How to Say No to Annoying Clients

Excessive accommodation can hurt an advisor’s business, says Russell Investments’ Kevin Bishopp

Are you endangering your business by being overly accommodating to clients and members of your team?

So asks Kevin Bishopp, director of advisor growth strategies for Private Client Services at Russell Investments, in a May 24 “Helping Advisors” blog post—while admitting that he himself has a hard time saying no. Being an excessively accommodating people-pleaser is a weakness he’s working to correct by saying no more often, and Bishopp believes other advisors might want to brush up on their naysaying skills.

“I see this same weakness in advisors,” Bishopp writes. “The real challenge is that advisors view an inability to say ‘no’ as a strength; one that results in good decision making or positive brand attribution. But I would ask you to look at this another way, because while it feels good to be accommodating to clients and team members, excessive accommodation can be detrimental to the business.”

Here are five tips to advisors from Bishopp on how to just say no:

1)  Drop clients who don’t take your advice:  Keeping these types of clients in your book for additional revenue is bad for both parties, Bishopp writes. “Both parties are better off by finding an alternate advisor (whose advice they will take) or by transitioning to a direct, low-cost solution. Just say no.”

2)  Don’t tolerate clients who treat you or your staff poorly: Building a strong and valuable team takes time, so remember that your team members are more valuable than any single client relationship, Bishopp advises. “If you want to empower your staff, let them decide which clients need to go. The goodwill and loyalty it generates will more than compensate for the financial loss, if any.”

3)  Avoid accepting clients below your minimum: Time is precious and needs to be utilized efficiently; low-revenue clients take capacity that could be filled with high-revenue clients, according to Bishopp. “If you are working to build a high-end wealth management shop then it is inconsistent with that brand to keep and/or accept low revenue clients.”

4)  Say “no thanks” to wholesaler lunches: “The last thing you need is another product,” Bishopp says. “Find a select group of providers whose process is right for your clients and whose story you can communicate. Focus on this group and forget the rest.”

5)  Get rid of team members who are not on board: Disgruntled or disruptive team members can become an obstacle and the situation should be resolved as soon as possible, Bishopp writes. “Regardless of performance, if someone on your team is not on board with the vision for your practice, this person needs to be ‘off the bus.’”

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Read Pursuing Practice Excellence: The Advisor Perspective, the first of a series of reports on practice management in Investment Advisor magazine, at AdvisorOne.

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