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When Your Client is the Odd One Out

Many people don't call widowed spouses on Valentine's Day. Don't be one of them. Here's what to do instead.

February is almost upon us, and a significant number of your clients are dreading it. No, it isn’t the cold, or the dreariness of winter. It’s Valentine’s Day.   

In the past, this holiday of love was a day of warmth, surprises, celebration, and hugs. Spouses anticipated receiving a special card and candy; or a carefully selected gift, extra attention, and reassurance of their lovability. Yet for widowed spouses, the day is cold and bleak. Hearing the ads and watching couples make goo-goo eyes at each other rubs the scab raw and thrusts the cold spear deeper into broken hearts.  

The worst thing you can do is ignore your clients in this painful time. Remember, many people avoid calling on days like Valentine’s Day. That leaves them feeling even more alone and isolated. At the very least, send a card with a small gift. For instance: “No gift could make up for Jim’s absence. Still, I hope you can enjoy a few chocolates from someone who cares. We are thinking of you today.”  Or, “A single rose in memory of Karen. Her love for you and for so many people lives on in our hearts forever.” 

If you really want to make a long-term impression, consider organizing an event early in the day for widowed clients. Invite them to a breakfast or brunch, and do it up right. Have a nice meal, an attractive centerpiece, and attentive staff, so they feel pampered. When all are seated, welcome the group, saying you know Valentine’s Day can be difficult for the widowed and you wanted to give them something fun to anticipate along with the pain the day may bring.  

Print a list of questions for discussion and place it at each table to break the ice and get them sharing with each other. Examples: Tell how you and your spouse met each other. Tell one thing that drove you crazy about your spouse. Tell one well-meaning thing someone said to you after your spouse died that was unintentionally hurtful to you.  
 
After the meal, thank everyone for coming and tell them you plan to make this an annual event so they can return next year. Perhaps have a drawing for the centerpieces at each table. As your guests leave, give them a small token such as a real or chocolate flower. Tell them you will call in a week or two to see what they liked best and if they have any suggestions for how you could improve the event next year. Then, of course, do call and take their feedback seriously.   

These suggestions bracket the range of possibilities. The important thing is to be there for your clients in ways that most other people aren’t. When you demonstrate that you understand their grief and you care about more than just the money, you gain a client for life. When their friends and associates are widowed, what will they tell them about their uncommonly wise and compassionate advisor?

Amy Florian is the CEO of Corgenius, combining neuroscience and psychology to train financial professions in how to build strong relationships with clients through all the losses and transitions of life. 

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