Phoenix—“The market volatility is getting to everyone,” Greg moaned as we chatted briefly following my talk. “I recognize that it’s a perfect storm for rainmaking, but I can feel my support personnel getting pulled into the panic. I guess it’s getting to me, too.”
Greg is a 25-year veteran who has weathered many a storm. But the same can’t be said for his support team. For them, the sky is falling. Memories of a 2008 repeat, being fueled by the media pundits, is in the forefront of their minds. And yes, they’re on the front line working with clients. After peeling back the onion a bit with Greg, it became apparent; they were worried about their jobs. Not a recipe for capitalizing on crisis.
I outlined four steps for Greg, not only to get a handle on his practice, but to enable him to capitalize on this crisis.
Step 1: Develop a recovery strategy.Most firms have been sending out missives for advisors to deliver to clients. This isn’t good enough. No disrespect to these messages, but clients haven’t put Wall Street back on a pedestal of trust, respect, and credibility. That said, each advisor must adapt these messages and communicate their own recovery strategy.
This can be as broad as “Mr. Client, I’m calling just to touch base because of the volatility in the markets. We’ve reviewed your portfolio (over the weekend, this morning, last night, etc.) and are comfortable with where we are right now. We will continue to monitor your portfolio and can update you as often as you like. How frequently would you like for me to reach out to you?”
However, every member of the team must be on the same page. Whatever recovery strategy Greg embraces, he must believe in it and transfer that belief to his support personnel. This will serve two purposes: strengthen belief and confidence of his support personnel, and enable everyone to ease the fears of panicked clients.
Step 2: Proactive client contact. Every advisor in his right mind has been contacting clients. The issue is being proactive, personal, and making certain every team member is involved. This isn’t a one-man job. We recommend that the top 25 clients are contacted by the senior advisor, both by phone and then in person; socially, a business lunch—it doesn’t matter. This is time-consuming but a valuable use of time, as it’s much easier to communicate a calm confidence when face-to-face than in a quick phone call. The remaining clients can be contacted by junior advisors and support staff, but the recovery strategy is on the same page.
Meeting with clients below the top 25 is a judgment call. A face-to-face is in order if you have the resources, if a junior advisor senses the need, sees the potential for strengthening the relationship, or senses an opportunity.
Step 3. Contact every potential prospect. You can begin this during Step 2 by referencing a prospect linked to your client whom you’ve identified in the past. “And Mr. Client, I know you mention your colleague Larry often; is he someone I should be talking to? Does he have an advisor guiding him through this market turmoil?” The more frequently an advisor repeats those lines, the more he or she increases the probability of getting in front of a prospect who can easily become a client in this environment.
Some prospects will be newer, while others might need to be re-engaged, but this is the environment for making a lot of prospect contacts. Uncertainty always breeds opportunity. And don’t shy away from prospects who were blowing you off—even if they stopped returning your calls, contact them via e-mail. Our current market conditions create a perfect opportunity to re-engage. Create a list of all of your prospects from the past two years whom you would like to approach and set up face-to-face interactions to position a “risk- audit.” You might say…
“Hello (name of prospect), this is (your name), we met at (insert place). I’m sure you’re aware of the volatility—does your financial advisor have a recovery strategy for you that you’re comfortable with? If not, it’s probably a good time for us to get together and look at your portfolio. This is no time for hesitation. Do you have any free time later this afternoon or over the weekend?”
Once again, the more of these conversations you have, the more clients you will likely acquire.
Step 4. Prospect socially: Be visible. When the markets continue to have such volatility, advisors must be prepared to capitalize on the inevitable market conversations. If advisors can avoid the blame game and stay out of political discussions, each of these conversations is a perfect opportunity to segue into a “second opinion.” Next time you are in a social setting (Rotary, son’s soccer league, neighbor’s BBQ, etc.) and someone opens up the dialog about the markets, your job is to grab control through misdirection and offer either a second opinion or a risk audit, but not get pulled into a lengthy discussion.
“This has been a crazy environment, but we’ve working extremely hard, meeting with clients and making certain they’re protected on all fronts. It’s gotten so serious that my clients are now asking me to provide second opinions for close family members.” Read the body language—if you have their attention, go for a second opinion mini-close. “Has anyone done this for you? I’ll be glad to take a look.”
These steps can help you get everyone on the same page with a communication/contact plan that you can execute. Elite advisors are extremely active and highly visible in today’s environment.
Also, if you haven’t already, join The Oechsli Institute’s Group on LinkedIn!
Once again, we want to thank all of you who have e-mailed comments and questions to us. We will continue to do our best to answer each one.
If you have any topic suggestions or special requests, please contact Rich Santos, publisher of Registered Rep. and Trusts & Estates magazines, at [email protected]