Most of us were unfamiliar with the term “social distancing” before the 2020 pandemic. In a relationship business, words like that are taboo. Financial advisors thrive on social interaction. Eliminating face-to-face meetings was a major disruptor last year.
Fast forward to 2021. The fear of Covid-19 still lingers, but folks are beginning to venture out. Masks are coming off and business luncheons are once again an option. Financial advisors can go back to business as usual, but is that the right choice? The world is very different now.
Our new normal is more than just a sociological shift. The pandemic taught all of us that we could do business virtually when the face-to-face option was removed. Advisors were able to change the way they operated by using virtual tools and online communication.
Winston Churchill once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” In 2020, we learned that wealth managers can effectively manage clients online. That’s a dimension of our industry that we should continue to cultivate. Here’s how:
#1: Increase Transparency with Better Technology
According to Statista, the in-home data usage of smartphones increased by 34% in March 2020, the first month of Covid-19 lockdowns. Social media was the largest recipient of that traffic, but you can bet that Google Finance and Robinhood are high on that list too.
Your clients have questions and they’re more financially savvy than many of us give them credit for. They’re perfectly capable of doing research and even trading on their own. You can avoid them going off on their own by being transparent in your reporting and communications.
The ongoing discussion about transparency has led to the development of new technology to give clients more of what they’re looking for. Blueleaf is one of the platforms at the forefront of this with a client portal that aggregates held away assets and creates transparency.
#2: Employ Active Listening in Client Meetings
How often have you “zoned out” when your clients are speaking? It happens to the best of us. Employing active listening and repeating key points they are trying to make helps to build advisor/client trust levels.
In the age of Zoom, active listening is even more important. With the in-person element of client relationships removed — and many social cues along with it — it is more critical than ever to practice good listening skills.
Not only does active listening ensure that you’re paying attention and capturing essential information that your client may be communicating, but it’s another way to forge an important connection with your client — even on Zoom (i.e., virtually).
Modern financial advisors have evolved into holistic wealth managers who spend a lot of time coaching their clients on productive financial habits. Active listening is a big part of that process, so this should not be underestimated. It’s critical to your retention rates.
The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) published a great piece on this a few years ago titled, “Use Active Listening to Coach Others.” It’s not specific to advisory practices, but it can help you to further develop your skills in this area. The article is only a five-minute read.
#3: Maintain Consistent Communication with Automation
This step can be simplified by using the automated email feature in Blueleaf to send weekly or monthly updates to clients. It can be enhanced by using retargeting to keep your firm’s branding in front of them as they surf other sites on the internet.
One of the benefits of living in this technological era is that artificial intelligence (AI) has reached a new level in marketing. The ability to capture and follow prospects and clients after they visit your website gives you a chance to make sure your firm is always top-of-mind.
Connect your client portal to your website so clients must pass through there on the way to logging into their account. Set up retargeting to kick in when they click on the portal page link. It’s that simple. They’ll see your logo everywhere they go.
#4: Eliminate Industry Jargon when Speaking with Clients
This is one of my pet peeves. As financial professionals, we speak a language amongst ourselves that outsiders have difficulty understanding. Don’t do that to your clients. Showing off how smart you are with industry jargon doesn’t instill confidence. It causes confusion.
This is another area that deserves special attention as many meetings have moved to virtual platforms. Zoom meetings and phone calls are already stripped of some important context that elevates communication. Adding unnecessary confusion to the mix by tossing around industry jargon is not doing you or your clients any favors.
It’s possible to simplify financial information without “dumbing it down.” Speak to your clients in plain terms that the average person can understand. If they turn out to be more knowledgeable than expected, crank it up a notch. They’ll appreciate that.
On a video call, the nuances of facial expressions can be easily missed. Confused clients don’t always ask for an explanation and you can’t read the tells on your iPad or mobile phone. That’s a problem. You can’t build a relationship if you’re not connecting with the client.
There’s no magic bullet. Each of the four steps listed above is dictated by the environment we’re working in and the communication tools we have available to us. Financial advisors need situational awareness and the willingness to adapt to the new normal.
The world has changed in just two short years. Enhancing client relationships today requires a virtual component for advisory firms to thrive and grow. The pandemic opened the door for this new business model. Your clients have come to expect it. It’s up to you to implement it.
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