First impressions are incredibly important. The initial moments of a conversation reveal a lot about the person you are talking to; through their voice, their body language, and how they interact with you. The same is true of your first conversations with clients, which provides crucial moments for you to learn about them, establish your expertise and the benefit you provide, and lay the foundation for a relationship moving forward.
As advisors move toward more dynamic practice models, where they are expected to meet the specific needs of individual clients rather than using a blanket approach for all, these conversations become increasingly important. Here are some tips on the best ways to engage with clients during the onboarding process:
Use a checklist or an agenda: While it might seem elementary, it’s an opportunity to free up your brain and focus on the task at hand. You also show a level of respect for your clients’ time by assuring them that the meeting has a clear purpose (or several), and that you are taking the neccesary steps to make sure everything is addressed.
Thoroughly explain the process to your clients: While it might seem obvious, repetitive, tired and entirely overdone to you, this process is exactly the opposite for your clients. Not only do you have the repeated experience of onboarding new clients over and over again, but you also have the industry knowledge to understand why these different steps are necessary. Your clients do not, so carefully explain to them what you are doing, as well as WHY you are doing it.
Be prepared to CLEARLY explain why you are different: For the same reasons above, your clients don’t have a clear grasp on the intricacies that differentiate you from other financial advisors, so be prepared to tell them what these are. In the process, you’ll further prove your value, and they will learn more about what services they can expect from you and why these are important.
Understand the roles of your team members: Your clients’ compared lack of industry knowledge will make them hyper-attuned to the aspects of your business that they DO understand. Things like timeliness, responsiveness, relationship management, etc. are all elements that they will pick up on and consider a reflection of the industry-specific services you provide, even if these are based on tasks you aren’t “expert in”. If you aren’t, make sure the members of your team are, and know who will execute the relationship management aspects and HOW. There is a certain quiet comfort in the experience of a seamless onboarding experience that your clients will remember even if they aren’t aware of why they remember it. Do your absolute best to provide this and utilize your team members to make sure it happens.
Ask your clients about their onboarding experience: This is the first opportunity you have to follow up on your performance with clients, so don’t pass it up! Your curiosity about the experience on their side of the table will garner immediate trust in your ability to serve them. You want to start getting feedback from clients early, do it consistently, and make it a habit. So don’t miss this first chance!
Proactively address concerns: Sometimes the biggest cause of anxiety in your clients is what they fear you aren’t telling them. Make sure you are open to hearing their concerns. Listen carefully, and then pause before jumping in and addressing them so your clients know you are taking the time to consider their concerns.
Coaching questions from this article:
- What process do you currently use to onboard new clients? Are there ways you could improve it?
- Think about the clients you onboarded in the past year vs. those you onboarded a few or several years ago when you first instituted your client onboarding process. How do the needs and desires of these clients indicate that you might need to change or shift your process?
- Are there elements of your onboarding process that you constantly repeat, and could benefit from automating?