As far as running your practice is concerned, you have 3 objectives every time you pick up the telephone to ring up a client:
- Maintain Relationships.
- Deliver Key Messages.
- Increase revenue with that client through additional services or referrals.
When you are reading this post, consider the positive effect of making several of these calls every day, every week, month after month would have on your practice. Imagine you kept notes on each call, and so did your other team members. Imagine what could happen if every one of your clients felt that you were paying attention, and that you were in their corner.
They would trust you more. Clients who trust you stay with you. They continue to appreciate and adhere to your counsel and they succeed. Clients who trust you and succeed recommend your services.
At this time of year it’s a good idea to check in because most of us have put off some decisions, or some business/money issues over the summer, but as the mornings get cooler and the days get shorter we will 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 a few simple pointers that will increase your effectiveness.
Write Everything Down.
In my blog about My New Bike I mentioned that a salesperson remembered me, and my ski boot issue from at least 4 or 5 years earlier at another store – I have probably told the story a dozen times to locals, and I know in one case it resulted in a bike sale. 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 that he is only aware of because you wrote it down in your call notes. One of your top clients calls in with an issue, or a question, or an opportunity and her needs are met, the appointment is booked, or the information is sent, or the simple question is clarified and then, out of nowhere your assistant says “So, I hear that you spent a lot of time up at the lake this summer …” You can easily dismiss this. You can shrug and say “well I guess that would be nice.” Well I have done this for 15 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 a trip planned. When you are speaking to the right client and they tell you about their cottage or mention something casual like “It’s almost ski season” ask them if they ski a lot, ask them if they go away, ask them where they would go if they could. Type their answer into www.google.com and print off some free information such as restaurants to experience when there, or find a blog/board of local ski heads discussing the area. All you are trying to do is show them that you care, to engage them on a personal level that they simply do not experience with other professionals.
Ask about families.
“How are your kids” is a pretty obvious one. However, a lot of clients my age also have a lot of concern for parents – elder care issues are increasingly more relevant and top of mind. “Did you see any family over the summer” or if you do not know the status of your clients parents you might be more direct “Would you have any interest in attending a client event on elder care?” but not too obvious “Is your mother well?”
My experience is that once you ask about someone’s kids, they don’t stop until they have brought you right up to speed. There is all kinds of information, opportunity. Some of your clients are no doubt prepping to drive kids of to University or College – Do you have any ideas how you could add a little value, and show you care without breaking the bank? Seriously? How about cook books for students or coffee cards from Starbucks that you can mail to the kid at home before he or she leaves and say “Work hard at school, get a job, and then come and talk to me.” Keep in mind that the long haired kid in question will likely be someone’s executor.
Some of these parents are going to tell you that they are struggling a little with their kids leaving – just listening to them, and acknowledging their feelings is going to help. You are their confidant. You were involved in helping to save the money to fund this – you may as well give them a little couch time.
And some of your clients will have gone nowhere, and they know nobody. Fair enough. But maybe they have a kid that works at the GAP and makes $134 every two weeks. Is the client important enough to you? Then send the kid the book The Richest Man In Babylon and write a note that says “Dear John. Your father mentioned that you have been working at The Gap, 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. By the way, have you got any roll neck black sweaters in XL?” Or leave the sweater part out, either way with postage it will cost you less than $20, and even I can afford that.
Deliver Key Messages.
The economy is sputtering, there are gathering storms on the horizon and the market by some accounts is going to get savaged. Some say not so bad, some say worse than before. What I think is irrelevant, what anyone other than you think is irrelevant. But that doesn’t change the fact that the pundits and the papers are going to say that everyone should have saw this coming. People are emotional, and when they are losing money they can get downright crazy. You already know what they will do. You already know what they need to hear – my suggestion is to tell them right now.
Ask them how they feel about the economy. Ask them what they expect is going to happen. Ask them how they weathered the last crash, from an emotional point of view. Ask them what they are doing to be prepared. Repeat their answers to them. Tell them what you agree with, and what you are not so sure about.
Save and Prepare.
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 improve if they did exactly what they should do, and saved an additional 5% per year? What would it represent to you if your top 50 clients saved an additional 5% a year?
Scarcity, Exclusivity, and Referrals.
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 was 3 on the same 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 practice, not 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 looking needy and asking for your client to help you.
At the end of the call, if you feel you would like more clients like the person you are speaking with, and if you feel you have earned the right say this “Dennis you are exactly the kind of person I like to work with. I don’t really need any more clients right now, but I would make an exception for someone that you know who you feel is very 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 very thankful for it.”
Your client might say something like “Well Mary I’ll keep that in mind.” Then you say this “Sure. So you know, you don’t have to go out and find me clients – I get plenty of interest. I’m just saying that you really are a great client, and I look forward to speaking with you, and seeing you.”
That’s it. That’s all you have to say. Saying that is the easy part. Doing all the other stuff is hard. Calling your top clients 4 times a year is hard. Calling your middle clients 2 times a year and returning all the other calls. Always taking notes, or always taking action when you see an opportunity, making yourself go to Starbucks and buy the coffee gift card is hard. And if “hard” is the wrong word, then “not as easy as not doing anything” might be closer to what I am talking about.
Continue to be better then 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.
I will be posting a series of blogs on calls, and client events and other simple, executable ideas/campaigns for the Fall. Keep an eye out for them.