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How to manage client relationships

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Do the demands on your time overwhelm your written day-planner? Is your desk wallpapered with Post-It notes? Do critical tasks on behalf of dear clients sometimes fall through the cracks of your “too busy for them” schedule?

As new recruits to the financial services profession, most of us acquired our first 100 clients slowly, and with administrative support from our broker-dealer or captive carrier. Keeping up with service issues, regulatory requirements, compliance certification and paperwork was a one-person job, and we had the time to do it ourselves.

As we grew our practice, increased client-service demands took away from the time we needed to devote to new client acquisition, and those competing responsibilities demanded that we hire our first direct assistant. This bought you another few years until a second person was required, which in turn — if you’re anything like me — got you past the 10-year mark of your career. These support staff kept you focused, handled new business and vendor issues, and serviced your clients adequately.

Then, one day, you attended a forum wherein the speaker, an MDRT Top of the Table qualifier, shared the details of his practice, of how he and a small staff were able to write five to 10 times the business you did annually — and do it with incredible personalization and attention to detail to boot. They hosted quarterly charitable galas and an annual Client Appreciation event. He even had time to blog, write a quarterly newsletter and host a weekly radio show. The speaker had the same 24 hours in his day that you did, but, despite your straight-out frenetic pace, he was doing it better, more efficiently and with far greater success. “What is his secret?” you asked. “CRM,” someone answered. “What’s that?” you replied, revealing your ignorance to all around you.

Time to embrace technology

If you haven’t embraced technology in your practice, your clients will soon see you as a dinosaur and a relic. Perhaps the most comprehensively effective technology in our profession today is a Client Relationship Management system. CRM software keeps track of your client service issues, assigns tasks to the appropriate personnel, holds your digital web-based multi-input calendar, keeps track of anniversaries, birthdays, special events, assets managed, assets leveraged, pending prospects, referrals, clients, Client Partners and Raving Fans, deadlines, goals and milestones achieved. While most small firms won’t utilize more than 20 percent of the capability of the best systems, many are available in smaller form with expandability for add-on users as you grow.

Today, managing a growing financial practice without CRM is a prescription for client dissatisfaction, confusion, missed opportunities and limited revenue. Embrace the technology — or the consequences of not embracing it. The choice is simple.

For more from Thomas K. Brueckner, see: