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How to Master the First 90 Days of The New Client Journey

Many advisers assume that once they’ve signed a client the hard work is over. Unfortunately, that idea couldn’t be further than the truth.

Within the first 90 days, your clients are going through a colossal shift. Starting with the sales process and ending with their initial plan being presented, they’re fully trusting you with their money, their goals and their fears.

Your job as their adviser is to make sure your clients’ initial experience with you is seamless and repeatable. Guiding them through their first 90 days in a process-oriented way helps you to create a scalable business, create stronger bonds with your clients and generate more referrals.

What Steps Does a New Client Take in Their 90 Days?

Within the first 90 days, your clients will go through:

  • Sales
  • Onboarding
  • Data gathering
  • Discovery meetings
  • Initial plan presentation
  • Implementation of investment or insurance recommendations

That’s a lot of different steps for your clients to move through.

Even if each of these processes are old hat to you, they’re new to each client you sign. By
creating a process that leaves no stone unturned and guides your clients every step of the
way, you’re building a strong foundation for your future client relationship.

To start creating a “first 90 days” experience, it helps to map out the steps your clients will

A typical outline would be:

  1. Discovery call
  2. Proposal review
  3. Get started meeting
  4. Plan presentation

Then, outline what happens during each of those steps. For example:

  1. Discovery call or introduction call
    Booking a call
    b. Call reminder
    c. Call follow-up
  2. Proposal review
    Follow-up to initial meeting
    b. Client onboarding (after the sale is complete)
  3. Get started meeting
    Data gathering
    b. Introduction to client-facing technology
    c. Introduction to key team members
  4. Plan presentation
    Presentation preparation
    b. Follow up for implementation or next steps

Your outline may include other steps. Feel free to customize according to what you and your team normally do.

Building Resources for Your Clients: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

When working through your first 90 days experience, don’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to your resources. Simplify where you can. Often, it’s best to start with prospecting and onboarding resources. For prospecting, you’ll want marketing pieces prepared for potential clients. These can be tailored to different ideal clients and their pain points. For example, you might have checklists or guides for home buying, lifestyle planning in retirement or financial considerations when you first have kids.

If your prospects are ready to move forward, you’ll need your next set of resources. You need a game plan for what to do when someone says they’re ready to sign on. Typically, I recommend having “get started” folders or guides prepared. A “Getting Started Guide” would outline everything your new client needs to move forward including their contract and a checklist of next steps. I also recommend having a folder of resources to help them self-onboard. These resources might include an onboarding guide for their client portal, formal introductions to team members and video guides for any technology they’ll be expected to use.

Remember to be available for questions and follow-ups. It can even be useful for you to plug reminders into your CRM or financial planning software to follow up with your clients (or to have your team members or admin do so) to make sure they aren’t having trouble self-onboarding.

Where Do You Store These Processes?

Now that you have your processes outlined and resources created, you need to store them in an easy-to-access place. The ultimate goal should be to have these items stored in your CRM and automated where possible. However, to get started, I recommend creating a folder in your office or in your online filing system.

Break your folder out based on your client’s journey:

  • Prospect booking
  • Prospect meetings
  • Client onboarding (based on service offerings)
  • Plan presentation and/or implementation

In your CRM or storage folder, you want to store:

  • Email templates
  • Follow-up letters
  • Marketing resources
  • Investment philosophy
  • Resources for prospects
  • Menu of services
  • Onboarding documents
  • Team introductions
  • How-to’s on accessing accounts
  • Training videos for self-onboarding
  • Guides to upload statements
  • How-to’s on client-facing tech
  • Financial plan templates

Remember: Put Your Client First, Then Reap the Rewards

The impression you make in your first 90 days with a new client is critical. It sets the tone for your continued relationship and can determine both the length of the client engagement and whether they’ll become a referral source in the future.

If you focus on creating a seamless experience in their first 90 days by addressing their needs and being ahead of questions, you’re elevating your service and the way people view your practice. The more you can structure the first 90 days experience to serve your clients, the more likely you are to build a thriving, successful business.

Charesse Hagan

Charesse Hagan helps financial planners work smarter, grow their firms and offer exceptional services to their clients. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is an operations consultant at Charesse J. Hagan, LLC, and an FPA Coaches Corner coach for technology and operations. Find more resources from Hagan here.

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Three Important Business Tips in the Age of the Coronavirus

The coronavirus, COVID-19, has uncovered flaws in many financial planners’ disaster recovery plans, and even normal business plans (if they have them.) None of us could have predicted a worldwide pandemic however, here we are and it’s our responsibility to help our families, clients, associates and businesses get through these difficult times.

In the fall, I created a presentation titled “How to Grow in a Recession.” If you have been in the profession long enough, we all know it was just a matter of time before the market heights were going to take a fall. However, no one saw the economy coming to a standstill.

I cannot say I had a crystal ball, but I am glad I put together advice to help financial planners through a difficult time for their businesses. Unfortunately, all events are cancelled or postponed so I cannot present the advice when it is needed most, so I thought I would share these helpful tips in an article:

(1) Be Proactive

One thing that we have learned from past recessions is that the financial planners in front of a market crisis are the ones who have the best retention rates and actually can gain the most clients. Believe it or not, a period of market turmoil can be one of the best times to win new business. Yet, financial planners become so laser focused on their clients, their prospecting efforts get neglected.

In a time when we are supposed to be “social distancing,” go back to really working the phones. Video conference those who feel comfortable using this technology. Contact as many people as you can to be there for them and remind them you want to help others like them who might need help. With clients, this will reassure them, strengthen the relationship and prevent the competition from picking them away. For prospects, it will get your foot in the door, especially if they have an underwhelming adviser relationship. For those do-it-themselves investors, now is when they doubt their investing abilities the most.

The trouble with the one-on-one meeting approach is that it is very time consuming and difficult to do right now. For that reason, also use all forms of mass communication on a more frequent basis. Make sure to set up webinars, video meetings and maybe conference calls. All of these can be recorded and can be edited to use for replay purposes.

Most financial planners do not create enough videos. Now is the time to do so. Your target market can and will connect better with videos than they can with the written word.

Email and social media are obvious choices for any types of marketing and client service content that needs to be shared. Pay attention to engagement measures (like click-through rates for emails and likes on social networks) so with every communication you get a little smarter each time.

For prospects, create a giveaway related to this market crisis that they can only get by trading their contact information. Create a unique landing page that gets virtual leads and makes them real leads. Once you have a good lead funnel set up, promote it like crazy and track that it is delivering a positive ROI.

(2) Be Personable

Soon robo threats to financial planners will be able to share market communications in a much better way than they are now. Their communications will be timely and even personalized. The way to differentiate, now and in the future, is to be a person, not a robot. What does that mean? Humanize each communication.

Besides one-on-one meetings, the best way to do this is to use personalized video emails. This is not a video uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo that goes to the masses. This is a message just intended for a unique recipient. Technology now allows this to take place.

To call each client in a 150-household client base can take weeks. However, sending a sort two-minute personalized video to each family can be done in one day. These messages do not replace in-person communications, but they definitely complement them, as the recipient feels almost like they are sitting across a table from their financial planner.

These personalized videos should be part of every client service model. This could not be truer than now when the human race is having fewer in-person interactions than any other period in our lifetimes.

Check out a partnership we created to help financial planners use this new marketing tool.

(3) Be Empathetic

Never forget you are talking to humans. Many in the industry are numbers people. We are planners. Most certainly, we are problem solvers. Clients need help in all those areas. However, in today’s scary, isolated world, they just might need to be heard.

Make sure to provide emotional support—now more than ever. Truly listen. Practice active listening best practices. If you find yourself inserting your two cents before the clients are done talking, you most likely need to work on your listening skills.

Because financial planners are paid to give their advice, and are not officially therapists, it often seems counterintuitive to not speak. But, if you can use video conferencing, an empathetic facial expression or nod of the head might be all they want. With verbal communications, a reinforcing word or two can do the trick. In these volatile markets, we might feel pressed for time, but do your best not to rush discussions.

Remember, sometimes the client just needs a friend to walk along side of them during difficult times. We are all going to be on this emotional roller coaster for what could be months. Try to put yourself in clients’ shoes and help them the best that you can.

As part of the Coaches Corner, Byrnes Consulting is a partner with the Financial Planning Association. As a member benefit, set up a free Business Growth Strategies consultation. If you are an active member of the FPA, we would be glad to help.

Want more tips? Visit the FPA Coaches Corner Business Growth Strategies page for insightful advice.

Mike Byrnes Headshot

Mike Byrnes is a national speaker and owner of Byrnes Consulting, LLC. His firm provides consulting services to help advisers become even more successful. Need help with business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness? Read more at ByrnesConsulting.com and follow @ByrnesConsultin.



Client Communication Tips During Uncertain Times

In one household in quarantine right now, there are two schools of thought: one, this is an unprecedented event that we will recover from; and two, this is the end of the world as we know it.

Both feelings are valid. And they’re feelings your clients likely might be having as people across more and more cities are ordered by mayors and governors to stay put in their homes.

Here are some tips to communicate better with your clients during this time:

Avoid shaming and judging. You might not understand where a client is coming from when they spent $750 in two weeks stocking up on stuff because they’re scared. They may be freaking out at the constant grim news of the coronavirus and the turbulent market and subsequently may make ill-advised financial moves. They’re probably also home watching “Contagion” to help them make sense of all this. But try not to judge them for any of these things.

Connect with clients on social media, if they’re open to it. Likely, your clients (and you) are spending  your days working at home, batting off distractions from their kids, spouses or pets. Likely, they take respite in social media to connect and catch up on their memes or news. Research from Broadridge Financial Solutions found that clients want engaging and actionable advice, including on social media.

Social media “presents a real opportunity for advisers to provide more personalized communication and experiences,” said Chris Perry, head of global client solutions at Broadridge Financial Solutions at the SIFMA Private Client conference, as reported by Wealth Advisor.

Social media can give you a glimpse into what is going on in your client’s life and head right now. For instance, if they’re posting conspiracy theories, they’re likely freaking out and might need a touch-base. If they’re lamenting about how they had to cancel their wedding or their child’s graduation party, they might need some sympathy, wisdom and guidance from you. Connecting with them on social media can help you be more proactive.

Tell them good news. There is a shortage of two things right now: toilet paper and good news. Your clients could use a win or a glimmer of hope. Reach out and tell them something good.

Keep your word. Things feel uncertain for many people and they’re scared right now. They’re worried about the health of their elders, about their financial stability, and whether they’ll have a job at the end of all of this. The world feels unreliable to many of your clients. Provide reliability for them by keeping your word. If you say you’ll call in 30 minutes, call in 30 minutes. Don’t make any promises you can’t keep right now. Keep your Zoom meetings on schedule. When you can, under promise and over deliver.

Know what they want and expect. It will be helpful to truly understand what clients expect from their relationship with you right now. Ask them how often they need to hear from you.

Also, after you determine how frequently they want communication, remind them of their purpose and goals they set out in your first meetings and remind them how you will help them get there.

FPA is here to help you through these turbulent times. We are supporting members by offering an online Volatility Resource Center to help you  navigate the markets and better serve your clients. And, see the new community on FPA Connect, “Navigating Market Turbulence Related to Coronavirus.” Here you will find recordings of four calls with profession leaders on how to support your clients through this uncertainty. Also, join the March 25 fireside chat with Rick Kahler on market uncertainty at 3 p.m., Eastern.

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the FPA Next Generation Planner. She also edits the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org, or connect with her on LinkedIn