Bringing in a steady flow of new clients and maintaining existing clients is paramount for any successful advisory practice. However, on occasion a client will leave, opting for another advisor or deciding to do their planning themselves. In my six years as an independent RIA, I have lost four clients. I tend to take client departures personally even though I realize that's not the proper perspective. What I have learned in the process is the topic of this post and I hope it will help some of you process this type of event when it occurs. Let's begin with why clients leave.
Clients choose to leave their advisor for a multitude of reasons. Often the advisor fails to meet the client’s expectations. Many times, if the advisor only knew what the client was expecting, they could have saved the relationship. However, sometimes the client is seeking something the advisor cannot deliver, in which case the exit is unavoidable. Client expectations are something that should be discussed in detail in the very beginning before you decide to accept the client.
Personality also plays a major role. For example, I asked a client recently why they chose me over another advisor. They said they liked my personality better. Because that's such a vague answer I dug deeper. It turns out that when they met with the other advisor for lunch the advisor’s phone rang several times during lunch and he decided to answer it. I don't know about you, but I believe this conveys the message that the client is not as important as the phone call. Hence, I would suggest never answering a phone call when you're with a prospective client, unless it's an emergency. I believe one of the most common errors an advisor makes is not spending adequate time to ask the right questions in the initial interview.
Here are a few do's and don'ts which may help. I realize there are many more and that this only scratches the surface. But it is a start.
The Do's of Prospect Meetings
- Give the client your undivided attention when meeting in person or talking on the phone.
- Develop a series of questions designed to gently probe into the client’s expectations and past experiences.
- Stay calm, but show enough enthusiasm to let the prospect know that you are interested....in them!
- Act professionally, but be willing to let the real you show. That's what they're buying!
- Talk in terms of the client. After all, to them, they are the most important person in the conversation.
The Don'ts of Prospect Meetings
- Don't appear too anxious for their business. This can send up a red flag.
- Never act prideful. Humility will attract better than pride. You can be confident, but let it show in your actions.
In closing, I'd like to share a brief conversation I had with a wholesaler this past week. I had sent off for some information on one of his firm’s products. It arrived, I read it, and decided I wasn't interested. When he called to follow up, I politely conveyed my disinterest to him. However, in typical "sales" fashion, he responded by telling me all about "his" company and "his" product. I remained polite and calm, but informed him that talking about "his" interests did nothing to sway me. If he wanted to gain my acceptance, he should have asked what my objections were, clarified them to assure he fully understood, then attempted to overcome the objections by discussing how his product could help me and my clients in some way.
Selling an intangible is challenging but rewarding. To those who learn well, it can support a comfortable lifestyle. But never forget, we work for the client and they are more likely to be interested in us when they know we are interested in them.
Thanks for reading and have a great week!