Salt Lake City
“Theres only one thing that motivates a client to do business with you–fear,” said Katherine Vessenes of Vestment Consulting, Shorewood, Minn., in a session here at the annual conference of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.
Vessenes says people are fearful of their financial future, or the financial future of someone they love. Producers are charged with the task of giving their clients “financial freedom,” she says, and this can only be done through a long-term trusting relationship producers must build with their client base.
She outlined nine different ways advisors can improve relationships with their clients and “make your clients fall in love with you.”
1. Know the business you are in. “This is probably the most important thing,” says Vessenes. “Were in the peace-of-mind business. If you want your clients to fall in love with you, your job is to bring them peace of mind.”
Vessenes says this should be reflected in everything you do. Clients will trust you if you can bring them peace of mind.
2. Wear a golden halo. “How many people would you trust your mother with?” asks Vessenes. This is the kind of trust you need to establish with your clients. “Be trustworthy. Your word is your bond, do what you say you are going to do,” she says.
Another way for producers to establish more trust with clients is to not be afraid to share how agent compensation works. “Thats where the industry is going,” she explains.
An important part of building the relationship is to always focus on your client and part of this, Vessenes says, is to always put their interests first.
“Before you make any recommendation to a client, you should be asking, is this in their best interest.”
3. Select clients very carefully. Vessenes says that generally 80% of producers income comes from 20% of their clients. At the same time, 80% of the service problems that producers have comes from 20% of their clients.
“Identify which clients you want to keep, these I call ‘heavenly clients,’” Vessenes says.
While every producer has a different definition of a heavenly client, Vessenes feels that these are clients who “follow your advice.”
“These are people that trust you, and they willingly give you referrals,” she observes.
Producers should make a list of their ideal clients and start screening their client base. Vessenes says, “When new people come in, start scoring them, and if theyre not high enough on your list, dont take them on as a client.”
4. Set expectations early. “The first thing you need to figure out are what are the client’s expectations,” says Vessenes. Producers should determine what clients want to accomplish in order for this to be a successful relationship, she says.
Make sure that clients have a complete understanding of whats expected of you as an advisor, put it in writing, and keep it on file, Vessenes advises.
In addition to having a good understanding of what a client expects from you, Vessenes says you have to make sure your clients understand whats expected of them.
“If they are not going to commit to you up front that they are going to be completely up front and honest with you [regarding their assets, investments, and satisfaction of service],” then you should probably screen them out as an unwanted client. “Set the ground rules early.”
5. Create the angel advocate. Vessenes defines the angel advocate as “the person thats going to give you an unsolicited referral.”
She says producers should, “get the commitment up front that if clients are happy with your service they will give you referrals.”
Its important to note, says Vessenes, that satisfaction with service is very different than satisfaction with investment results. “Get their eyes off the investment results, get their eyes onto the service. You can control the quality of service.”
6. Spoil them. Vessenes says there are many ways to spoil clients. She tells a story of a producer who makes it a point to visit with her clients five times a year in a non-business setting.
7. Communicate. “Tell your clients that you love them and appreciate them,” she says.
“After every client interaction, send a follow-up letter outlining what happened,” she says. This can help your clients feel that they accomplished what they wanted. Adding these letters to your clients file can also protect the producer in the event of future litigation.
The more information you send your client, the more trust you build, she says.
8. Stop selling, start coaching. There some fundamental differences between selling and coaching, according to Vessenes.
She gives some examples: *The main goal of a coach is to be the trusted advisor, to help clients achieve their dreams, while the main goal of a salesperson is commission.”
*The coach develops a strategy, and builds trust, while a salesperson will scare a prospect with statistics or use manipulative sales techniques.”
*The coach focuses on long-term client relationships, while the salesperson focuses on the immediate sale.”
*The coach limits his practice to the optimal client, the sales person sells to anyone who will buy.”
*The coach provides on-going support, while the salesperson evaporates at the end of the transaction.”
*The coach has a base of happy satisfied clients who refer new business, while the salesperson is constantly trolling for new sales.”
9. Help your clients achieve their dreams. Vessenes says that the producer’s job “is to help your clients overcome their fears, help make their dreams come true.”
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, September 17, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.