As far as running your practice is concerned, you have 3 objectives every time you pick up the telephone to speak with a client:
1. Maintain relationships.
2. Deliver key messages.
3. Increase revenue with that client through additional services or referrals.
Consider the positive effect that making several of these calls – every day, every week, month after month – would have on your practice. Imagine that you kept notes on each call, as did every one of
your team members. Imagine what could happen if every one of your clients felt that you were paying attention to everything they had to tell you and that you were in their corner.
They would trust you more. And clients who trust you stay with you. They would continue to appreciate and adhere to your counsel, and they would succeed. Clients who trust you and succeed
recommend your services.
While it’s always important to check in with clients at least twice a year, ideally four times a year, your Fall call rotation can be particularly fruitful. In the Fall, most of us find that we’ve put off some decisions
or some business/money issues over the summer. But as the mornings get cooler and the days get shorter, we all slowly turn our attention to more important matters at hand. Your clients are probably
starting to wonder when they will hear from you. Here are five simple pointers to help increase your effectiveness.
Write Everything Down
People love personal service and the personal touch. Each of us, for our own reasons, wants to feel important, and we want our business and loyalty to be recognized.
Imagine what would happen if your assistant referenced some personal interest of your client because you entered it into your call notes. One of your top clients calls with an issue or question or opportunity, and that client’s needs are being met: the appointment is booked or information is sent or a simple question clarified. Then, out of nowhere, your assistant says, “So, I hear you spent a lot of time up at the lake this summer…” You might easily dismiss this gesture. You might shrug and way, “Well, I guess that would be nice to hear.” Well, I have been coaching advisors for fifteen years, and let me tell you what it actually means. It means you will probably make a million dollars a year.
Ask About Vacations
Everyone has either just gone on one or has one planned. When you are speaking to a client, and they tell you about their cottage or mention something of the cuff like, “It’s almost time for ski season,” ask them if they ski a lot, if they go away, where they might go if they could. Wherever they tell you, Google it. Print off some free information such as restaurants to visit when there. Or find a blog/board of local ski heads discussing the area. Send the information or link to your client. Show that you care and engage your client on a personal level.
Ask About Families
“How are your kids?” is a pretty obvious one. However, a lot of clients also have concerns about parents and elder care issues, so as an opener you might ask. “Did you see any family over the summer?” If you know the status of your client’s parents, you might be more direct: “Would you have any interest in attending a client event on elder care?” Avoid asking directly about the status of a parent’s health.
My experience is that once you ask about someone’s children, the conversation won’t stop until you’ve been brought right up to speed. Within these answers are all kinds of information and opportunities. Some of your clients are no doubt preparing to send their children off to university or college. What ideas do you have that might add a little value to that event without breaking your bank? How about cook books for students or coffee cards from Starbucks that you can send directly to the client’s kid either before or after they leave home, with a card that reads “Work hard at school, get a job, and then come and talk to me.” Keep in mind that the long-haired, pierced individual in question will likely be someone’s executor.
Some of these parents are going to tell you that they are struggling with their kids leaving. Just listening to them and acknowledging their feelings is going to help them and the relationship you have with them. You are their confidant. After all, you are involved in helping them save the money to fund this. You may as well give them a little couch time.
And some of your clients will not have gone anywhere. Fair enough. But maybe they have a kid who works at a Gap store and makes $134 every two weeks. Is the client important enough to you? Ten send their kid the book The Richest Man in Babylon and include a note that reads: “Dear John. Your father mentioned that you have been working at the Gap, and he is really proud of you. I am his financial advisor, and I thought you might appreciate this book now that you are earning your fortune.” Cost versus worth. You see what I’m saying here.
Deliver Key Messages
Whether the economy is sputtering or not, whether there are storms gathering on the horizon that threaten the market, whether the pundits are predicting that things are going to get worse before they get better, as your client how they feel about the economy. Ask them what they expect is going to happen. Ask them how they weathered the last crash or correction from an emotional point of view. Ask them what they are doing to be prepared. Repeat their answers back to them. Tell them what you agree with and what you’re not so sure about. You already know what they need to hear. Make sure that they are hearing it from you, not another advisor or friend with an advisor or the media.
Let them know about all the services you offer, including all those through your financial advice network. They may not know that you have estate settlement resources, or Will/Trust planning information.
Spend enough time in the market, and you will get tested. What do the lessons of hindsight tell us? To stay the course, to save more, to capitalize on opportunities. How would your clients lives be improved if they did exactly what they should do and saved an additional 5% a year? What would that represent to you if your top 50 clients saved an additional 5% a year?
Nothing quite erodes perceived value as quickly as saturation. I think of this every time I see a flight attendant wearing a Tiffany bracelet (my all-time best count was three on one flight.) So you have to watch how you ask for referrals. Your clients want to work with you because they see you as a special resource, an expert or specialist who runs a small, select practice and not as a salesperson who is looking to make more money.
When it comes to asking for referrals, there is a lot on the line. You can sour a relationship almost instantly by coming across as needy and asking your client to help you.
At the end of your call, if you feel you would like more clients like the one you are speaking to and if you feel you have earned the right, you might wish to say this: “Dennis, you are exactly the kind of person I enjoy working with. I don’t’ really need more clients right now, but I would make an exception for someone that you know who you feel is similar to yourself. Someone who is serious about investing and has an interest in participating in the process like you do. It’s a great relationship, and I am thankful for it.”
Your client might respond with, “I’ll keep that in mind.”
And that’s it. That’s all you have to say. Saying that is the easy part. Doing all of the others things I’ve mentioned is what’s hard. And if “hard” is the wrong word, then “not as easy as not doing anything” might be closer to what’s really going on. Calling your top clients four times a year is hard and takes discipline. Calling your middle clients twice a year is tough. Add to that returning all of your other calls, and you’re busy. Going to Starbuck’s to buy the gift card takes time. But do it. Always take notes, and always take action when you see an opportunity. Continue to be better than anyone expects. Continue to make your client experience the focus of your day, and you will get referrals. You will get good ones, bad ones, surprise ones and predictable ones. They all matter because they tell you that you are making an important difference in your clients’ lives.