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Strategies for Earning & Keeping Trust

March 28, 20247 min read

It’s obvious that trust plays a huge role in the relationships you maintain with clients and the relationships you’re building with prospects. How quickly you develop trust and whether you can maintain it determines a lot about your success. In the world of financial services, understanding how to develop and nurture trust is a subject of frequent conversations with the advisors we support. 

The journey of trust development with prospects varies greatly across client segments and individual needs. And nowhere have we found a clearer example of how important it is to leverage your skills in trust building than when we spoke with Mike Brusko of Top Tier Wealth Management. One of Brusko’s customer segments is NFL players. And as you might imagine, trust is not something you can afford to give away easily when you’re a celebrity.  

Mike Brusko is a partner at Top Tier Wealth Management. In the last five and half years they have succeeded in scaling from $6 million to nearly $100 million in managed assets. And a big part of their success has come in part to how they learned to navigate relationship building with their diverse segments. His insights shed light on the unique challenges and strategies per segment, further confirming that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to trust.

Tailoring Trust to Your Segments

Let’s go back to what creates the foundation of any relationship. We’ve shared before that a relationship requires the partner perceives 3 things - that you understand them, you validate them and that you care about them. It should therefore make sense that effectively nurturing relationships with prospects in any industry requires an understanding of each segment’s goals and challenges. How else will you show a prospect that you understand their world and the things that are important to them (validation) if you don’t first dig deep?

Top Tier Wealth Management’s strategy hinges on a deep understanding of their clients' unique contexts. They show that true validation and care can only come from a genuine effort to understand each client’s individual world.

Brusko shared with me that his firm has three segments. For each of these segments, he makes sure to understand the pain points they are experiencing, the goals they are hoping to achieve, and their current life priorities. Here is how trust development might play out for each of Top Tier Wealth’s segments:


Brusko described this segment as such - “... there's just a lot of pressing financial questions that show up, when you're at that stage of your life. When do I take Social Security? How do I manage healthcare?".

To develop trust with this group, Top Tier Wealth makes sure they show and understand each unique issue or question to put the prospect at ease. They make sure to be empathic toward every scenario so that the prospect knows they are cared for as well. These are the moments where personalized service comes into play to develop the trust to move forward. 

Young Professionals

This segment is seen as a long-term investment, often involving personal connections from the advisors' networks. These are typically young professionals who are in a good place in life and have the income to drive longer-term investment goals.  

To develop trust, Brusko’s team draws on personal experiences to similar life phases to relate to this segment. This highlights their understanding of needs. The approach here is more about consistently being part of their world and nurturing the relationships over time. With frequent conversation comes the feeling of care and support that sets up trusted relationships.

NFL Players

When it comes to this segment, Brusko shared that these prospects are usually an introduction from someone in the locker room or a former teammate. And while referrals are usually a nice warm handoff, this is the segment that has needed far more nurturing than any other. Brusko’s team learned early that this group would require extra effort to earn trust. 

"There's cynicism and trust issues with just the status that they have. Which is sad, because it's to their detriment when it hinders a faster relationship, which then would have otherwise put them on a brighter financial path quicker, but, you know, it takes time."

To develop trust with this segment, Brusko’s team quickly realized that they needed to dedicate more time to building those relationships before they even earned an opportunity to pitch. When you think about it, this is a world where everyone wants a piece of you – Everyone is trying to sell you something. So, the Top Tier Wealth team knows they can’t just go in and be another person trying to sell them something.  

This is where Brusko tells me they operate by Robert Cialdini's persuasion techniques, especially leveraging reciprocity, to build trust. They try to provide value upfront, even before formal engagement, to establish a basis for reciprocity. They are constantly looking for opportunities to be helpful with zero expectation in return. If they know one of the players has expressed an interest in a new home, they might send over information on various items to consider for financing in their specific scenario. They also use some of the other players who are clients to provide insight and wisdom to make the prospects feel part of a community who understands their needs.  

As you can see, setting the foundation for trust and long-term relationships is more of an art. In order to set a course for that nurturing to take place, you first need to make sure you understand their world and what you can offer to make them feel understood and cared for.  

Lessons in Trust Strategies

At the heart of Top Tier Wealth Management's success lies a deep commitment to personalized client experiences. This was clear in the passion that Brusko has in describing how they take pride in understanding their clients as humans who have full lives. This isn't just about offering financial advice; it's about understanding and responding to each client's unique needs and preferences. 

Below you’ll find some of the strategies that the firm employs to build their trusted relationships. Perhaps some of these may be a good fit for your own brand’s efforts to more effectively develop the kind of trust that improves conversion and retention. 

Persuasion Techniques: As mentioned before, Robert Cialdini's persuasion techniques have inspired their efforts, especially leveraging reciprocity, to build trust. They consistently look to provide value upfront, and throughout their relationships. This approach is not just about gaining trust; it's about demonstrating their commitment to the client's welfare from the get-go.

Direct Engagement Over Mass Communication: Top Tier Wealth believes in being accessible and responsive. This includes making direct phone calls to clients. This approach has proven to them to be more effective than mass communications like newsletters. This firsthand approach ensures that each client feels heard, valued, and understood.

Customized Client Interaction: Client interactions are not standardized but tailored to individual needs. This includes gauging the frequency and nature of check-ins based on each client’s preferences and life scenarios. Again, the very core of this customization shows people that you understand them and sets the foundation for your relationship. 

Referrals and Networking: The firm relies heavily on natural networks and referrals for new business. Partners and clients play a significant role in bringing in new prospects. Recognizing that trust is often built through existing relationships, they work closely with partners and clients to expand their reach. These strategic partners also come into play to show relatability. If one of the referring players can show that they’ve been in the same scenario as a prospect, they are validating not only the prospect’s needs but the wisdom and guidance of the firm to help them as well. This approach not only brings in new business but also strengthens the community around the firm.

Gifting and Client Appreciation: Lastly, the firm understands the value of thoughtful gifting and client appreciation. By focusing on the quality and presentation of gifts, they reinforce their brand's perception as one that values and respects its clients. These gestures, though small, play a crucial role in deepening the client-advisor relationship.

These points offer valuable insights into how Top Tier Wealth Management builds and maintains trust with its diverse client segments.  But it also highlights the various strategies that are available to develop a system for your own prospect nurturing and client retention programs. 

Taking the time to design strategies for prospect nurturing is often one of the last things that professional service providers implement. And even when they get started, rarely do many launch a consistent approach. If any of these strategies inspire your team to put some extra thought into your own prospecting, we’re always here to help you to the finish line.  Join one of our monthly Q&A sessions with any questions or ideas. Or feel free to schedule time to chat one on one

top tier wealthfinancial servicesbuilding trust in financial industryclient trust buildingclient relationships

Jamie Shibley

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