Prior to the last two years, advisors were sure that they knew what most affluent clients wanted.
And most likely, they did. Customers wanted returns, a phone call once a quarter with a status update on their portfolio and someone they could trust with their money.
But as we slowly begin to see the light at the end of this very dark and stormy tunnel, everything looks different. The wealthiest clients don’t want the same things. They’re more frightened — and much more aware — than they were before. And there may even be wealthy prospects walking in off the street that are disappointed by their previous advisors.
The question is: Do you know what these clients want now? Do you know what they’re afraid of? Do you know why those wealthy prospects were disappointed by their former advisors? Do you know what they want to see you do differently?
If your answer is “I’m not sure” to most of these questions, there’s good reason: The affluent mind has changed. What worked before doesn’t anymore. High net worth individuals are looking at details they never bothered to notice before. They’re looking for a connection they didn’t think they could ever have with their advisor. They are the new affluent mind.
MORE THAN MONEY
After the crisis, advisors realized that they knew very little about their clients—and vice versa, according to Richard Weylman, the founder of The Weylman Center for Excellence in Practice Management.
He said that it is time to change that.
The most important thing the new affluent mind wants is a connection that goes well beyond knowing their equity allocation and how much their house is worth, he said. Wealthy clients want to be recognized, both for all that they’ve accomplished and for the many things they do throughout their lives.
“People today are looking to do business with someone who is passionate about them as an individual, someone who takes a true interest in them—not just in their money but in their goals, their dreams, their expectations, the life they want to lead,” Weylman said.
Advisors should know what their clients do for recreation, what community work they’re involved in and what charities are important to them, he said.
But the exploration process doesn’t end there. In a time when clients don’t know a schemer like Bernie Madoff from a registered rep or an RIA, clients want to know who their advisor is, too.
Weylman suggested making sure not to schedule client meetings too close to one another, leaving plenty of time for you and your clients to get to know each other better. Put pictures of your family on your desk, talk about your children. Any form of a more personal, emotional connection will make you stand out from the advisor down the street.
MAKE IT ALL ABOUT THEM
Weylman suggested opening each meeting with affluent clients with one question: What are three things you would like to discuss today? After all, as long as the prospect or client gets to talk about what’s important to them, they’ll walk out of your office satisfied.
To end meetings with wealthy clients, ask the question most advisors wait to ask until the client has already decided to leave the firm: What are three things we can do to strengthen our relationship with you?
“Setting the table and recognizing a little humility goes a long way with a client,” Weylman said. “The client leaves on a wonderfully high note, and it opens you up to another venue you can sell across the platform.”
A PLACE WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS THEIR NAME
Lastly, the new affluent mind wants to feel comfortable with the person they’re sharing the most intimate details of their financial—and hopefully personal—life with. They want to go into an office where the receptionist knows their name, a place where they are greeted pleasantly by the people they see in the hall.
This can be as simple as replacing the Time, Newsweek and Money magazines you have in your lobby with Architectural Digest, Private Jet and Condé Nast Traveler. Or even taking a few certificates off your wall and replacing them with pictures of your clients’ children. It’s all about cutting out the chaos and creating a place of serenity, dreams and aspirations.
Ever consider riding the elevator back down to the lobby with your client? Weylman recalled a time when one advisor did just that. A few seconds into the elevator ride, the client began to cry saying, “I never could tell you this in your office, but what your firm has done for me has really made my family secure for the rest of their lives, I can’t thank you enough.”