Nothing is more important to advisors than their interactions with clients, and review meetings are key to developing strong relationships. Whether annual or quarterly, the review meeting is your chance to check in with clients on their most critical financial goals and concerns, and on life in general. Over the decades, each review meeting deepens the relationship, turning clients into clients for life.
Increasingly, though, advisors have begun replacing in-person review meetings with videoconferences. It might sound impersonal, but meeting electronically has a number of benefits, including:
- Making meetings more convenient for clients, especially when travel is difficult
- Establishing relationships with clients’ children, who may live too far away for in-person meetings with you
- Improving your own efficiency
Done right, videoconferencing can be just as effective as an in-person meeting.
Tips for productive videoconferencing
If you’re planning to host long-distance client meetings, it’s important to keep a few best practices in mind.
- Put data security first. You should only share financial data over a secure videoconferencing system. Business partners like broker/dealers typically provide secure options for advisors to use. (Skype, for example, is not a secure site for sharing clients’ financial information.)
- Become a video expert (or hire one). To pull off a successful long-distance review meeting, both the client and the advisor need to be adept at videoconferencing. Fortunately, many clients are ahead of the game thanks to “grandparenting via FaceTime.” You’ll want to be even more savvy. If a hiccup in the system causes you to panic, you may need to have a tech resource standing by for all video meetings.
- Set the scene. Eliminate extraneous noise (from pen tapping to roadwork outside) and ensure that what clients see on the screen is soothing. Keep in mind that any clutter in your office looks worse when viewed on a small monitor. And check the lighting: sitting at your desk with a window behind you will likely create a blinding experience for clients, who see only a silhouetted head.
- Check in frequently. During the videoconference, pay close attention to the client’s tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. For example, try zooming in to gauge the client’s reaction to a particular point and confirm that you’re reading him or her correctly. Asking the client to summarize the meeting at the end of the session is another way to ensure that you’ve communicated effectively.
- Encourage client participation. Asking open-ended questions, letting clients do most of the talking, or suggesting an exercise can help promote engagement during a videoconference. If you don’t prompt them to actively participate, clients may just sit back and let you control the discussion.
- Take time to pause. We’re often quick to jump in with talk at the first few seconds of silence in a conversation. Allowing that little break is difficult in in-person meetings, and it’s an even greater challenge during videoconferencing. Waiting for the client to speak up can feel like an indefinite pause, but a bit of silence may actually benefit the flow of conversation.
Making it work for you
If you’re new to videoconferencing, you’ll need time to get comfortable with it before setting up long-distance meetings with clients. That takes practice, practice, practice! And remember, even if you have excellent videoconferencing skills, it makes sense to schedule in-person meetings at least occasionally.
Depending on the client’s needs and your comfort with the technology, offering review meetings via videoconference can be a great value-added service—and another way to develop and sustain your most important relationships.
Joni Youngwirth is managing principal, practice management, at Commonwealth Financial Network®, member FINRA/SIPC, an independent broker/dealer–RIA.