You’ve been chasing a big prospect for some time now, and he’s fi nally agreed to give you a few minutes of his time.

So here you are, face to face with someone more than twice your age, who’s been through bull markets, bear markets, crashes, bubbles. You, on the other hand, have been registered for six months. You give him a great opening speech and think everything is going well. Then he looks you straight in the eye and says, “What do you know about it?” Any advisor faces trials by fi re. But of all the challenges to be surmounted, none is as daunting as attracting and retaining older clients.

Silver hair is a virtue in a market that reveres experience, but that doesn’t mean there’s no hope for the fresh-faced. Client confi dence can be earned in other ways, and younger advisors must focus on the two factors critical to the development of strong, loyal relationships: trust and credibility.

When you ask someone to come on board as a client, you’re essentially asking him or her to place trust in you. The problem is trust isn’t built overnight. More importantly, building trust isn’t about talking, it’s about listening. A common barrier to effective listening isnot asking questions or adopting an attitude of already knowing what a client will say. By asking questions, young advisors show interest in prospective, older clients.

Credibility, on the other hand, is intellectual. But don’t confuse this with being smart. Instead use your intelligence to build credibility. One way is to acquire professional credentials that are well recognized in the financial services industry. Adding letters after your name won’t make you look any older, but it does show you’ve done your homework on an ever-changing industry.

Younger advisors can actually use age to their advantage. For example, when a couple is getting ready to retire, they may seek the services of a financial planner. While having an older advisor may provide some peace of mind, it also means they’ll likely have to go through the whole process of establishing an advisory relationship when that advisor retires. So, when you meet with such prospects, focus on your ability to provide insights into their personal situations, and stress that you’ll be around to see them through each stage of retirement, and life in general.

Another strategy is to work with older professionals. A younger advisor who’s developed a centre of influence network with a more senior accountant can leverage that relationship. Older clients, already in a working relationship with that accountant, may feel more comfortable dealing with a younger financial advisor if he or she is a direct referral. A great way to facilitate this is by organizing a presentation or seminar and inviting more senior, established guest speakers. Even though you may be young, clients will see that your colleagues can offer experience and wisdom.

Not so long ago, the industry was much more commission and transaction oriented, with the primary focus being on the markets and their next move. These days, the focus has shifted to people and relationships. While at the outset it appears competition within the industry is fierce, young advisors need not worry—there are more than enough clients to go around and plenty of opportunities to build a business.

Healthy client-advisor relationships are built over time, on a solid foundation of trust and credibility—the key ingredients in any healthy relationship. Successful advisors demonstrate these qualities to clients and prospects of all ages.

Originally published in Advisor's Edge