By now, you’ve reached out to check-in with all of your clients – apprising them as to your operating plan during the pandemic, as well as addressing any initial fears and concerns they might have about the state of their financial plan, short-term liquidity needs or other financial matters. But the longer COVID-19 continues, and the longer people are sheltering in place, the key question that often arises is “how do I go back to my clients and structure follow-up conversations with them that provide genuine value?”
In this current environment, the importance of getting your team to coalesce around a common structure of how to thoughtfully “meet” with clients simply can’t be overstated. People are nervous, unsure of the future and desperately looking for both reassurance and a sense of hope. At ClientWise, we advocate employing the following structure (in the specific order presented) in order to get the most out of your conversations with clients during this unprecedented time.
- Are you okay? – start each call by checking-in on their life and how they’re coping. Make sure you show your clients that you personally KNOW them. Rather than “how are the kids and how is your wife,” be more specific…”how did Caroline and Michael handle completing the school year online? Is Karen able to work from home? Are you two able to find ways to relax and de-stress?” This not only helps better demonstrate that you value the relationship, but it enables you to connect with your clients at a deeper, more personal and emotional level.
- I’m okay! – it’s important to communicate how you are to alleviate any unspoken questions or concerns the client may have. “I’m exercising, eating well, getting good sleep and feeling sharp and attentive.” We all know that this pandemic will eventually pass, but the longer it goes on, the bigger an issue mental health will become. Extended isolation can lead to depression and even PTSD. So, take a little time to reassure your clients that you’re active, engaged and positive.
- Our team is okay! – your business is more than just you. Clients need to have a strong level of confidence that the team that serves them is also functioning on all cylinders. “Here’s how we’re operating and functioning remotely…this is how we’re staying connected with morning huddles, etc.” Communicate specific details to show that the team is networked and operating well. And touch on specifics to show them how cybersecurity and information security are still being carefully maintained. Download our ClientWise Connect and Support Check-In™ tool to help you foster closer connections with your team and determine how you can all better communicate.
- Ground in planning – the best advisors in the business ground their relationships at the core of their value proposition: creating durable and forward-looking financial plans that provide clients with long-term confidence. It can be easy, particularly when markets are volatile, to allow the focus of your conversation to skew heavily towards investment planning. Don’t let it. Don’t mask investment planning as financial planning. Separate the two, and remind your clients that investment planning is a subset of financial planning.
- Re-factfind and adjust – have any of the client’s goals changed? What’s more important to them now than it’s ever been before? Maybe they’ve decided they want that vacation home sooner rather than later as a refuge. Or maybe after spending so much time at home lately, they realize it’s not built for everyday living and now want something different when they retire. You’ll need to stress test their plan to assess the impact of these changes and then make tactical investment adjustments to realign with their new plan goals.
- Address liquidity – depending on their understanding of and need for liquidity, clients may feel particularly anxious about cash on hand. For some, their overall financial confidence will be directly linked to their liquidity. Of course, it’s all connected to their plan, but make sure to specifically address this issue. “Hey, you’ve got $150K in cash, another $80K of cash value in your permanent life policy, plus your $500K taxable investment portfolio that we could tap into if you ever needed more cash.” By reminding clients of the totality that’s available to them, you’ll help instill greater confidence that they’re in solid financial shape.
- Look forward – we are entering a strange “wait and see moment in time” where many people can feel somewhat stalled. To the extent that you can, try to begin framing a post-COVID future for your clients. Tell them some of the signals you’re watching for (e.g., when and how do we open the economy, what will indicate to you that we’re getting back to normal, what’s going to happen to oil prices, etc.) and how those may require additional plan adjustments down the road. More importantly, ask what signals they’re looking for and what signs will give them confidence that we’re moving forward in the right direction.
Remember, it’s not just your competency in addressing the technical issues of wealth management, but your ability to help clients understand and overcome their behavioral biases which will serve to give your clients a sense of hope that there’s a better tomorrow coming.
Coaching Questions from this article:
- With face-to-face meetings not a current option, how have you been reaching out to clients in general and conducting reviews in particular? What specific actions (e.g., stress-testing their plans) are you taking to help replace their fear with confidence?
- What steps are you actively taking to ensure that you and your team are collectively remaining connected and supportive of each other in this virtual office environment?
- How might you and your team strengthen the frequency, mode and messaging of your client communications during this pandemic to assuage fears and instill greater confidence?
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