Amid the market turmoil of recent weeks, advisors across the country are ramping up their communication efforts. For younger clientele, texts, phone calls and social media posts are usually enough. But for older clients who may be struggling, communicating well oftentimes takes more effort.
Here are three ways to make your interactions successful.
1. Be Proactive
Poor communication is the number one reason why clients leave their advisors. Fortunately, that’s an easy problem to fix. Your goals in reaching out to older clients should be to:
Give them perspective. Market declines are scary, but are also an expected part of the business cycle. While painful to go through, the current correction is part of that process. Remind clients that we have just finished an 11-year bull market — the longest in our nation’s recorded history.
Review the steps you’ve taken to protect their portfolio. Assuming it’s true, be sure your client knows how the strategies you’ve proposed have helped their relative performance.
Assure them you’re monitoring the situation and will touch base with them frequently. Encourage them to call or email if they feel their level of concern growing.
Elisabeth Jacobson is a principal and senior wealth advisor with Colorado-based Shine Wealth Partners, which manages $700 million in assets. When markets went south, her firm launched a client outreach effort with a few simple goals. “We want to assure our clients that we’ve got our hands on the wheel, that we’re watching their portfolios, and that we have their best interests in mind,” Jacobson explains. “We also want to make sure they feel comfortable reaching out to us if they need to.”
2. Take Time to Listen
For older clients especially, it’s important to take time to listen. That means asking your client open-ended questions about how they’re feeling about the markets and their financial plan. “When we talk to clients, we make sure to listen first,” says Jacobson. “You may assume they’re calling about the market, but oftentimes, it’s about something entirely different. It’s important to know what their concern is before you start talking.”
When face-to-face meetings don’t make sense, schedule phone calls or virtual meetings with senior clients. Rather than getting “in the weeds” of the market’s movements, focus on basic concepts, like how diversification has worked in the client’s favor or why rebalancing might make sense. Use visual aids when possible and avoid jargon.
3. Challenge Emotional Decision-making
Perhaps the greatest service you can provide older clients is to coach them away from emotionally-driven choices. When volatility strikes, a cognitive bias called herding kicks in, which tempts clients to follow those around them. Yet it’s a well-studied fact that making financial decisions based on strong emotions is one of the greatest threats to your client’s plan. To help them avoid making choices they’ll regret, shift their focus to the financial and life goals they’re trying to achieve.
A recent survey shows that most clients who say their advisor contacts them only infrequently would have more confidence in their financial plan if their advisor contacted them more often. Don’t miss this chance to build strong relationships by communicating well with your older clients during turbulent times.