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Advisor Fire Drill: Client Hand-Holding in a Crisis

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If you have taken even a brief look at emergency planning, you know the slogan:

Build a kit. Be informed. Make a plan.

Well, folks, unless you think “It’s different this time,” the events of 2016, 2008, 2000 and on and on will repeat.

Shocks will hit the economy. Terrorists will strike again. Markets will dive. Your clients will panic.

A true prediction, right? The only thing missing is: when?

Which is why you need to make a plan. Or perhaps adopt the one I have developed and have taught my clients for nearly two decades.

If you are going to implement a hand-holding strategy, you need some letters and emails. I have created a “mini hand holding library” for you at

Fire Drill Plan

Before we dive in, let me suggest: rip out this page or, if you are reading it on the website, print it. Put it in your “Emergency File.”

Our strategy is: communicate repeatedly and often through the crisis. One email doesn’t do it. Here goes:

1) Save the hand-holding messages you downloaded. Make sure you also save the “Bill Good Copyright Permission” document. You will need that.

2) Decide which one to send first. Make any tweaks. Rewrite as necessary. These are your messages.

3) When alarming news hits, print a list of all clients with phone numbers.

4) Draft all staff and call every client. OK to leave messages.

Here is your script:

We know you are concerned about today’s news. [FA_Firstname] is working on a message for you now. As soon as we get it through compliance, you will see it in your inbox. Here is a key question. How often do you check email?

Daily: Good. Keep an eye out for it.

Not often: S/he will get a letter out just as soon as we get approval. But check your email every day, OK?

Just to let you know, we have a good plan. Ups and downs happen. In the next few days, we don’t want you to read or watch financial media. Be on the lookout for his/her email/letter.

5) While your team is pounding away, go to your hand-holding folder. Make sure the message you decided to send first is still the right one. Make any last minute tweaks. Submit the email and letter versions to compliance.

Why both? When you really want to make sure your clients get your message, send it on both email and snail mail channels. Get the email out the door first. And then do your best to get to the post office today with the letters. In most areas, a letter posted before 5:00 p.m. will be delivered in the same metro area tomorrow.

6) When all clients have been called, start calling prospects.

Here is a suggested script:

We have been in touch from time to time. In light of the latest news, I thought you might want a quick briefing on what strategies we are following now. If I talk more than five minutes, it’s because you have some questions, fair enough?

7) Depending on the severity of the situation, immediately book client seminars. Grab whatever venue you can find.

8) Book yourself solid with appointments. Since sales is a contact sport, step up the contact, especially the appointments. Do what the airlines do and overbook.

9) Don’t cut back. When markets tighten and clients are fearful, that just means that your closing percentage will be less. This is certainly not a catastrophe. All you really have to do to overcome it is talk to more people and sell harder.

Direct Mail Lesson

As you look through the hand-holding messages, you may be struck by this: a couple of them are longer than one page. Don’t be shy about sending long letters.

As I wrote in my book “Hot Prospects,” contrary to what many expect, I discovered that long letters work better than short ones. (One theory why is that people who have a base level of interest in the benefit you’re offering will read at least some of the letter.) Whether you believe or disbelieve, the only way to find out for sure is to test for yourself. Testing is the heart and soul of any kind of advertising that solicits a response.

Handy Success

Of all the marketing I know, hand-holding is the most intense.

In my opinion, the first responsibility of a business is: keep what you’ve got. When people are afraid, they can and will leave, especially if you don’t talk to them.

When shocks hit, no matter what kind, investors need to know what to think. Like it or not, you are their thought leader.

If you don’t tell them … and tell them, and tell them … they will turn somewhere else for answers. They might listen more to their other advisor, or to financial media to the point they cannot sleep at night. They will talk to people at work and come up with strange ideas.

Here is a hand-holding success story I received from Rhonda Ferguson, a big-time dominant force in a small Mississippi town.

In 2002, the market experienced some dramatic declines leading to lows reached five years earlier. Enron collapsed. Amazon and eBay went down dramatically. People were alarmed.

The strategy Rhonda executed in 2002 was the same strategy we told our clients to execute in 2008–2009. And it’s the same one we rolled out in 2016. It’s the strategy I outlined above. It hasn’t change in years. Doesn’t have to. We got it right.

Here is how an expert hand-holder executed

“We started the hand-holding letters June 13.

“The first week, we sent the financial storm letter. Then we sent stepping stone. On the 1st we sent the FDR speech letter with a market commentary letter. We skipped a week and yesterday sent an edited version of the hot dog story. I revised it based on what I was feeling as well as some other hand-holding letters. We set up five Client Briefings for the next week.

“But I can tell you I was afraid to start the calls. But we got on the phone today telling people to expect the letter with the times for the client briefings, and I am just so pleased with the response. People are signing up and they are so positive … nervous … but keeping the faith. We had difficulty finding a good place with such short notice … and we’re only going to serve snack type food … but people are coming anyway.

“We’ve just continued calling clients … continuing to do all the things we’ve always done, but I can tell you last week was the first week I became afraid. But our clients have been wonderful. They aren’t selling. And we’ve invested a tremendous amount of money. My goal is $400,000 a week … in the last 12 weeks we’ve raised $10 million. A lot of people investing with us now have not had attention from their advisors.

“We are becoming their emotional advisor of record. That’s what we’ve always been doing; we’re just continuing it during these hard times.

“I was afraid that if people showed up for the briefings it would be negative because of the last 10 days. But my clients are encouraging me! And with the system making so many things so easy … and my not having to do much myself but what I do … With all our systems in place, it doesn’t take me that much time … it just works … We have our plan in place. When the going gets rough, we get going.”


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