This article is a sidebar to a feature story in the May 2014 issue of Investment Advisor, Physician Assistance, by Olivia Mellan and Sherry Christie.
1. Be clear on what kind of clients you’re seeking. Don’t be tempted to disregard criteria you’ve already devised. It’s crucial that a new client’s philosophy and goals jibe with your skills and preferences, whether or not there’s a “Doctor” in front of his or her name.
2. Emphasize your key difference: your fiduciary duty. As several advisors commented to us, doctors who know they need help often turn to financial professionals who aren’t fiduciaries—with disillusioning results. Stress the difference at every opportunity. You’re the real deal.
3. Take an educational role. Even if you’re not equipped to put on seminars like Dr. Carolyn McClanahan, you may be able to create or sponsor a free online newsletter (a good way to build up a prospect list, too). Consider giving clients free subscriptions to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine (see Tip No. 10). Take every possible chance to explain in person the thinking behind a recommendation.
4. Stress the need for comprehensive financial planning. As new mandates squeeze their traditional compensation, physicians face more financial stress. How much should they be spending? Can they afford top colleges for their children? When will they be able to retire? Should they sell their practice or not?
5. Avoid referring to “holistic” financial planning. Although some doctors are open to alternative medical treatments, think twice before comparing comprehensive planning to holistic medicine. “To some physicians, ‘holistic’ means someone’s trying to cure cancer by eating vegetables,” warned Dr. Barry Kaplan.
6. Know that all physicians do not have the same personality. “There are many different personality types,” Kaplan said. “Emergency room doctors tend to have ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder]. They need action to survive.” McClanahan added that ER doctors, trauma specialists and oncologists, among others, often have a hard time deferring gratification because they’ve seen how unpredictable life can be.
7. Clarify how and why you’re compensated. Be sure prospective clients understand the value you provide.
8. Fine-tune office systems so you can respond, record and act quickly. Working with busy doctors may require more agility than other kinds of clients. Can you answer emails, text messages and phone calls promptly? You’ll need to keep careful track of communications and be ready to meet doctors anytime, anywhere.
9. Develop a strategy to deter impulse investing. Clients who are tempted to follow their friends’ financial advice may agree to run the decision past you before acting on it. Or if that feels too much like getting Dad’s or Mom’s permission, it may make sense to set aside part of the portfolio as an investment “sandbox” they can play in.
10. Thank your clients with unexpected rewards. As IA columnist Angie Herbers pointed out in a blog on ThinkAdvisor.com, “The Big Secret to Getting Client Referrals—and You’ll Hate It”: “Perks are unexpected extras: They’re what they’ll tell their friends about, who, of course, will want those free perks, too.”
Read more about doctors as clients in the May 2014 Investment Advisor feature story, Physician Assistance.