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Can You Turn Clients Off Before You Even Have a Chance to Turn Them On?
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
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When I was a kid, I had a poster of my favorite hockey player on the wall.  More than likely a few adorned the walls of my room and I was proud to showcase them to friends. Now that I am a few years older and have an office that is frequented by colleagues and clients, I am very careful to not showcase any specific points of view that could easily turn someone off. 

Let me explain further. 

Recently I spoke with an advisor who narrowed his broker/dealer search down to two firms and scheduled a home-office visit to both.  Both firms are nationally recognized and well-respected by many in the industry. 

While in the office of one of the executives at Firm A, the Advisor noticed a prominently displayed political sign endorsing a current candidate.  You know where I am going here; needless to say that turned the advisor off so much, that it caused the advisor to choose Firm B.

Is this type of decision making common?  We have no way to measure this, but I argue that it is. 

We have deeply personal emotions, ties, commitments to political parties, religions, lifestyles, sports teams, etc. that we all judge, right or wrong. 

Let’s have some fun with this:  all else being equal, if an advisor is a life long New York Yankees fan and is trying to decide between two firms and upon landing in the office of the CEO who’s office is lavishly appointed in Red Sox décor, there may very well be an issue. 

We have become a sensitive society.  So here is a short list of personal alliances that may offend your audience:

  • Democrat vs. Republican
  • Browns vs. Steelers
  • Cowboys vs. any team
  • Pat’s vs. Geno’s
  • Tiger vs. Phil
  • Connors vs. McEnroe
  • New York pizza vs. Chicago pizza
  • Goodfellas vs. The Godfather

The term culture is overused in our industry, but at the same time it’s important and often a key reason advisors (and clients) are moving. Culture is valued and needed; it’s an environment where support and collaboration is encouraged upon its members.  To win the business of successful advisors who are your recruits, you must have the tangibles in place, while more importantly showcase the intangibles, which often are baked into the culture a firm has worked so hard to establish.  Culture at the firm level is not a political or religious perspective.  Understand how quickly one can be turned off by these displays; even though it may be an innocent display.

While the above example is pertaining to an advisor and broker-dealer relationship, the same is true with the advisor and client relationship, only amplified. 

Advisor Joe may have the best client-service team and significant portfolio performance, but be very aware of the perception that your environment is providing.  If Advisor Joe’s latest prospect is a PETA advocate and arrives only to see hunting trophies, there may be an issue. 

Its almost a daily occurrence that during a conversation the other person makes a political statement to me, assuming that I share the same belief or view.  I am certainly not going to argue their point because it will probably be a conversation killer.  When this happens in a meeting with a prospective client, the meeting more than likely will end cordially and then the prospective client will fail to answer or return phone calls from then on.  Be cognizant of this; be aware of the environment that you have created because you are asking clients to buy into it.  I am not saying be all things to all people, but once in a while put your self in their shoes for a different perspective.  Nothing positive comes from offending.  

All of this said, there is no debate about the fact that Chicago pizza is not really pizza.

Ned Van Riper is managing director with Finetooth Consulting and co-founder of Join a Firm. He has 13 years of industry experience split between the wirehouse and independent channels.

(2) Comments
Ned,

I think it pays to turn some people off should those differing viewpoints affect the overall relationship.

For example, if they see a photo of my kids and they can't stand children, there's going to be a problem. I talk about my kids in client meetings and I'm not going to stop. I'm originally from England and display different pieces of English culture around the office. Again, if you have a problem with anything-English, we're not going to have a good relationship.

I know these a trivial examples, but if you truly believe in something then display that passion. Just because a person has expressed an interest in working with you, doesn't mean they will make a good client. What happened to finding the "right" client and not accepting "every" client?

Respectfully, Dave

Posted by Dave G | Tuesday, October 16 2012 at 12:27PM ET
Dave, thanks for your comments. You make a great point which I agree with; many Advisors serve a niche and work hard to attract that niche. If an investor does not fall into that specific category, they will not be an ideal client and the Advisor should avoid them. I too have family pictures and sports memorabilia in my office. While I was trying to have some fun in the above blog with some of those example, the point was that many people will unknowingly offend others with certain items; case in point the political sticker in the above story. I hope we can all agree that there is a world of difference between the golf-outing pictures in everyone's office and the "Democrat/Republican" sign prominently displayed. The line is crossed when one pushes a certain belief on others, knowingly or unknowingly. The effect is the same.
Posted by Ned V | Thursday, October 18 2012 at 8:47AM ET
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