Fire Customers, Keep Clients

Saying goodbye to nonproductive clients is a great way to build a solid business. I call it weeding out the garden. However, too many sales manuals teach reps to hang on to everyone, instructing them how to overcome objections. These training guides urge us to persuade clients to embrace our way of thinking and offer tiresome responses to every objection imaginable. I refuse to play that game. If

Saying goodbye to nonproductive clients is a great way to build a solid business. I call it weeding out the garden.

However, too many sales manuals teach reps to hang on to everyone, instructing them how to overcome objections. These training guides urge us to persuade clients to embrace our way of thinking and offer tiresome responses to every objection imaginable.

I refuse to play that game. If I have to constantly butt heads with a client to get him to agree with my recommendations, I don't have a client — I have a customer.

And customers are the ones we need to weed out. Yes, it's counterintuitive to shed any business. We are taught from day one that success as a broker is all about opening accounts and gathering assets. But customers can hinder your success and clients can assure it. First you need to separate the two groups.

Here are ways to tell who's a customer and who's a client:

  1. Customers buy investments from me. Clients buy my advice. I think we can all agree that investments themselves are nothing more than commodities. The more I find myself defending a specific recommendation and explaining everything down to the last detail, the more I have a customer. On the other hand, when an individual considers me a trusted financial adviser and not just a salesperson, I know I've got a client.

  2. The more often I find myself talking to someone on the phone, the more likely that person is a customer. I can say with certainty that my best clients don't call me nearly as much as those people I consider customers. My clients know I am in charge and have their best interests in mind. They really have no reason to call. To the contrary, customers seem to look for opportunities to let me know how I could be doing better.

  3. Customers focus on the markets while clients focus on their own lives. I find my customers always talking market jargon, portfolio balancing or trading opportunities. My clients want to talk about their families, careers, relationships and aspirations.

  4. Customers focus on fees and commissions while clients focus on the value I provide. My clients appreciate the little things I do for them. They thank me for going the extra mile; my customers expect the extra effort. In their minds, they deserve it. Perhaps they do, but they remain customers nonetheless.

  5. Clients want to be friends and to develop a relationship with me. Customers want to keep their distance. Customers are more interested in getting what they can out of me. If I were to ever drop the ball, I would get the pink slip from customers.

When sorting out our books, it's important to remember that there are thousands of clients who want and need us as their trusted financial advisers. We should strive to keep our client bases filled with clients — people who view us as true professionals whose job it is to build wealth.

It is our choice folks. Do we want customers or clients?

If we worked with nothing but clients, imagine how much more enjoyable this business would be.

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