From the May 2010 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

May 1, 2010

The High-Performance Coach: Building Loyal Client Advocates

Not every client is a good source of referrals

In this month's column, we will introduce the concept of Loyal Client Advocates. One of our coaching observations is that high-performing advisors reject the general concept that every single client is a ripe target for referrals. Many top advisors think more strategically about who they want to connect with and by what means.

Our research indicates that the typical financial advisor has clients that can be grouped into four client segments:

Loyal Client Advocates have such a strong relationship with the business of their own financial advisor that they think and behave more like owners or partners. They are extremely influential in providing new client introductions (i.e. referrals) and wouldn't even consider using an alternative advisor. They account for about 3% of all clients.

Engaged Clients, 17% of the total, are engaged with their financial advisor and very satisfied, but are not quite at the apex of client satisfaction.

Questionable Clients are the largest group at 72%. They are not bad clients, but they certainly are not fully committed either. Most importantly, although they are not actively looking elsewhere, they would consider switching allegiances to another advisor if something better comes along.

At-Risk Clients are the 8% who are actively looking for an alternative financial advisor. The reasons for their dissatisfaction can be varied: an awful client experience or maybe the clients' requirements just don't fit with what the financial advisor is delivering, or possibly there is a serious personality disconnect between the advisor and client.

Why Loyal Client Advocates?

The value of new client introductions by Loyal Client Advocates may seem self-evident for those of you who have been in the business for any length of time. Yet, it might be helpful to review these benefits here:

o The 'sales cycle' is shorter.

o The closing ratio is higher.

o Clients are more likely to match your ideal client persona.

o Clients are more profitable.

o Clients prefer to meet by way of introductions.

Who are Loyal Client Advocates?

From our coaching observations of hundreds of top-performing advisors, Loyal Client Advocates seem to fulfill three qualities. They appreciate and understand what you do; they can articulate what you do to others in a manner that is consistent with your own image as a wealth advisor; and they are actively engaged in partnering with you to make the necessary introductions to prospective clients.

Identifying and Segmenting Loyal Client Advocates

Here's an interesting exercise. Consider your current roster of clients, as well as the three qualities of Loyal Client Advocates listed above. If a client meets all three conditions, most likely they are a Loyal Client Advocate. If they meet two conditions, they are probably an Engaged Client. If they meet just one condition, they are a Questionable Client. If they meet none, they are At-Risk.

[For a tool that will help you assess and segment your client roster for Loyal Client Advocates, please visit www.clientwise.com/loyal. ]

Increasing Relationship Strength

From the examples supplied, and from your own observations; how does a financial advisor increase the loyalty and relationship strength with clients to the point where they become Loyal Client advocates--where it becomes inconceivable that the client would even consider leaving?

o Be ultra-proactive. Whether it is good news or bad, call them before they call you.

o Offer stuff. Anything free and relevant adds value. Send your clients links to interesting blogs, podcasts, articles, webinars, workshops, white papers, books, etc. Be creative! What can you offer?

o Use thoughtfulness and empathy. With many of your clients, you are privy to some of the most personal events in their lives. Not only should you be attuned to these life events, but you should recognize them. There's nothing like a handwritten thank you, congratulations, or condolence card.

o Connect during client reviews. The client reviews are the periodic meetings where advisor and client review the relationship together. To ensure that the advisor is truly serving their client, client reviews should be all about the client. In other words, make it their meeting.

o Put it on the schedule. We have observed that Loyal Client Advocates should be 'touched' a minimum of 18 times annually. Ad hoc communications are fine, but not sufficient. Pre-plan your communication schedule with your best clients, and schedule all 18 touches.

Above all else, the value that the advisor gives to their Loyal Client Advocates should be given in the spirit of giving. No strings attached. No quid pro quo. If an advisor is serving their clients grudgingly, and it seems obligatory, the advisor has the wrong clients, or is in the wrong business.


Ray Sclafani is founder and president of ClientWise LLC (www.clientwise.com), a full-service executive coaching firm that helps its clients optimize growth, maximize revenue, and manage risk. He can be reached at ray@clientwise.com.
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