingness that needs to be there, and there’s a ton that can happen there in order for you to respect how the other person’s brain processes, and we don’t have time for that today, but maybe in the future we’ll look at that.

The third is there has to be continuity, and so I want you to think about it in terms of unbroken evidence. So, time after time after time after time there are no gaps in time, task, relationship. There’s a good history that’s there. It’s forecasting out to be a good history once people get out there, so you got to have unbroken evidence. But the key that’s at the guts of all of it is this notion of benevolence, and really benevolence is not some magnanimous thing, but it’s the stance of it’s them before you; that you actually care about them and their needs and their concerns and their future and their worries ahead of your own, and this is at the crux of the entire exercise. All these other things are important, but the crux of it is this sense of benevolence.

Maister and Green in The Trusted Advisor, they talked about the low self-orientation, so it’s that you’re not oriented around yourself, which is good, and the assumption there is that you’re oriented around the other person. If you think about it as benevolence, instead of trying to suppress one thing, I want you to amp up another. I want you to amp up the whole notion of I am about them, and I’m going to bat, and I’m going to battle for what matters to them because the person who’s doing that for us, that’s when we start to believe in them enough to start to accept some vulnerability. Qualitative conversations require vulnerability on behalf of the wealth holder, and so for them to get the positive exchange, that positive outcome from you, they’ve got to open up and have some vulnerability, and it’s your job to make sure that you create enough safety to do that, and at the core of it is this whole notion of benevolence.

I’ll wrap up with this is that the brain looks at … There’s three ways it can generate trust. The first is sort of calculus-based trust. It’s math. It’s risk versus reward. So, the person may not have a ton of emotion tied to it, but “What’s the risk? What’s the payoff? Yeah, it’s worth it. I’ll do it.” Okay, good. So, that’s one way of looking at it. The second is knowledge-based trust, and by knowledge I don’t mean information; what I mean is that they are aware of your intentions, motives and drivers. So, it’s like, “No, I actually get what this person is doing, I get their motivation, and I’m willing to go with it, and maybe it’s good math as well.”

But the deepest level’s identification-based trust, so identification-based trust is trust that is based on positive emotions that are driven from two things: a close identification and understanding of each other and a close set of ongoing communication with each other. That closer identification where it’s like, “No, I really get you. I get where you’re coming from, I respect it, and I understand your motives, and the risk of vulnerability, it is worth the positive outcome that’s at play here, and I’m going to step into this qualitative conversation.”

How you qualify to step into qualitative conversations has a huge amount to do with the benevolence that you bring, the focus and attention of your energies; it has to be on them, not you, and they have to experience it. Todd Fithian at our company is really keen around making sure that advisors are demonstrating the definable difference that they’re making in the lives of their clients. I’m stuttering over it. That you demonstrate the definable difference you create in your clients’ lives, that you show it off, that they actually have an experience of it because then it becomes real. It’s not just words, it’s not just advisors saying what lots of other advisors say; it’s actually that person having the experience of a difference. That’s what helps you qualify. That’s what qualitative conversations will do for you, and so as you think forward into the weeks that come, I want you to zero in on what are some of the things that you can do that are going to help you to qualify to be in those qualitative conversations. Thanks for joining us.