What does the idiom “To leave no stone unturned” mean?
To leave no stone unturned is an idiom that means to do everything possible to find something or to solve a problem.1 It is often used to praise someone’s careful work, as in: Grant’s financial advisor promised that he would leave no stone unturned in trying to get his financial life in order so he can be confident in accomplishing his goals for the future.
How can you implement a “ no stone unturned” process for your ideal clients?
It starts with an agenda. In my workshops with financial advisors, it all starts by having a solid agenda for your existing ideal clients. It helps structure the meeting, keeps it on track and delivers value. The challenge is, it can be too complicated and take too much time. Where do you find the ideal balance between trying to accomplish everything in one meeting or taking up too much time? This comes with experience, and the more you use agendas the more refined the process. After all, it is a process that top financial professionals use to constantly enhance their ideal client experience.
The Super 7 Agenda Checklist
There are seven critical areas that should be discussed at a progress update meeting with ideal clients.
The first one is blank on the agenda, as the first question is ““since our last meeting is there anything that you have been thinking about, planning for or any major changes in your life that you would like to discuss?” This sometimes is the whole meeting and the agenda gets put aside to deal with a major change in your client’s life.
2. On Track
This focuses on client outcomes as clients want to know one critical answer in their finances, am I going to reach my goals and am I on track. A simple analogy is on airplane flights, there is a flight tracker, people want to see where they are and when will they get there. Use this analogy to simplify their finances and to demonstrate where they are and where they are going. This is a great debate and discussion among top advisors on how they deliver the message, but the message must have clarity about the outcome, am I on track to reach my goals?
3. Goals Update
Now that I have clarity on where I am, what’s next? This is where most advisors get off track in the discussion of future plans and dreams, as the discussion goes off the agenda and this information is not captured clearly on paper. This includes updating their financial plans. Ask yourself as an advisor, how many goals do you have in writing from your ideal clients? Read my blog post here, to learn more about getting more goals from clients. Remember to help them focus on outcomes, and put their goals into outcomes, not problems and solutions. For example, people don’t buy shampoo, they buy clean hair. “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill.They want to buy a quarter-inch hole!” Theodore Levitt
When I did meetings for clients, there was always new ideas and strategies to discuss. I would end up calling the client back or setting up another meeting because I forgot to talk to them about something valuable to help them with their finances, from tax strategies to estate planning. Then I realized, why don’t I create a checklist of items to cover and a list of some of the best ideas and strategies I learn at meetings in the industry. This became known as my “no stone unturned” checklist. It had the five key areas of planning, tax, estate, investment, risk, and insurance and a separate section of my best strategies and ideas that may apply to certain clients. This was not a product list but a planning list to get their complete financial life in order. This is one of the values I brought to the table in our progress update meetings. I would then take that list, put it in a binder with all of their financial documents and information to get them organized and update it annually. Sounds like a lot of work, but it represented a tremendous amount of value in their eyes, as they had no system to organize their finances. The checklist was also a snapshot of all the work we have done in the past as it had four boxes under each line which were complete, in progress, to work on in the future or not applicable. When a client would ask about fees, after discussing fees, we would show them a sample binder and checklist and ask, Is this binder and checklist something that you can see value in?
Amazing that 85 percent of financial advisors do not do any formal feedback (The Future of Practice Management, an inaugural study by the FPA Research and Practice Institute a program of the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) -December 2013) During a progress update meeting with these ideal clients, ask them a question to get started such as: I am building an updated unique value promise and could use your help. Can I take five minutes to ask you four questions? There are 4 KEY questions to ask
- What are the 3 things that you value the most about our services? (Ask both husband and wife and write them down as women and men vary in what they truly value) Note this is a double conundrum question. Conundrum number one, your client’s may not know how to answer this because they have never looked at your business that way and conundrum number two is men and women will usually answer it completely differently.
- How important are these 3 things to your family’s financial future? Are they important, very important or critically important? Is there anything else that is critically important? (this question may open up other discussions about planning or critical issues in their lives such as troubled children’ health problems or other concerns in their subconscious)
- What is it worth to you? (Usually they ask what do you mean, say the EXACT same question again, What is it worth to you?) You will be very surprised by the answers you get here. I will hold you in suspense, because it is worth waiting for.
- In our progress meetings, what is one thing that we can improve on to make our time more valuable and a better experience?
What you are asking is, how can we improve our progress meetings, since clients sometimes do not see a lot of value in them for the fees they pay.
Tell your ideal clients what to expect and what your process is. I have heard several advisors tell me that they ask their clients “ How often would you like to hear from us?” This is like my dentist asking me” How often would you like to see me?” How should I know I am not a dentist, how often do I need to see you in order to be successful and reach my goals? Then tell them what your process is and what will work for me to give me the outcome I am looking for. Is it valuable knowing when and how often you will hear from your advisor, maybe? How valuable is it to put me on a communication program that will keep me on track and give me the best possible outcome, valuable. This is where you or your team schedules the next meeting before I leave the office.
7. Paperwork and Follow-up
Preparing your paperwork and having it organized in advance adds to your professionalism. Every meeting and discussion has a follow up including notes, if you do not record your meetings (which I recommend). It may be in your head as additional thoughts after the meeting, it may be a spouse after the meeting discussing details with their other half. It may be mail that comes because of transactions, planning or paperwork that occurred. How you do your follow up defines your level of professionalism. Think of great follow-up you received in the past and how did it make you feel? It may be a simple email, text or call, or it may be a comprehensive letter, but the follow up to summarize the meeting is critical. Did they really understand us, or was it their agenda and about them? Having a follow-up process from you, your team and other people is where most of the referrals ( I like to call favorable introductions) occur. Without follow up, why did we get together? Do your clients value your meeting follow up process? How can you make it better?
Key agenda items
While the super seven is a great list to build your ideal client experience, I want to hear from you. What else do you successfully put on agendas? Here are some other ideas from top financial advisors I work with. Your value promise and documented process, your quarterbacking service and association to other professionals as part of your team approach. Fee audits to help clients understand costs and impact of their plans. Goals update also includes updating their financial plans. Financial planning software keeps getting better to help people do interactive planning. Referral discussion such as events or case studies to share. Getting additional centers of influence. Mindmaps to summarize their planning on one page. Paperwork that needs to be completed and file updates and regulatory requirements of you and your firm. Online client portals to help clients stay on track. The technology list can be added here (subject of a future blog post) to enhance your ideal client experience. Start with a simple agenda and make it a process to deliver more value in less time. Remember to make your agenda a checklist to keep the meeting focus and keep track of completion.
1Source: Jane Mairs, Director of English Language Learning Publishing Merriam-Webster
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