Early in my career I received a phone call while I was on the other line. I jumped to the incoming call, quickly telling the client I’d call him back – only I never did. I’d become distracted with more calls and paperwork, and by the time it came to mind, I figured the client would call me back. He didn’t. Instead, he stopped working with me. It was a swift way to learn the most important aspect of communicating with your client: trust.
To help financial advisors become even better stewards of the relationship business, I’ve culled the tips below from some of the best and hardest learned lessons from my career.
Inspire Trust, or Turn Off the Lights and Go Home
In the world of client services, trust is doing what you say you’re going to do. Did you offer to send the client additional information? Do so. Did you promise to be available 24 hours a day? Make it happen. Your word is your livelihood, and if you break it, there could be financial consequences.
Trust also includes managing expectations. In my work – alternative real estate products that offer monthly income stream – clients often sign on midway through the first month, which means the first check is prorated. If I don’t let them know this in advance, I’ll likely get a phone call asking why the amount is lower than expected – a surefire way to start a relationship off on the wrong foot.
As a financial advisor, this applies to you in several ways. I’m sure you discuss projected returns during each client conversation, but what about additional paperwork, or what a portfolio change could mean for client taxes? You’re managing both your client’s money and their time, so make sure you manage expectations of both.
Always Be in Contact
It’s trite but true: out of sight, out of mind. Implement a communications action plan to show your clients that you are thinking about them and their needs throughout the year.
Start with an opt-in email nurturing program. This could include monthly and quarterly insights on macro events impacting portfolios, links to articles, books or movies you think clients will enjoy, and a reminder of the multiple ways you can be reached.
On the topic of reaching you – truly successful relationships are built on access. I give my cell phone number to everyone. I may not be in love with 6 a.m. phone calls from my East Coast clients, but ultimately that’s a small price to pay for stronger, longer relationships. If you’re concerned about mixing business and pleasure, have two cell phones – one for business, and one that’s truly personal.
While some will come to you via the newsletter or by calling you directly, you’ll need to proactively reach out to every client at least once a quarter. It might be tempting to make this a quick email or online message, but a phone call, or in person conversation if you can manage it, is usually best.
Why? Think about your birthday. Which was more meaningful, a Facebook “HBD” post or a phone call? Digital platforms are for data and quick information, but live conversations are where relationships are nurtured.
Once you’re committed to the call or meeting, think carefully about what to say. Certainly touch on returns and goal progress, but don’t forget to ask how their family is doing (it’s always helpful to remember their names), if their golf swing improved over the summer, and what the outcome of that new car they were thinking of buying was. Get personal, and be sure to take notes that you can reference before the next exchange.
This kind of conversation comes easily to some (as my mom might say, I have the gift of gab), but for those who are a little less comfortable on the phone, there are many great podcasts to get you warmed up. While commuting or jogging on the treadmill, tune in to Rachel Rofe, Mark Hunter, or the empowerMINT team. These skills will help you both in business and in life.
This is not to say your touchpoints should be confined to planned, regular outreaches. When your client closes on a new home or finds out they are about to have twins, call and say congratulations. Let them know that their celebrations are your celebrations, too.
Similarly, let clients know about your own successes. Is there a new product offering, or are you starting an enhanced referral campaign? Let your clients know.
This means you must listen for subtle cues – a lessen I learned at the ripe age of 7. That was the year when all I wanted for Christmas were Reebok pumps. I subtly asked everyone for the sneakers, circling them in magazines and pointing them out in the store as we walked by. As the big day approached, I was certain my grandmother was the one who would get them. Christmas came, and I patiently left Grandma’s gift for last. At long last, I tore through the red and white wrapping paper, only to discover tube socks. Tube. Socks. My 7-year-old self was crushed.
The takeaway was clear: my desires had been overlooked.
In your client relationship, make sure to really listen to what is being said. Did a client mention a potential vacation in passing? Write it down and ask about it later. Did a client express concern about a given product? Follow up with information about that product’s returns. Leveraging these “moments of joy” can translate into better, more open conversations in the long run.
And, for goodness sake, never wear tube socks.
Use Social Media When It Makes Sense for You
In order to gain a more personal relationship with your client, consider social media – cautiously. It’s all about what etiquette makes sense for you.
Here’s what I mean: connecting on LinkedIn is a must, but people often don’t post about personal things there. Does that mean I will be Snapchatting with clients? Absolutely not.
Facebook is a bit trickier. While there may be SEO value for your practice, I’ve not seen this as worth the risk. Being on Facebook would let me know more about my clients – birthdays, home purchases, graduations and more – but they’d also know more about me. When my Dad passed away a few years ago, I posted about it on Facebook, but I’m not sure I would have wanted my clients to know that my mind might have been elsewhere while I grieved. (For what it’s worth, I don’t connect with my employees on Facebook either.)
Be aware of how photos of your vacations or recreational activities might appear to a client who is potentially of a different financial, personal, or recreational disposition. Similarly, think of the message it would send if your profile is completely blank. In the end, you need to weigh the pros and cons for yourself.
In the meantime, direct your clients to the company social media pages.
Maintaining a personal relationship with each and every client may seem daunting, but when you break it down into clear strategies aimed at growth, it doesn’t have to be. Build trust with every touchpoint, and watch your client relationships blossom.
Dayne Roseman is the Managing Director for Woodbridge Wealth, an alternatives firm that caters to advisors, family offices, and high-net-worth individuals.