Making meaningful connections with clients is the foundation of any successful practice – particularly during times of crisis. Michael Futterman, Head of Knowledge Labs® Professional Development, encourages financial professionals to review their client base, revise any information that is missing or outdated, and renew their outreach to solidify and enrich their relationships.
As the pandemic stretches on, the days can blur together somewhat. But I’d encourage you to take a moment, close your eyes and think back on what life has thrown your way since last summer.
As you reminisce, ask yourself: “Who am I most grateful for?” Who is the first person who comes to mind as a source of comfort and stability while the world was upended around you? What did they do to earn your gratitude and find their way into your memory bank? Once you’ve pondered how that person has helped you, ask yourself: “What have I done to make others grateful for me?” Clearly, this is a much more difficult question. But challenge yourself by asking (and answering honestly): “What did I do to earn that place in other people’s memory banks?”
The purpose of these soul-searching questions is to get you thinking about how you have connected with clients through the crisis and to lay the groundwork for the months ahead. I like to think of it as a three-step process of getting back to basics by reviewing your client base, revising the information you have on file and renewing your connections with the relationships that matter most.
Step 1: Review
Just like the spring cleaning most of us do every year – where we find that we’ve accumulated a lot of stuff in our closets, garages, back seats of our cars, etc. – a thorough review of our client base often reveals some relationships we’ve inadvertently neglected. That’s because we tend to spend a lot of time trying to accumulate new relationships – often at the expense of maintaining older and more-established ones.
I was talking with a financial professional who had been in the business for over 30 years. I asked him to list his top 25 clients and what he knew about them. The top 10 were easy: He could recall a surprising amount of detailed information about each household without even referring to his files. It was when he got to the next 15 clients that a lot of gaps started to appear. But it turned out to be an effective exercise. This seasoned financial professional told me that the simple process of taking 30-40 minutes that week to write down these client names and their related details spurred him to reach out and actively manage the relationships with renewed purpose.
Step 2: Revise
Creating meaningful moments for your clients is all about information. But not just any information: detailed, accurate and – perhaps most importantly – current information.
Think about your life today compared with five to 10 years ago. While some things are likely to have remained the same, there are probably plenty of other things that have changed significantly. Your clients are experiencing the same constant change as you, and it’s critical that you are aware of those changes and keep track of them in your files. That means regularly reviewing your client base.
Once you have conducted your review and identified details that need to be updated, you’ll need to gather any critical information that is missing from your dossier on each household. This may mean preparing to ask an extra question or two when you send your next email or make the next phone call. It may also mean availing yourself of the myriad data-gathering techniques that are available to the modern financial professional, including the use of social media to research and more deeply understand your clients on an individual and group level. When you are armed with a more comprehensive data set, you will be better prepared to renew your relationships with these clients.
Step 3: Renew
Let’s return to the exercise we introduced at the start of this post: Think back on the past six months and ask yourself what you did to create meaningful moments with your most valuable clients during that time. Did you reach out with deeply personal content – whether in the form of blog posts, podcasts, webinars or even just carefully crafted emails – to help calm their nerves and put what was happening into perspective? Were you there when your clients were looking for a friendly voice – and by “there,” I mean simply taking the time to check in and ask, “How are you/your spouse/the business/the kids/?”
If you did any of these things, I commend you – this has been an extremely difficult time for proactive outreach, after all. But if you now realize that you could or should have done more, I have good news for you: It’s never too late to start. The pandemic may have disrupted our social norms and typical interactions, but the opportunity for growth lies in focusing on what can be gained from this “new normal.”