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.

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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


3 Steps to Run Your Business Like a Genius

Albert Einstein is not the only genius to acknowledge that whether the subject is something as vast as the universe or as microscopic as an atom, there is a process involved.

In order for something to work effectively it must be rooted in a foundation of a successful process. Your business is no different. In order for you to be effective in building, running and maintaining a successful business, you need to have well-thought-out systems. You can operate your business in one of two ways: leave your success up to chance, or map out your methods and procedures.

Successful planners know that mapping out a new system, method or procedure is a process in and of itself. Let’s take a look at specific steps to incorporate new stepping stones into your business future.

Step No. 1: Understanding Where You Are

As a professional development coach, I’ve said often that when it comes to your business you must be completely transparent with yourself. That’s why it is important to look at every aspect of your business and ask, “Where am I with this?” In other words, what is working, what is not working and why.

John D., a 20-year veteran financial planner who realized that most of what he was doing in his business was reactive in nature, in areas such as time management, client servicing, prospecting and even with his sales process—he didn’t have a systematic, step-wise approach to any of these aspects of his business.

Ironically, not having a process was his process, so when a client called with a question or request, he dropped everything and took care of it. When he did decide to prospect by asking for referrals, he’d typically say, “Who do you know that I could introduce myself to?” This was followed with the client replying, “I can’t think of anyone but if I do I will let you know.” It’s interesting to note that in this example he actually did have a process for asking for referrals. However, it was not at all effective.

Step No. 2: Understand Where You Want to Be

Sometimes it can be difficult for a planner to realize that they have been running a reactive business simply because they have never been taught any other way.

In John’s case, I simply explained that successful planners have a proactive business model because they have an effective and repeatable methodology for everything! As I went into the details John began to recognize that having this type of business was exactly what he wanted (and needed).

Step No. 3: Learn and Implement

Then it was time to map out and create a business systems manual for John to refer to any time he found himself wondering how to manage something. This is best done by taking each facet of your business finding a colleague or mentor who has an effective approach that you desire to emulate.

So as to not overwhelm John, we started with time management. I showed him tools and techniques for architecting structure for his day, a way to prioritize interruptions and make a game out of sticking to the steps with a daily reward and punishment incentive. It didn’t take him long to start feeling more in control of this time. Once John felt he had a handle on one business facet we went onto another one.

Why Running a Business like a Genius Works

Repurposing another’s successful systems means you don’t have to craft something from scratch—which can be overwhelming. You do have to implement and follow whatever steps you outline for yourself. Having a plan makes sense and you don’t have to be Einstein to know that.

If you would like a complimentary coaching session with me, please email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing.

Dan Finley

Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.







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Clarity Is Key to Client Conversations

Why is clear communication so crucial to effective conversations between advisers and clients?

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place,” said George Bernard Shaw.

Most of us know what message we’re trying to communicate to our clients, but do we take into account what they want and what they hear when they talk to us?

Often, we think of the client experience as what we provide to our clients in services, touchpoints and products. This understanding fails to account for the client perspective: what the client actually hears, feels and believes they get from their adviser.

A joint study by Janus Henderson, FPA and Investopedia, “War on Stress,” found a 64 percent gap in what advisers believe they are addressing as top concerns with clients and what clients perceive to be top concerns. Providing support starts with a clear understanding of investor concerns but also involves taking the lead in addressing those concerns.

Empowering Clients through Clear Communication

We work in an industry that is loaded with terminology, language and jargon that makes it more difficult to convey our message to clients. Using those terms serves no purpose other than to obfuscate our meaning and push the client further away.

Consider the reason that most clients seek out an adviser: They themselves don’t understand the investment business. From our research, we understand that 77 percent of investors who are clear on their financial goals experience lower stress. Having greater clarity about their goals, feeling knowledgeable about investments and having a clear plan are also part of that equation. So how can the modern adviser ensure they’re taking the lead in addressing the key concerns of their clients and that this is being understood?

Consider the following:

  • How you say it matters: Use language that is plain and simple to understand and has a “so what?” component to it. The “so what?” is a clarifying statement that punctuates why something is important to the client. For example, “Estate planning is important because it ensures that when you or your spouse dies, neither of you will need to worry about having the resources to live your best ”
  • Set the stage with structure: Using agendas or checklists to frame your discussions can help ensure your audience knows what you are talking about. Send these in advance and be sure to reference them during your interactions. In doing so, you’re able to build clients’ trust and confidence with a well-executed meeting while also allowing clients to review in advance so they can share their own thoughts or questions for
  • It’s not about you, and the platinum rule: Yes, you have an agenda and an objective in meeting with your Your clients do, too—and their needs trump your own. Always include time for them to ask questions, add to the agenda and, most of all, be vulnerable. Remember that what is clear to you may be opaque to them. The platinum rule is treating others as THEY want to be treated—which means becoming a student of personality, behavior and unspoken needs.

Above all, strive to ensure that your clients walk away understanding what you intended for the meeting. To assess if your message got through, try asking questions like, “Now that I’ve described our (investment model, client service approach, estate planning, etc.), what do you want out of the process?” Or ask a closed-ended but multi-choice question to help focus the discussion: “So the investments we choose will have three phases: A, B, C – which of those do you want to be most involved in?” When it comes to understanding what your client says, try paraphrasing and asking, “Did I hear that right?” or “What I heard you say was this… What am I missing?

When you follow these steps, you increase your chances of ensuring your message gets through and that you don’t miss some obvious signs from your clients about what is important to them.

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Michael Futterman

Michael Futterman is an assistant vice president, Knowledge Labs™ Professional Development at Janus Henderson Investors. In this role, Futterman works with the Professional Development team on research and curriculum development for the professional development programs. He is a frequent speaker and coach to adviser and client audiences. Futterman leverages his experience with Outward Bound, management consulting firms and the financial services industry to bring innovative, engaging and thought-provoking content to his clients.