Establishing Enduring Client Relationships

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When asked to define prospecting, advisers effortlessly respond by describing the action of seeking out new clients. Although the definition is accurate, I often argue that sometimes they do not necessarily need to look outside of their practices, as the most prominent prospects are already in their portfolio.

To be successful in establishing enduring and successful relationships with those you sell to hinges on what I describe as the E.R.A. Factor — your Elasticity, Responsiveness and Accessibility. Let me explain.

Elasticity — In the highly competitive environment in which all advisers operate, flexibility is the quality that gives you an edge over your direct competitors. Being rigid and unable to truly understand and anticipate your clients’ needs simply empowers your competitors to reach out to your clients and win them over by simply satisfying those needs. Elasticity is a concept that should guide any aspect of your practice management process. Elasticity is developed by attaining a thorough understanding of your clients’ preferences and wants. For instance, in-person meetings appear to be affluent investors’ preferred communication medium. However, many of these investors complain that advisers have not spent enough face-to-face time with them during the recent financial crisis.

Responsiveness — I always underscore with my clients that the best way to damage a relationship with a reporter is by not promptly responding to his/her call or email. This rule squarely applies to your clients. During the recent crisis, you have all received desperate calls in which panicked clients where posing questions for which you honestly did not have an answer. As a PR counsel, I can say a humble, “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find an answer for you” would have been by far much better than silence. Responsiveness is the quality that brings you closer to your clients, as they appreciate the fact that you are available to provide support and guidance regardless of the markets conditions.

Accessibility — Technology has somewhat spoiled us. It seems to place anything we need within reach. Our daily lives have become easier than ever, as mouse clicks and button pushing make services and products available in real time.   Availability (which incidentally goes hand-in-hand with responsiveness) should be one of the main pillars on which your relationship building process rests. Make it as easy as possible for your clients to reach and communicate with you. When a clients calls you at your office, make sure that his call is addressed as promptly, politely, and professionally possible. Train your staff to handle a client’s call as if that client were the only client you have, and ensure that a response or solution is provided within a very short time frame.

As always, I’d welcome your comments.

Claudio Pannunzio
i-Impact Group, Inc.
Greenwich, Conn.

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