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Do You Have a “Director of Public Perception?”

Most new referrals come during times of their life transitions. So make sure you have someone answering the phones who is skilled in communicating with them.

Imagine this: You are a world-class heart surgeon, highly respected in your field and known for the life-saving procedures you perform. A man in your city has a heart attack, and the ambulance crew arrives. If the emergency tech working on that man isn’t skilled and competent enough to stabilize the patient and get him to you, it doesn’t matter how expert you are.

In the same way, it is absolutely crucial that you have a skilled and competent person answering the phone at your office. Now, most advisors will say that they do, because they intentionally hire someone with excellent administrative and communication skills who loves working with people. But you need more. Seventy percent of new referrals come during times of their life transitions. For instance, these prospects may call your office in the midst of grief. Is your administrative assistant trained in grief support, or do you run the risk of unintentional mistakes that are neutral at best? Wouldn’t you rather have someone who will so impress the grieving prospect that the way is paved for you before the prospect even walks through the office door? 

A Few Words Can Make a World of Difference

An example: A widow calls your office and says, “I’m wondering whether I can get an appointment. I don’t have an advisor but now I have to invest life insurance proceeds. A friend of mine is a client of Advisor Smith and said her experience with your firm is great. Does Advisor Smith have any openings?”

The typical administrative assistant will say something like, “Of course, I’m happy to help you with that. Advisor Smith has an opening Tuesday at 10 a.m. or Thursday at 2 p.m. Would one of those work for you?” It’s polite, helpful and competent.

But what if the answer was more like: “Of course, I’m happy to help you with that. It may be reassuring for you to know that we have specific training and experience working with people going through life transitions and have helped a lot of others in situations similar to yours. To get started, why don’t you tell me what days and times work best for you? I’d like to arrange this appointment around your calendar right now if I could.”

It’s a simple twist of phrase, but it makes a world a difference. You immediately signal to a grieving prospect that you’re different than everyone else, you understand what they need and you’re willing to accommodate them in a difficult time.

Then the prospect comes into the office. Now the administrative assistant greets them with: “Good morning. I’m so glad you were able to make it in. Advisor Smith asked me to give you something that many of our clients find useful. When you’re going through a difficult time in life, it’s hard to keep track of everything. So we’d like to offer you this portfolio notebook. It’s got a pocket for documents, a three-ring binder, a notepad and a pen—everything you need for your appointments with us. So you never have to wonder where you put things, what you read or signed, where your list of action steps is—it’s all right here in one place. Many of our clients find it helpful, and if you do, you can use it that way too. Here you go—your gift from Advisor Smith. Now, could I get you a cup of coffee or water? Is there anything else to make you more comfortable?”

This prospect hasn’t even met you yet. But what is she thinking right now about you and your firm?

Set yourself apart. Let clients and prospects know that you care about more than the finances, that you understand their situation and you’re uniquely capable of walking them through whatever life has thrown at them.

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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