The 80/20 rule for Virtual Relationships (Part II): Using the Trust Equation to Double-Down and Ramp Up

We recently introduced what we call the (new) 80/20 rule for virtual relationships. In the first of this four-part blog series, we acknowledged that it’s anything but business as usual these days, but cautioned that focusing too much on the “virtual” part of “virtual relationships” could lead to missed opportunities and damaging long-term consequences.

We concluded that now is the time for 80% focus on our relationship EQ and 20% focus on improving our virtual IQ—not the other way around.

That’s because how we interact may have changed, but what builds trusted relationships has not. True trusted advisorship demands that we find ways to make choices from our higher selves, not from our baser instincts, and not from our bag of virtual tricks.

The temptation to spend a lot of time and money on the technological equivalent of shiny objects becomes an easy distraction from what really matters, when our current reality is a call to lead with time-tested relationship principles and shore them up with virtual best practices.

Enter our old friend, the trust equation, as a framework to help us all do exactly that.

Many professionals believe that being credible and reliable is enough to form strong trust relationships. While these two factors often provide the initial foundation for trust, they are necessary but insufficient to form the everlasting client bonds and deep, unshakable loyalty that come with true trusted advisorship. Trust has multiple dimensions: credibility, reliability, intimacy and lack of self-orientation. Winning trust requires that you do well on all four dimensions (in the client’s eyes).

Consider how you might double down on your relationship EQ and ramp up your virtual IQ to form everlasting client bonds and deep, unshakable loyalty.

Self-Orientation

We begin with self-orientation because there is no greater source of distrust than advisors who appear to be more interested in themselves than in trying to be of service and trying to help the client.

Unfortunately, your self-orientation is likely to be high right now, whether you realize it or not. On the other hand – so is everyone else’s.

We recognize – and will remember – those who are able to genuinely reach out beyond their own psyches and connect with others in such times.

Double down on time-tested relationship principles (80%)

  • Lead with your genuine caring as an individual. Reach out just to say hello and find out how they are. We’ve always advocated for this relationship-building practice, only now it’s more important than ever.
  • Lead with your genuine caring as an organization. Now is the time for rallying cries that are truly client-centric. Don’t let fear set your goals and choose your messaging.
  • Make generous offers. Propose something concrete that you can give away that would be helpful—resources, ideas, small bites of work that you can do remotely and not charge for. These are gestures, not discounts, and there are lots of ways to do this without compromising your fee/rate integrity.
  • Leave clients feeling good about themselves when they’re around you. It’s a favorite piece of David Maister wisdom: “You don’t make people want to spend time with you because they feel good about you. You do it by making them feel good about themselves when they are with you.” Think about how you might acknowledge or promote your clients—genuinely, of course.
  • Be rigorous about the rituals and practices that help you get and stay grounded. Zoom fatigue is real and everyone’s surge capacity is in short supply. Be intentional about managing your fear along with your overall well-being, and be a good role model for others in the process.

Ramp up your virtual best practices (20%)

  • Plan for interaction/engagement every five minutes or so during virtual meetings. No, that’s not a typo. It’s far too easy for clients to get distracted when we’re together online, plus it’s harder to sense what isn’t being said, so we all have to work harder to be collaborative when virtual is our primary/only option. Have both tech-savvy and traditional tools at the ready and use them appropriately: annotate, chat, breakout, pause and reflect, and many more.

Finally, grant yourself the grace to realize that things are different . Recognize and acknowledge what you are experiencing, and manage your Self-orientation moving forward.

In Part III of this series, we’ll share what to double down on and what to ramp up to increase Intimacy in virtual relationships.