Greensboro: “Do you have a recommended process for starting a relationship with a new client?” asked Martin, a new advisor on a recent conference call.  Every new client meant a lot to him and he wanted to make sure they became loyal clients and great referral sources. 

We’ve written in the past about a process for the first 30 days with a new client, but we wanted to tackle Martin’s question from a slightly different angle.  In light of our recent data on the importance of the affluent female in making financial decisions, it’s important for Martin to develop the habit of engaging both spouses in his process. 

We understand there’s typically one family member who is the “point person” with the advisor.  For many years, this “point person” was the male of the affluent household who had a relationship with a male financial advisor.  Their relationship focused too much on investments and performance and too little on planning for the multidimensional aspects of the family’s financial affairs.

The days of that type of one-dimensional relationship are over.  Finance is truly a family matter

Let’s talk about how to get the process started the right way with new clients.  Most of your new clients come from other advisors – not all with good experiences – so they may need coaching on the right way to work with a financial professional.  Let’s look at this from the evolution of prospect to client:

Framing Discussions with Prospects

We suggest spelling out the importance of working with husband and wife from your first meeting onward.  This can happen as a natural part of conversation.  You might use one of the following:

·      “In our business, finance is a family discussion.  I’d really like you and your wife to be able to attend our meeting.”

·      “It’s important that I hear from you and your spouse early in the process.  Do you think he’ll be able to come to our next meeting?”

·      “When is a time when you and your wife are both available?  I want this to be a family conversation.”

We’ve worked with some advisors who simply won’t meet with just one member of the family.  They make it very clear to prospects from the first meeting onward.  While it’s probably not necessary to draw such a hard line, we do advise being carefully firm with some of the language examples above.

If you encounter a spouse that just doesn’t want to be involved in the financial side of things, make an extra effort to engage them socially.  You want them to feel comfortable talking with you (and hopefully coming to a meeting every now and then).

Setting the Stage for the Ongoing Relationship

Your first phone calls, review meetings, and client events set the stage for how these meetings will work going forward.  Habits are hard to break – let’s start the relationship on the right foot. 

Review Meetings

Make it known that you want husband and wife at as many review meetings as possible.  While it may not be possible that both parties attend every meeting, it should be strongly encouraged.  If one spouse isn’t able to attend, be sure to ask about them in the meeting – on a personal level.  i.e. “Is Melissa still learning how to paint?”

Proactive Phone Calls

Even if you have a “point person” within each affluent family, place a phone call to the spouse from time to time.  If nothing else, this call can be a “How are you?  Is there anything on your mind financially?” kind of call.

Social Lunches

The simple act of a non-business lunch can do wonders for client loyalty and COI penetration.  Why?  It shows the client that you care about them.  Plus it’s a great venue to get to know about them on a personal level.  “What have they been doing?  Are they still on the same team at work?  Who is coming in for the holidays?” We suggest setting a target for number of social lunches every week.  These should be focused primarily on your top clients and spouses.

Intimate Events

Our research has shown that intimate events with a small group of clients and their guests can be a great vehicle for growth.  Many advisors have begun planning their events for next year.  In doing so, be careful that you’re selecting events that are enjoyable for men and women.  We’ve seen advisors plan a series of events based on their interests – golf, investments, scotch, and the like.  Might it be helpful to mix in a wine event, night at the theater, or cooking demonstration? 

One dimensional relationship management was the norm 20 years ago and is far too prevalent even today.  The silver lining – it makes it easier to differentiate yourself.  If Martin starts each new client with a heavy dose of husband and wife contact, he’s setting a stage for serious long-term relationship.  Proactive contact is the single biggest factor in relationship management.  This all starts with the first few interactions.

The Oechsli Institute does ongoing research and coaching for nearly every major financial services firm in the US. To take the first step towards coaching with The Oechsli Institute, complete the pre-coaching business profile for a complimentary consultation.