In my last column, I described the pivotal importance of finding out what matters most to your clients financially, in every major area of their lives — and not just their assets. By really understanding who your affluent clients are and what’s important to them, you’ll set yourself apart from other financial advisors, strengthen your client relationships and be able to provide your clients with optimal financial solutions and services. Simply, if you don’t know who you are dealing with and what’s most important to them, you won’t be able to satisfy them in a way that will delight them and earn their loyalty, thereby generating additional business and referrals over the long run.
The Total Client ProfileThe best way to determine what’s important to your clients financially is to focus your first meeting — the Discovery Meeting — on creating what we at CEG Worldwide call a Total Client Profile. To do this, you’ll ask your prospect a series of carefully planned questions, and then record the answers via “mind mapping,” a process that will enable you to quickly capture information in a visual and non-linear fashion.
The Total Client Profile will enable you to discover and represent what’s financially important to your prospective (and existing) clients in the following seven key areas:
1. Values. What’s truly important to your prospect? Make sure to prepare questions that enable you to quickly delve deeper into how the prospect truly feels. For example, a typical answer to “What’s most important to you about your finances?” is “financial security.” Because this doesn’t actually reveal very much, you can then follow up with “What specifically about financial security is of most concern to you?” The prospect might respond, “Taking care of my family’s health and well-being” or “Maintaining my lifestyle through retirement.” Such specific responses will enable you to do a better job at providing optimal and comprehensive solutions.
2. Goals. What does your prospect want to achieve over the long run? When does he or she want to retire, or if the client is a couple, what does their combined timeframe look like? How about college for any children? What about travel or a second career? What other dreams does the prospect have?
3. Relationships. Who really counts for your prospect? Who’s important, including family members, people outside of the family and even pets? Who does your prospect love?
4. Assets. To address your prospect’s entire financial picture, you must find out about all assets, including where and how they are held. This includes real estate, businesses, brokerage accounts, retirement plans and so on. (Ask the prospect in advance of the meeting to bring tax returns and their most recent brokerage account statements; you will have these photocopied during your meeting and return the originals before the client leaves.) Note that you inquire about assets fourth, not first. This reflects your understanding that there are things more important to the prospect than money.
5. Advisors. Who does the prospect rely on for advice, from CPAs and attorneys to insurance agents and other financial advisors? Find out what has worked — and what has not worked — in your prospect’s relationships with these other advisors.
6. Process. How would the prospect prefer to work with you? Once you know, honor that choice for the rest of your relationship. If the prospect only wants to be contacted by e-mail and never by phone, then that’s what you must do.
7. Interests. What are the prospect’s hobbies, sports and leisure activities, charitable and philanthropic involvements, religious and spiritual proclivities, children’s schools and activities? Over time you can build further intimacy by leveraging off of interests you share with the prospect.