With more than 400,000 advisors seeking to work with affluent investors, it’s become more important than ever to keep your clients happy so they always think about coming back to you—and never to the advisor down the road.
In short, you need to become indispensable to your clients. They should feel that they couldn’t live without you. But that won’t just happen—you need to make the case.
The biggest benefits of being indispensable are that your client retention never dips much below 99%, and that you become hugely referable. Think about making your 10 best clients so happy that they continually introduce you to new ideal prospects. Those referrals alone could supercharge your growth—and profits.
As I see it, there are two key factors to becoming indispensable among the affluent clients you most want to work with.
Relationship building: What steps are you taking to deepen the quality of the relationships with your best clients? Look at your current relationship-building model. Is it blueprinted? Can people on your team, other than you, deliver it to those clients? If not, you’ve got a big opportunity to improve.
Consider making someone in your practice a client relationship captain—a person who will take ownership of the responsibility to deepen client relationships and who will inspire your team to work together to truly “wow” your clients. This should be someone other than you so you can remain focused on building your business as the chief rainmaker. Have your captain create a gap analysis and a 12-month project plan to address and strengthen identified areas of weakness.
One great way to do that: Conduct an annual survey asking clients to rate your firm on investment satisfaction, service satisfaction, and overall satisfaction with the relationships they have with people at your firm. Every year, your captain can use the answers from that survey information to create a gap analysis. (As an extra benefit, the survey can serve as a benchmarking tool when determining bonuses for staff.)
You can also leverage total client profiles across the firm. Make sure a profile of each client is easily accessible to everyone who interacts with clients so they pull up a client’s information instantly whenever a call comes in. The profile should include details about the client’s personality and communication preferences—so that a client who is nervous about investing is not talked to in the same way as someone who enjoys taking risks and discussing the ups and downs of the market. If you treat those two types of clients the same way, you are showing yourself to simply be a production machine—and not someone who is personalized, high-touch and indispensable.
One word of warning: A possible exception here is if you have clients who place extreme value on their privacy and expect you to do the same. Sharing their profile with your entire team could be seen as a breach of that trust.
Advanced planning: What are you doing to increase the value you bring to the table for your best clients? I have long stressed the idea that if your value proposition is based entirely on investment performance, you will take a severe hit at some point. It’s not an “if,” it’s a “when.” And it doesn’t necessarily depend on a market correction. If another advisor is up 20% but your clients are up “only” 10%, you will hear from them.
You have to go beyond investments and offer something special that sets you apart. This is where the concepts of advanced planning and expert networks are so valuable. Advanced planning is a cornerstone of CEG Worldwide’s coaching. It means offering services aimed at meeting clients’ most important non-investment needs—from tax mitigation to wealth protection to estate transfer and charitable gifting—and doing so by using a network of outside experts to help deliver those services. Typically, these outside experts include CPAs, private client attorneys, insurance specialists and others.
Managing those outside expert relationships is a crucial part of effective advanced planning, but it’s an area where advisors often struggle. Remember, just like with your clients, you want members of your professional network to essentially look at you in awe and say, ’I can’t live without him!’ or ’She’s a vital part of our success!’
Finally, here are two strategies that have worked well for advisors we coach for planning and relationship management.
First, share your client insights. When you complete a client’s total client profile, ask the client to sign a release allowing you to send a copy of it to his or her CPA or attorney. Let those professionals know that your goal is to help your mutual client address his or her financial life comprehensively, and to do so by collaborating with his or her other professional advisors. This approach yields several benefits. For one, it demonstrates to the professionals that you are trustworthy and have your clients’ best interests in mind. And by sharing the client profile, you show yourself to be a team player—which helps alleviate a common fear among CPAs and attorneys that they will lose control of the client relationship if they share their clients with advisors. Finally, it sets the stage for a steady stream of referrals down the road as you develop closer relationships with these professionals.
Second, hold unique, non-financial client events. It’s a win anytime you can demonstrate to another professional the amazing client experience you offer. To really stand out, some top financial advisors have begun holding client events that focus on issues such as happiness in life and other non-financial matters, to which they invite their expert team members. These advisors report that the outside experts walk away amazed at the extra mile that the advisors go to help their clients and bring unique value to their lives. The professionals tell their partners and co-workers, resulting in greater trust in the advisors and more business referred their way.
You’ve have to capture the results of the advanced planning you do for your clients. It’s easy for people to forget what you do for them, so make sure you have the tools needed to remind them. Create a document that details the steps you will take to improve each client’s financial life. Every time you complete a task, highlight it. At your regular client progress meetings, present the document so the client can see all of the action items you have taken since you last met.
This will not only deepen your clients’ trust in you and boost their loyalty, it will motivate them to take even more action—because they’ll be reminded of the value you bring to their lives, and they’ll want more of it. And at that point, you will truly have become indispensable in the lives of those clients who can help you take your business to the next level.