Over many years, thousands of investor surveys and millions of data points, one thing has become crystal clear.
In fact, one of the most significant differences between those clients who are ‘profoundly engaged’ and those who are ‘merely satisfied’ is that they see you as a leader. And they define leadership not only in terms of expertise, but of guidance.
It’s at times like these that you have the opportunity to be the leader that your clients need and deserve. It’s not an obvious path, nor an easy one, but it is critical, and it is needed.
Leadership does not start with the right answers, but the right questions.
- You cannot truly support your clients until you understand what they are thinking and feeling, otherwise you run the risk of trying to solve the wrong problem.
Leadership demands that you look at the situation though the client’s lens.
- It’s easy to make assumptions about what we would find reassuring and believe it’s the same for our clients.
Leadership is human.
- Take the time to acknowledge the impact the current environment may have on your business, get real on your own Plan B and talk to others who understand. Leaders require self-care as well.
Leadership demands that you walk into the fear that you may be feeling about your own business, life and family.
- Leaders don’t allow that fear to stop them from reaching out to clients.
Leadership is less about fixing the problem than creating a sense of calm at the center of the storm.
- You have the ability to give your clients the gift of breathing a sigh of relief, knowing that you are on the case.
Leadership has never been more important for your clients. You need to be that leader.
Be Proactive. Get Real.
Addressing the current situation broadly and proactively with your clients can be provocative (for you). But this is the time to demonstrate leadership, to be proactive, to ask the difficult questions and to ensure your clients feel you taking them by the hand and guiding them through a difficult time.
The options may seem limited.
- You could launch into a conversation with the 10 reasons that ‘everything will be fine’. That will make you feel better, but may leave clients feeling that they haven’t been heard, or
- You could ask clients ‘how they are feeling’ about the markets. (I think you know the answer to that.)
Wouldn’t it be better to help clients articulate how they’re feeling about the future and then use that input to start a different conversation? You can do that through one-on-one discussions, an informal poll or as part of a more structured client feedback process.
I have one piece of advice for those of our clients who are being completely proactive and reaching out to ask for client feedback. Address the elephant in the room. You cannot gather feedback and ignore how clients are feeling about the current situation. At best you will seem insensitive or, at worst, completely out of touch.
Instead, consider assessing confidence among your clients and using the responses as the starting point for a meaningful conversation. Think of it as creating a Confidence Index for your business, comprised of three parts.
- Confidence: How confident are you that you will reach your primary financial goals?
- Control: How confident do you feel that you can positively impact your own financial future?
- Clarity: How clear are you about your plans for retirement?
Today you might start these questions with some context, such as ‘Given the current environment….’
Change the Client Conversation
To explore how you can demonstrate leadership through your client conversations, I invited Bob Veres to share some ideas and discuss different approaches late last week. We both agreed that we need to find ways to help clients open up about what they are feeling so that they can hear the advice you can provide.
Simply stated, I think we need to flip the switch. Before you tell clients what you want them to know, give them the space to tell you what they need to say.