It’s likely that everyone in your firm is working remotely by now — many for the first time. It  also may be the first time you are meeting with some clients virtually.

How do we adapt our service model to this new reality and also incorporate new ways of engaging with each other?

The good news is there’s a lot of “client grace” floating around right now. This makes it a great time to “test” new methods of conducting meetings with clients.

The goal is to try new things without fear; don’t worry if it doesn’t feel “right” just yet. Here’s how to think about it:

1. Recognize the Cultural Shift

The first step is to recognize and understand the cultural shift that is occurring.

While this won’t last forever, certain aspects will stick and the way we conduct business from here on out will change.

Instruct your team to take note of every aspect of what is and is not working and write down the operational processes that are working.

We can fix some aspects now, but others will need to wait. That’s OK.

2. Prep for Meetings

The fluidity of what’s happening means you need to be up to date with everything. Instead of “preparing” for traditional client meetings, you will need to conduct “client-directed” meetings.

In these virtual meetings, you will asks clients “what they need” instead of telling them “what they need.”

Clients are looking to relieve short-term concerns about their respective situations and work with you to make some adjustments to their plans and/or investment strategies.

The goal is to figure out where each client’s pain point is and then relieve the pain. Unless you’re using outdated applications, you should be able to update anything necessary right on your screen — while a client is watching remotely.

3. Work Independently

Your clients have unique questions and concerns. But there are two questions every single client has in the back of their mind: Is my family OK? Where is our money?

You need to answer these questions immediately. Pull up the financial plan with the latest account values, and show them where they stand right now.

Once they know where they stand, offer scenarios. This is where you can work interactively with your clients and help them feel in control over their money.

Walk through a trade-off exercise on the screen and show them how slight tweaks and small course corrections can get them right where they need to be to feel comfortable and confident.

Yes, Talk About Performance

I get it, everyone is telling you not to talk about performance.

But especially in a down market, talking about performance makes your process paramount and makes you look like the hero.

(You can say things like, “The market is down X%, but you’re only down Y%. And that’s the value of having a financial plan.”)

While you may have spent years trying to train your clients to focus elsewhere, now is the one time to talk about performance, because it’s on their minds.

Address concerns head on and within the context of your clients’ financial plans.

Plus, assuming a client’s portfolio is diversified, you’ll be able to give him or her some relief by comparing it to the overall market. In other words, the client will not “feel” the portfolio’s performance is as bad as they think it is.

Embrace the Softer Side 

After you’ve talked clients through the details and data, and made any needed adjustments, be sure to bring their attention to the “soft” stuff.

While a person’s values typically don’t change, some clients may be reexamining their priorities (and, perhaps, even their deeper beliefs) due to the daunting feeling of being alone and/or overwhelmed by the present crisis.

Client goals most definitely will change. Pay close attention to the shifting nuances of your conversations with them and be ready to discuss these issues as emotions move with the times.