Well, I’m not a doomsayer, but the volatility we’ve seen in the stock market tells me it’s time to redouble our efforts in maintaining client contact. The best way to head off problems or a panic call is to beat them to the punch.
Now, I know some of you may be thinking something like, “I run a fee-based business and I’ve trained my clients to expect a few bumps in the road, so they don’t want me to call.”
What if you’re wrong?
Would you rather your clients get their comfort and reassurance from the “talking heads” or from you?
Would you rather your clients get their advice from an ambitious young advisor who has them on their prospecting radar screen or from you?
Plus, they’re YOUR clients, they deserve the best!
And regular communication, even when you’re not exactly sure what to say, is a great way to uncover new business opportunities. You can gain referrals and build even more loyalty.
So, if you’re convinced you need to spend more time with your clients and you want an “excuse” to make a call, I’ve listed 6 great ideas below. Decide which one(s) will work for you.
1. The tax season call: “Did you have any tax surprises (good or bad) this year?” With April 15th approaching, your clients should have a clearer picture of how they’ll fair with Uncle Sam – even if they’re going to file for an extension. Sure, you should already know the effect of your work on their taxes, but what don’t you know? If it was a rough tax year, what can you do to make the current year better? Use your call to set the stage for a 1040 review and spend time pointing to those areas over which you have influence. You will also have a built-in excuse to look at investments or savings you may not control – brokerage and bank accounts, 401(k) plans, employment related stocks and options and the list goes on.
On the other hand, if a client had a good tax year, you still need to find out why. Is it repeatable? This information will help as you work with them to plan. Again, look at the 1040. Look for extraordinary events of which you were unaware; this may signal new opportunities for business.
2. The second opinion call: “With the volatility we saw in the market last week, I wanted to check in and see if you had a (stock, retirement account…) on which you needed a second opinion?” If you set this question up as a “service” to your clients, you’ll score points for great service. If you preface it by stating you’ve already reviewed their holdings with you, you’ll have an opportunity to capture new assets.
3. Gathering email addresses: “May I use your email address, text messaging or social media to stay in even better contact?” This may sound pretty basic to email junkies, but in our polling of advisors we have been surprised to find that many limit their email use to internal or personal correspondence. We think this is a big mistake. Once you know the rules (not very complicated) and have your clients’ permission to send updates via email, you have a quick and inexpensive communication tool.
High net worth clients in particular are requiring more frequent contact from their advisors. Many top producers send weekly or weekly messages (mini-email newsletters) to their best clients; they range from a few paragraphs they write themselves to hyperlinks to news of importance to research reports. When you add these scheduled emails to periodic communiqués with breaking news, a personal note or a new idea; you are using a new technique to once again show your clients the value of your relationship and work.
4. The advocacy question: “Do you think (your friend, neighbor, work associate…) would be a good fit for my practice?” We call this technique building advocacy; it is a powerful referral strategy. Simply call your clients, mention to each the specific name of someone they know personally or professionally and ask if that person would fit in well with the way you run your practice. Obviously before you call, you will need to take some time to research (using phone books and the internet) the neighborhoods, places of employment, civic organizations or social clubs with which they may be associated. The extra step of doing this advance homework pays big dividends because it increases the likelihood of a referral and removes the blank stare that often accompanies an open-ended referral request.
5. Reciprocation call: “Thank you for your business and your loyalty to my practice.” When is the last time you went out-of-your way to say thank you to your clients? Sure, anyone with good manors expresses their appreciation during the normal course of business, but making a call just to say “thanks” is the mark of a world class advisor. Everyone enjoys being told how much they are appreciated. Remember, your clients are not just their money; they can be friends, supporters, cheerleaders and so much more. Let them know you don’t take their loyalty for granted and how important they are in making your work so rewarding.
6. Cross-selling call: “I recently came across some new information and would like to introduce you to…” Last but not least, taking extra time to introduce your clients to a product or concept with which they may not be familiar is a terrific way to uncover new opportunities and cross-sell. This does not have to be a sales pitch, you could call to let them know you are dropping a report or news item in the mail (or email) and suggest they call you back if they have questions. For example, if your practice focuses on asset allocation, but also has the capability of providing an estate plan review, make sure your clients know it – never assume. An article about tax law changes or a complex planning strategy can go a long way in deepening your relationships. All too often clients only think about you in relation to what you are already doing for them. Be sure you regularly remind them of the full scope of your services.
These client communication ideas have stood the test of time and are easy to implement. If you’re looking for good excuses to stay close to your clients, find new business opportunities and provide value-added service, you now have plenty of ammunition. As you settle on your activity plan for the coming weeks, put these common sense calling ideas to work and good