Early in the life of a client advisory board, we ask clients to describe the experience of the initial planning process. I have had several boards respond with some version of “it was a little painful to go through but we are glad we did it.” That they are happy in the end demonstrates there is value in the process and can provide a basis for referrals. But the way they describe it sounds to me a little like how I might describe having a root canal. It wasn’t a lot of fun but I’m glad I had it done.
How much more powerful would it be if there was a benefit, an accomplishment, a prize each step along the way?
All top-performing advisory firms have a process they explain during their new client presentation. And here’s how it typically sounds. First there is a discovery meeting. We set goals. Then we create a plan. We review your portfolio and make recommendations. Then there is an implementation meeting.
Giving prospective clients an overview of the journey helps get buy-in. You promise to take clients somewhere and rational people will be curious how you will get them there. Describing your process is an opportunity to illustrate the work you will do for them and with them.
Here’s where that typical approach comes up short – most advisors describe a chronological series of activities they do with clients. That’s accurate but probably not very exciting. Frequently it is from the advisors perspective rather than the clients. For example, who benefits from a discovery meeting? Probably the advisor – that’s who needs the discovery. The client probably already knows approximately what they have and what they want.
Try making the process about the client. Instead of a discovery meeting, start the process by helping the client develop a vision of their future. That vision of a desired future can get people excited. In mutually creating that vision you will discover what you need to know.
See if you can make each step an accomplishment the client is motivated to achieve. Get control of your cash flow. Protect against the unexpected risks. Tailor the portfolio. Reduce taxes. There is a good chance that each of these is something the client will find value in doing. More than they are likely to be interested in developing a budget, getting an insurance review, allocating assets, and reviewing their tax return.
Include a step or two unique to your niche. If you work with pre-retirees, have a step where you optimize Social Security and pension decisions. If business owners are your target market, you might consider a step where you position the company for maximum value or maximize the benefit of the company’s retirement plan contribution. With retirees, it may be to find the optimum spending plan.
If a prospective client looks at your process (it’s more powerful if there is a flowchart to illustrate it) and is motivated to accomplish each of the steps, it gets a lot easier to get them into an engagement. It makes it easier to keep them progressing from step to step.
Do your clients get excited when they hear about your process? If they did, it might be a lot easier to get them on board.
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