Don't be afraid to follow up
There is a difference between the old school 'push hard, three copies' sales pressure, and the follow-up required when a client has made a decision about pursuing a particular strategy.
I really enjoy listening to podcasts from Small Business Big Marketing - Tim Reid is the guy behind this show - which is officially Australia's number one marketing show.
While he always discusses great marketing ideas that work for any small business, it's not often that he discusses anything specifically related to financial advisers, risk insurance or accountants.
So you can imagine my surprise when he used an anecdote about an investment strategy and his accountant (acting as his adviser), which floored me!
He was lamenting the fact that sometimes he wanted to be chased by a service provider and he hasn't been - and what a missed opportunity that was for both the provider and the client.
What is remarkable about this is that the specific example used was that his adviser had presented him with an interesting investment strategy. It was a big decision, and they filled out all of the documents before he went away on a month's holiday. Tim had agreed that he was ready to pounce on it immediately upon returning from his holiday...but he hasn't heard from the accountant now that he's back. In his words, it was a 'very high involvement decision' and he wanted to be chased. He perceived that the accountant not chasing him about it when he got back from holidays was an indicator that maybe it's not such a good decision after all - maybe the investment turned out to be not as good as it was and the accountant had lost faith in it.
Now I can hear what you're thinking.... he probably didn't call because he didn't want to be pushy, he probably forgot to diarise the date that Tim was due back, maybe he was giving him time to settle back into life at home after the holiday, or maybe even he's probably busy and if Tim wanted to take him up on his advice he should take responsibility for his own financial future! (Geez I hope not!)
I know many advisers (and accountants) who, in this situation, would be hesitant to 'chase' their client if they didn't come back about a recommended strategy for fear of being too 'salesy' or pushing for a decision when the client needs time to think and not feel pressured.
Note - there is a difference between the old-school 'push hard, three copies' sales pressure, and the follow-up required when a client has made a decision about pursuing a particular strategy.
Most clients would consider that part of the value an adviser provides is the ability to keep them accountable to their financial goals and assist them to make - and follow-through - on good financial decisions.
How interesting that this client actually saw the lack of follow-up as an indicator of the adviser's lack of confidence in what they had recommended!
So what did I take from this 60-second epiphany?
Well, to some degree it will depend on the personality of the individual client you're dealing with, but I think there might just be a good number of clients who don't go ahead, or delay their decision about their advice for too long, simply because they feel that their adviser wasn't interested enough in them to follow up, discuss their concerns, and coach them towards making these smart decisions.
Often the smartest decisions are big decisions - particularly for a client that hasn't accessed advice before. It can be easy for an adviser to think that by not phoning a client between meetings, or following them up well after discussions, they are giving them the appropriate breathing space. And yet in reality, sometimes they still need to talk through those decisions and be reminded about their importance in amongst all of the other things happening in their crazy busy life.
There's a big difference between a pushy salesperson in a retail store following you around and a professional adviser making the appropriate follow-up to help their clients make good decisions. Particularly for those advisers who provide quality financial advice (that may or may not include the sale of a product) versus those who sell products to their client - the perspective is immensely different. Don't underestimate the power of the follow-up!
Also, a very simple process-related aspect is the importance of great file notes. Agree with your clients what the plan of action is after you meet. If you agree on a timeframe for them to discuss and consider your recommendations, diarise the right time to follow them up - if they don't get back to you first - and make those the most important calls of your day.
Helping to avoid the apathy that prevents many people from achieving their goals and then gently assisting them to face the big decisions and stop avoiding them? Now THAT is a service worth paying for.
About Sue Viskovic
Sue Viskovic CFP is the founder of Elixir Consulting; a proud mother of four; a sought-after speaker; a business coach; and author of a number of books and programs designed for advisers.
She is a former chair of the Western Australia chapter of the Financial Planning Association (FPA), manager at Prosperity Advisers and a practice development manager at Bridges Financial Services.
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