You are a leader. You lead your clients through market turbulence and help them tune out the noise while staying focused on a plan and process. And while I will never trivialize the importance of providing a solid investment strategy for your clients, your character and your ability to manage a relationship is just as important as your ability to manage a portfolio.
Think of it this way. The products and services you provide and the firm you represent are all part of your message. YOU are the messenger. When a prospective client meets you for the first time, they're really connecting with the messenger before they buy into the message. When a client brags about you to a friend, they spend as much time talking about the messenger as they do the about the message. Ironically though, many advisors spend most of their time promoting the message.
The message isn't proprietary and much of it can be abstract to the client. It is also at the mercy of many external dependencies. I'm asking you to look at ways that you can complement the message by connecting with your clients on a deeper, more creative level. In the process you will make yourself indispensable to them, not to mention more refer-able. This approach is essentially an extension on your client service approach that helps symbolize your value to them.
There are many ways to do this that are both proactive and reactive. Proactive service consists of actions that can be automated and built into your on-going service plan. Sending a birthday card every year to your clients, providing a welcome binder as part of your on-board process and using agendas in review meetings, are just a few of the many examples that can help you stand-out, get people's attention and be memorable. Reactive service speaks to how you respond to unique events - something we call moments of truth. Moments of truth are usually one-off or rare events that take place between you and a client where they are basically saying "I trust you." They might bare their soul to you and reveal a challenge or setback they are experiencing. They might refer someone to you for the first time. Perhaps the client achieves an important personal milestone or accomplishment. Even becoming a client is a moment of truth. Let's face it. They are leaving a relationship and selecting you. It's a big deal. And just as important is how you pay tribute and respond to that moment of truth. Here are a few examples:
Your Client Reveals a Setback They are Experiencing
Chances are you've had a client who told you about some bad news they received, or an unpleasant event they are going through. Occasionally the news can be severe. I remember telling an advisor to send a client going through a really tough patch a book called When Bad Things Happen to Good People. The advisor sent the book along with a card with a thoughtful comment. A few days later the client called saying that the gesture was the most thoughtful thing anybody had done during that difficult period.
Your Client Reveals a Personal or Family Accomplishment
An advisor told me about a conversation he had with an affluent client who revealed that his son had finally, after several stops and starts, graduated from University. I suggested that the advisor send the son - a future client ideally - a copy of the book The Richest Man in Babylon along with a card congratulating him on his success. A few days later, the dad called the advisor thanking him profusely for getting his son thinking about his own financial future.
Your Client Refers a Friend to You for the First Time
An advisor told me about a very affluent client that had just sent his first referral in their seven year relationship. The advisor asked me how he should say thank you. I asked him to tell me about the client. After a few brief descriptions of interests the advisor mentioned that client had just purchased a big motor home so that he and his wife could travel North America to visit friends and family while playing some of the more famous golf courses in the US and Canada. I suggested that the advisor send a thank you card as well as a subscription to RV World Magazine. The cost would be about the same as box of golf balls but the impact and shelf life would be far greater.
I'm not suggesting you get into the gift-giving business. But when a moment of truth presents itself, it is important to be thoughtful and creative. When a client tells you something that goes beyond the superficial, or when a client takes action to your benefit, again they are saying "I trust you." How you respond to these moments of truth will take your relationship to the next level and ensure the goodwill continues.
Really what it comes down to is expectations and contrast. Your client wasn't expecting you to respond with as much impact as you did. It therefore stands out in their mind and galvanizes your relationship. They also have a frame of reference in terms of how they expect a financial advisor to conduct himself or herself. Their former advisor didn't have a mindset of proactive and reactive service when it came to moments of truth. Therefore, your actions validate their decision to move over to you, and activate their conversion from client to advocate. And that is where the value is in this business. Not in how many clients you have, but in how many advocates you have. A client does business with you. An advocate is competitor proof, they empower you fully and they wave your flag to friends and family members.
Contributed by Duncan MacPherson