Walking the Talk – The Psychological Importance of Consistency

In business, we often make strong claims about who we are, why someone would want to do business with us and why we are better than our competition. That is an essential part of effective marketing. And no matter what business we are in, including the business of finding a friend or spouse, we need people to trust and believe in us.

Reliability, trustworthiness and integrity are very desirable qualities to develop. But they don’t come easy. We aren’t trusted just because we tell someone we can be trusted. These qualities and perceptions are earned over time – through our consistent actions.

But life gets busy and sometimes we mean well, but lack on the follow through. We have the right talk, but we don’t walk it very well. As we begin the second half of the year, this is a great time to assess how well you walk your talk, and what improvements you can make.

Walking Your Talk

On the flip side, it is very easy to distrust someone who says one thing, but doesn’t follow through. It doesn’t matter how nice someone is, or how well-intentioned they are; it is about reliability and consistency. How we feel about someone and why we feel a certain way isn’t always conscious. The subconscious picks up on a lot of things – and is a significant influence to how we feel. That is why it is essential that if we say something, we have a process to follow through.

The financial industry gets a bad rap by the media. Fraud and lawsuits get the headlines, not all the success stories. Many people live by the mantra, “Trust, but verify”. If you think about it, we all do that to some extent. We have to trust someone or something a little to move forward. Our job is provide that verification, not just once but consistently so investors feel comfortable with us throughout the entire relationship.

I am going to discuss two ways in which we can ensure that we walk our talk in a consistent manner.

Consistency in Content Sharing

There are two main considerations when sharing content: what you share (topic) and frequency of sharing. Almost everyone asks me about the frequency of sharing, and that is a good question. But the greater question should be consistency in what you share. I will answer both.

  • Frequency – select a frequency you can follow through with. If that is quarterly, go for it. If it is monthly, that is great. Every two weeks – fine. Whatever it is, be consistent. It does no good to share content twice a month for a quarter, then drop off the radar only to resurrect it another quarter down the road. If you can’t be consistent sharing content, how do I know you will be consistent managing my money?
  • Topic – this is the more important question. What will you share? Most advisors subscribe to some marketing library and share many different topics in the financial realm. They are more concerned with pumping out something than the content itself. In this case there is consistency in sharing “noise”. You can’t become a thought leader by sharing curated content. Much better to create your own content. You can address various topics with the lens of a thought leader in a targeted way. Mine is behavioral finance. Yours might be behavioral finance, retirement income, executive compensation etc… Put some thought into what you want to be known for. If you are looking for turnkey behavioral finance content, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Contact me for some ideas.

Consistency in Your Values

Most advisors, as part of their value proposition, say they care about clients. I have always found this interesting because it is not a differentiator at all, but it is often promoted as if it were. Unless advisors start promoting that a client is just an account number they are looking to churn, I don’t see the allure of making such a claim. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful value to have. I would hope every advisor cares about their clients.

In this case we also have two considerations of consistency when promoting values:

  • Perceived Value – Are your values actual values to the client, or just certain clients? Do you have one really good value and a few that aren’t so good and clear? Is it easy for the client to judge whether you actually have that value? All of those questions lead into consistency. When you state a value proposition (what’s in it for the client), be sure it is relevant to the client/prospective client and easy for them to experience for themselves – so they can verify.
  • Proving It – If a client can’t verify for themselves that you are what you say you are, that can cause cognitive dissonance. They may like you and want to trust you, but can’t get that feeling. It is important that your client servicing process continues to verify the value. For example, if you hold yourself out as some behavioral finance expert, you better be teaching timely perceptions proactively and consistently with clients. If your value is that clients are like family, you may want to consider including them in your family affairs. Don’t make claims because they sound good. Make sure all your claims can be backed up by your actions, or you will be inconsistent in your word.

Summing it Up

Business planning is difficult for advisors; most don’t do it. This is a small section within a business plan that is highly psychological. It is an exercise in making sure you walk your own talk. Such analysis of your business may have one of two outcomes: (1) you change what you say/claim because you realize you can’t deliver on it (2) you improve your execution to ensure you deliver on it. You may drop one value and focus on execution on another value. It really doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you improve your consistency, which impacts your reliability, trustworthiness and integrity.

The main question to consider is: How will my client know that I do this? They shouldn’t have to do a full analysis or go looking for it. Your “walk” (execution) should be so precise, consistent and obvious that anyone can see it. And it isn’t a one time thing. It should be embed through your entire business process: initial impressions, client onboarding and your client servicing model.