Our industry provides us with great sales training. We learn to sell products that our prospects can’t see, smell or touch. We learn to survive by selling quickly and effectively. We are taught all sorts of sales techniques. We learn how to gather facts, how to ask probing questions, and how to engage and motivate the client.
And often that’s where our sales training ends. Typically left out of the instruction are some of the most vital steps in the process of building a client base. In most companies, sales and service are considered separate and distinct areas. Yet superior customer service before and after the sale is vital if your business is to grow and prosper.
The following is a list of what I call Thomas’ Truths, which each of us must address to succeed in building our client bases and financial value in our practices.
(1) Satisfied clients will leave you. In today’s world, a client who is merely satisfied will leave you–and along with him future renewals, sales, and referrals. Sending occasional holiday cards or even calling clients on their birthdays won’t do the trick. Like Coca Cola, Apple Computer and McDonalds, you need to constantly build brand loyalty and create a unique experience that keeps customers returning.
(2) Your competition is not your competition. If you believe that you’re in competition with your fellow agents, you are not even half right. Your competition is banks, investment houses, the Internet, do-it-yourself financial magazines and financial broadcasters. Though you may contact your client once or twice a year, the media is subjecting them to a constant barrage of financial garbage.
Your prospects need your help even if they don’t know it. They may choose your competition over you, maybe to their detriment, unless you can create a unique experience. To maintain client relationships after the sale, you must continually remind them that you are working on their behalf. Simple acts will separate you from the pack. Your goal in performing them is to establish yourself as a competent professional who is worthy of an ongoing relationship.
(3) Eighty percent of success is just showing up. After you schedule an appointment, be sure to show up–and on time. You must also schedule enough time to allow for meetings that will start later or last longer than anticipated, as well as for traffic tie-ups, bad weather and other surprises.
In our office, we see all of our clients and prospects at scheduled times. We even schedule appointments to speak with clients on the telephone at specific times. After each appointment is made, a note confirming the appointment is mailed. On the day before the appointment, our staff confirms the time and place by telephone.
Not only does this procedure result in our clients missing far fewer appointments, but it also sends a message that we value the client’s time as well as our own. If you don’t have a clerical worker to confirm appointments for you, take the time to confirm them yourself.
(4) The follow-through is as important as the swing. After every meeting, we send a brief note thanking the prospect for the appointment, summarizing what was discussed and detailing the next step in the process. When clients schedule an appointment, they are sent a confirmation letter.
Prospects also receive a checklist and a letter requesting them to bring the financial information necessary to make our meeting worthwhile. The day before the appointment, they receive a courtesy phone call reminding them of the meeting.
Every day, a staff member produces an attractive placard that has printed the names of the clients and prospects who are scheduled to arrive. New clients also receive welcoming letters.
When someone applies for life insurance, they receive calls from our office letting them know where they are in the process. When the policy is issued, we set up a meeting to go over its provisions and make sure it’s issued correctly.
After the account or insurance is issued, clients receive an additional letter accompanied by one of our business cards, which has their account numbers and policy information on the reverse side.
A final “red carpet” letter is sent, requesting referrals to our client’s family and friends. This simple request by letter brings us many referrals every year. Of course, after a referral is received, the person who made the referral receives a letter of appreciation for her confidence in us.
(5) Staying in touch–it’s for life. It’s important to learn as much as possible about your clients and their immediate circle of friends and relatives because they will provide most of your referrals. Also, the more personal information you have, the better you can relate to and identify with your client.
We learn about clients during the pleasant social give-and-take that is part of every meeting or phone conversation. We then enter notes regarding the conversation in an electronic client file. Whenever we speak with the client, we have the file available and have reviewed it in advance.
In addition to having the information in the office computer and my laptop, I also carry it on my phone and pocket computer. If I need to call a client from the car, I can quickly review the notes of our last conversation and chat with the client on a personal level before we get down to business.
We all feel flattered when someone asks about our pets and children by name. Recalling personal information of this nature helps to bond the client to you and distinguishes you from other advisors and sales people.
(6) Spectacular customer service will produce spectacular referrals. After every successful conversation with clients, I will remind them that we accept referrals. I simply say: “Don’t keep us a secret. It’s always a pleasure to help people like you who care about their families and their financial future.”