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5 counterintuitive client appreciation tips

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The October 1 issue of Life Insurance Selling provided a lesson in client appreciation. Some advice may seem counter-intuitive, particularly the five DON’Ts repeated below. Today we’ll delve deeper and apply the classic wisdom of Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People.

When hosting client appreciation events …

1. DON’T talk about life insurance or financial planning.

What? Why wouldn’t you seize the opportunity to sell when you have a captive audience? Because, the goal of client appreciation events is to build trust and nurture relationships. Your guests need to know that you value who they are more than you value the products and services they buy. Also, never forget that clients want to buy, but they don’t want to be sold. It’s a subtle yet significant distinction. When you start selling, resistance goes up. When you interact authentically without an ulterior motive, you inevitably stand out as someone who deserves to be called a trusted advisor. To do this, you must stop talking about yourself and what you do. Instead, follow Carnegie’s advice: “Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.

dinner party2. DON’T try to “wow” clients with big, expensive productions.

Big expensive productions are cold. There’s not much face-to-face time with each guest which is the whole point of thoughtful client appreciation. The goal of these events is never to impress or intimidate with impersonal productions. Instead, go for warm settings that are conducive to conversation. When you spend time with a good friend, where do you go? What do you do? In many cases, these are the same venues and activities that are best for client appreciation. As Carnegie says, “One reason why birds and horses are not unhappy is because they are not trying to impress other birds and horses.

Golf3. DON’T go for a one-hit wonder once a year.

Relationships require nurturing, so, ideally, you should entertain your top-20 percent clients at least once a quarter. Reaching out to your best clients once a quarter lets them know they’re important and allows them the opportunity to know you better and feel more comfortable with you. Not sure what to do? Remember that simple interactions build big impressions. Take your clients to lunch, go dove hunting, or on a golfing expedition. The best moments usually aren’t formal or expensive – they’re fun! According to Carnegie, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.

business card4. DON’T hand out business cards and brochures at events.

Even a hint of marketing will raise resistance with your guests. Keep brochures and business cards in your briefcase. If someone asks you for a business card, by all means, share. However, don’t spread them out on a table or offer them to every person you encounter. Here’s a newsflash: It isn’t 1985 anymore so you can’t market like you did in 1985. Today’s buyers are educated and sophisticated. They can buy financial products anywhere — probably cheaper than they can from you. You will win more business and referrals if clients truly enjoy being with you. And, they’ll enjoy you more if you lead with a smile rather than a business card. In Carnegie’s words, “The expression one wears on one’s face is far more important than the clothes one wears on one’s back.”  

coffee break5. DON’T spend all your time with one person while ignoring others.

This is party etiquette 101. Be a gracious host. Introduce your guests to one another. Ask interesting questions to spark lively conversation. Think of yourself as the event concierge, making sure that each person feels important, taken care of, and connected to others. This task is much easier if you keep events small. A group of five clients (with their spouses/guests) for a total of 10 people is ideal. As mentioned before, resist the urge to talk about yourself and what you do. Remember Carnegie’s timeless advice: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.

Have you noticed the common thread woven through all five of these points? The common thread is YOU. Clients want to know who you really are, and thoughtful client appreciation events are an ideal way to show them, rather than tell them.