How do you drive extreme client loyalty? How do you build relationship capital? And, most important of all, how do you do that routinely?
“Client acquisition always tends to be the shiny thing. It’s sexy, it’s cool,” observes industry consultant Stephanie Bogan. “Sustaining not so much. Yet, you have to feed and water or you’re losing relationship capital.”
Bogan looks at the client relationship as a series of deposits and withdrawals. Lots of deposits are made early on but once a prospect signs up, many advisors back off. And that, says Bogan, represents a withdrawal.
“Everything has the potential to be a withdrawal. Watching the news and hearing experts disagree about the markets is a withdrawal. When I hear that, is there a withdrawal in my confidence? Absolutely. All of these things are happening in the client psyche that these advisors never contemplate,” she adds. “The only way to counter withdrawals is to make deposits.”
Here are ways, big and small, to make those deposits into your valued client relationships:
1. Hire a clientologist.
Who is the person on your team who is naturally good at connecting with clients like nobody else can? “This is a departure for us in financial services. This is right brain. It’s about creativity and innovation,” says John Evans Jr., executive director of Janus Labs. “Who can come up with the best ideas to delight clients consistently? That’s your chief clientologist.”
See also: The 24 most creative people in insurance
The clientologist could be a lead advisor, a client services specialist, even a spouse. “This is not rocket science but it can be brilliant. If real estate is all about location, location, location, driving deep client loyalty and creating interpersonal alpha is all about information, information, information,” he notes.
How does it work? All information about the top 10 percent of clients flows to the clientologist, who hosts a weekly meeting to talk ideas. “It’s the discussion among team members when the best ideas bubble up,” Evans says. “It’s a race for the best ideas to connect emotionally and meaningfully with clients.”
At spring training in Florida last year, an advisor Evans knows took a prospect from Philadelphia to a Phillies game. The clientologist on his team had arranged not only great seats for the pair but for the prospect to throw out the first pitch.
“Success is not who you know but who knows you and what they are saying about you when you’re not in the room,” says Evans. “Is there anybody on planet Earth that that client is not telling that story to?”
2. Foster collaboration.
Many advisors talk collaboration, but they don’t practice it. Yet when it’s clicking, the client is so much better served, according to Melissa Mitchell-Blitch, who heads Eredita, a consulting firm in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Most advisors do not collaborate. Having worked as a financial advisor in a wealth management firm, I know we communicated. I can’t say we truly collaborated,” she adds. “One of the greatest barriers is our ego, our desire to be the trusted advisor who champions our own recommendations and ideas.”
Instead, Mitchell-Blitch recommends bringing key advisors together — not just the accountant and attorney but trust officer, banker, psychologist, business coach — on a routine basis to share ideas and information about the client’s financial and non-financial objectives. Once or twice a year, key advisors should meet in person to assess priorities for the following six to 12 months.
“Innovation occurs as a result of collaboration,” says Mitchell-Blitch, dean of collaboration for the Purposeful Planning Institute. “It allows you to look at something from a different angle. That’s where creativity takes place.”
3. Focus on family.
Many advisors today still have an exclusive relationship with the male head of household, ignoring the spouse and heirs. Yet 70 percent of surviving wives ultimately leave their husband’s chief advisor, according to Matt Halloran, president of Top Advisor Coaching in Portage, Mich.
“You have no relationship capital with the spouse because you’re only talking to the husband. It kills me. Not only that, advisors are not paying attention to the kids or heirs at all,” Halloran says. “You have to create the situation for that to happen.”
Halloran suggests holding a multi-generational family retreat as an opportunity for grandparents to pass down wisdom about money and life. During one recent family conference he arranged, the grandparents, tears in their eyes, said: “How come nobody has done this for me before?” The next week, one of the adult children parked $800,000 with the advisor who hosted the meeting.
“The problem is people think only the wealthy have the capacity to do this. I believe it needs to be done with everybody,” he added. “For a middle market advisor, this is a great way to run a very sustainable business.”
4. Create a culture.
As a small firm, Vista Capital Partners in Portland, Oregon, had that special something that kept employees happy and clients close. CEO Doug Johanson wants to make sure it stays that way.