Americans have faced unparalleled economic, health and social challenges so far in 2020 and are turning to experts to help them navigate it all. Across the country, many financial professionals have needed to adjust and adapt to unfamiliar circumstances, particularly as they enter into their fourth straight month in a work-from-home environment.
For a profession that’s built on personal connection and interaction, financial professionals have quickly adjusted by adopting technology and digital resources. Yet, it’s undeniable that these will not be short-term changes. The ways we live and work will be permanently impacted. Going forward, financial professionals will need to leverage new strategies that combine both traditional and virtual approaches to connect effectively with clients, on their terms.
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In this environment, building and maintaining trusting client relationships is more important than ever. There are best practices to take that can help strengthen their business, build relationships and drive success now and into the future. These tactics are tried-and-true fundamentals, but they are evolving in how they are put into action.
1. Invest in your physical and mental health first.
As the adage goes, “Put on your own oxygen mask first,” or in other words, we cannot help others before we help ourselves. In order to help clients remain calm, financial professionals must be calm themselves, and to help clients feel positive, financial professionals should believe it themselves. Although financial professionals cannot fix the economy or resolve the chaos, they can build confidence in their clients to make informed decisions by remaining calm, steady and focused.
Mindful self-care, whether yoga, meditating, reading or other methods, and positive physical habits like exercise and healthy eating, will help financial professionals remain steady and strong amidst crisis, so they provide optimal service. By taking time to invest in their own health, financial professionals will be able to set the right tone for the discussion and continue to cultivate trust.
2. Communicate early and often; offer compassion and support.
Clients are not just in need of financial advice in times of crisis — they’re looking for connection. Most are feeling scared, anxious and uneasy. Providing a listening ear that goes beyond the scope of financial service will boost emotional connection and strengthen the relationship far beyond the current environment. This emotional connection will put the advisor in a better position to find solutions to help meet financial needs.
For example, during the Financial Crisis of 2008, when asked which of their financial professional’s behaviors were most beneficial, 68% of respondents cited accessibility, underscoring the importance of keeping open lines of communication with clients and proactively contacting them during the most volatile times. Being proactive is the differentiator. Financial professionals should check in with clients regularly and remind them that they’re available to talk at any time. In the absence of face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings via Skype, Zoom or Facetime can help build connection and rapport.
Throughout conversations, financial professionals should take extra time to focus on empathetic listening, including asking about their concerns, checking in on their health and finding new ways to help. While topics like finances and goals are relevant to an advisor’s ultimate agenda, clients are likely hoping to focus on family, health and current events.
Financial professionals can develop stronger relationships by broadening the conversation to make the client feel understood as a full person and not just, well, a client. Specific questions, followed by careful listening, will demonstrate care and empathy, for example: “What activities are you keeping busy with during self-isolation?” and “Are you and your family all staying safe?” Following that, understanding how clients want and need to be communicated with will keep them optimistic and the relationship thriving.