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The Power of the In-Home Meeting

In my blog, and its companion Journal of Financial Planning article titled, “How to Deliver Empathetic Service and Gain Client Loyalty,” it’s emphasized that a client transforms from a revenue stream to an asset in the presence of loyalty. Each loyal client that tells others of his or her experience with an adviser’s service package represents a vine of fruitful relationships.

The common thought is loyalty begins after the planning and investment solution is executed, service experiences occur, and benefits result. In fact, client loyalty can begin during the sales process.

Bringing Balance to a Fledging Relationship
A relationship has a greater chance of success when there is balance between the two parties. Unfortunately, a wealth management relationship is inherently imbalanced because the prospect is asked to divulge private financial, family and personal details while the adviser is not expected to reciprocate.

The typical meeting in which the prospect sits across a table from the adviser (or worse on the other side of a desk) introduces unnecessary barriers to making the fact-finding process more free flowing. An in-home meeting strips these barriers away.

A Powerful Tandem
An advisory firm’s marketing program reaches a higher ROI by increasing the sales yield from one funnel stage to another. My last blog suggests that during the interest-qualifying stage, the adviser prepares a tailored education presentation (free of charge) for the client’s number one identified need, anxiety, or aspiration. (Note: the recently released FPA/LinkedIn study “Financial Professionals and the Future of Thought Leadership and Social Media” confirms how important education is to clients: 76 percent of respondents rate it “Somewhat Important” to “Critical”.) This allows the prospect to “test drive” the adviser’s services and measurably de-risk the impending relationship decision.

Taking this one step further, conducting this “test drive” in the prospect’s home significantly increases the yield in turning a prospect into a client. This combination sparks client loyalty.

The Real Productivity Measure
An adviser may view an in-home meeting as an inefficient marketing step given the overhead of driving to and from the prospect’s residence. While this meeting takes, say, three times as long to conduct from beginning to end compared to one where the prospect comes to the adviser’s office, this is a misplaced analysis.

The marketing plan’s ROI should be measured on the time it takes a lead entering the funnel to becoming a client. Using this more realistic business measure, an in-home meeting often dramatically decreases the time to a successful close.

Prospects appreciate the increased effort to come to their home and it conveys important messages such as: “I’m valued as a person not just as a business transaction,” and “My needs and anxieties merit this attention.”

Visiting a home is also a treasure trove of information for an adviser:

  • Neighborhood demographics
  • Family lifestyle
  • Family structure
  • Family interactions
  • Hobbies and collections

Keys for Successful In-Home Meetings

  1. Standardize the structure. Formulate a workflow process for conducting the meeting such as a pre-meeting mailing, an agenda, a presentation leave-behind and a checklist of next steps.
  1. Make the offer. For some people, an in-home visit pushes privacy concerns. If there’s reluctance, explain the meeting’s purpose, particularly the decision at hand (for example, “You’re entrusting your wealth and peace of mind to me, and I want you to be as comfortable as possible”). Highlight that it is a standing offer for any future meeting.
  1. Remove the hosting stress. The meeting’s purpose is to provide education on the prospect’s top need or concern and not about creating stress for the meeting itself. Offer to bring refreshments such as coffee plus baked goods if your meeting is in the morning, a light snack if your meeting is in the afternoon, or dessert if your meeting is in the evening.
  1. Meeting precision. Conducting the meeting with precision conveys the value of your prospect’s time. This means being on time, managing to the agenda and having organized materials.

It’s a Relationship!
While financial services is the content, what’s actually being bought and sold is a relationship (see my blog post titled “Your Product is You”). Face-to-face meetings are critical components of due diligence. For the prospect, this involves the adviser’s personal presentation, relatability, trust, care and concern. These core decision criteria come alive when an adviser invests his or her time in a meeting at the prospect’s home.

A prospect contemplates a substantial financial commitment when seeking an investment relationship—for a high-net worth family, this will be thousands of dollars per year. Taking the time to meet in a prospect’s home expresses appreciation for this opportunity and shines light on the adviser’s service role.

Kirk LouryKirk Loury
Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey

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Connect with Families of Clients with Diminished Capacity

MauterstockIt isn’t an easy situation when your client starts losing their mental capacity.

Author and planner Robert B. Mauterstock, CFP®, CLU, ChFC, knows this all too well. Only it wasn’t his client, it was his late mother. She was in her early 80s when she was at a doctor’s appointment. Her longtime nurse greeted her only for her to ask, “Do I know you?”

She lived with Alzheimer’s ten years, so Mauterstock came to know the ins and outs of living and working with someone with the disease. Chances are you will be working with clients who are going through something similar as 46 percent of people over the age of 85 will develop dementia, Mauterstock said.

Mauterstock presented at the FPA Annual Conference—BE Boston 2015—a session titled “The Seven Steps to Protect Yourself, Your Practice and Your Clients Who Have Diminished Mental Capacity.” In it he said one of the steps to working successfully with clients facing diminished capacity is to connect and build trust with the families.

A Fidelity Investments Study Shows that 84 percent of planners want help with clients who have dementia and Alzheimer’s. The following are the seven steps Mauterstock said these planners can refer to:

1.) Recognize the Behavior Patterns. When your clients start calling your office asking for their accountant, chances are something is off.

2.) Develop a Diminished Capacity Checklist. This includes designating a client advocate and power of attorney—somebody who is privy to all your client’s details and will be able to make decisions for them. Client advocates and your client must fill out a “Third-Party Sharing of Information” document.

3.) Learn How to Protect Your Client’s Assets. Know the ins and outs of Medicare—for example it only covers three nights in a hospital—nothing less. Research and present the best long-term care insurance for your client.  

4.) Build a Network of Professionals. This network should include an elder law attorney, a geriatric care manager, and an insurance agent.

5.) Build a Relationship with the Client’s Family. The entire family is going to be affected by this situation so call a family meeting, connect with them, and help them through it. A side benefit is that the family may want to continue working with you later on.

6.) Utilize a Single Source with All Relevant Records. Mauterstock calls this the Lifefolio—a PDF document put on a flash drive that includes all medical insurance information, usernames and password for all accounts, and the like.

7.) Create an Investment Policy Statement. This is to remind the client what your plan was and how it works. The client advocate should also have access to this.

Find more information on Mauterstock’s BE presentation here, including the presentation slides. You can also earn 1 CE credit by taking the exam for this particular presentation.

HeadshotAna Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.

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Storytelling: ‘Pull’ instead of ‘Push’ to Effectively Engage Your Audience

As I pointed out in in last February’s post Use Storytelling to Persuade Your Audience to Take Action, despite the apparent fascination with communicating in sound bites and 140-character Tweets, human beings continue to love and be fascinated by stories. Stories capture our attention by evoking memories, stirring feelings and establishing an emotional bond with the story’s main character and the storyteller.

In her book The Story Factor author Annette Simmons explains that in the world of business stories help deliver information, direction and inspiration in a far more persuasive manner than arguments based on pure logic. She maintains that when we seek to influence or convince our audience with cold, hard facts and figures, we are implementing a “push” strategy, which can easily trigger some form of antagonistic retort. She defines storytelling instead as a “pull” strategy, one that doesn’t alienate listeners but rather lures them into the conversation.

Everyday interaction with clients and prospects provides financial advisers with abundant material for storytelling. Think about all the conversations you have with families seeking to get out of debt or buy their first house, individuals dreaming of launching their own business, parents wanting to give to their children a superior education. These are real examples of human challenges and struggles that your audience can easily relate to. Most important, real life cases make them pause to think and reflect and, ultimately, help them find an answer to their most immediate challenges, or just give them hope.

So, what are some of the most common elements of good storytelling? Here are a few:

Keep It Simple
Good storytellers are pros at making their accounts easy to understand by employing the same language that their audiences speak. This prevents listeners from experiencing distractions arising from pausing to process unfamiliar terms. Effective narrators begin their accounts portraying the challenge that the story’s hero faces. Then they move to describe the attempt(s) made to solve the issue and bring it to a close explaining when and how the problem was successfully addressed.

Short and to the Point
People have limited attention spans. Ergo, you should tell your story as rapidly as possible and make your relevant points as soon as you can. The story you decide to tell need not to be lengthy, overflowing with details. When picking a specific story, make sure it has an emotional component, be it humor, pathos or joy. However, do not struggle to make it overly funny or intersperse it with humor. Ultimately, you are not trying to amuse your audience. Rather, you want to convey some valuable information that will spark in your audience’s brain memories and emotions that would help them connect with you.

Keep It Real
The best stories are those that the narrator has experienced firsthand. Your story should contain aspects that your audience can swiftly relate to. For example, an audience comprised of entrepreneurs will likely be engaged and better respond to a story that involves entrepreneurs rather than college teachers.

Stick to the Beginning-Middle-End Format
Make sure your story adheres to this easy-to-implement structure. Seek to establish a strong opening (beginning) to set the tone and introduce the character(s). Use the middle part to clearly articulate the key problem(s) and conflict(s) that the hero of the story faced prior to finding the appropriate solution. Then, continue your narrative taking the audience to the end of the story. Once your account is over, do not rush to take questions, instead take a pause. It will help your audience to reflect on your words and build a stronger emotional connection with the main character or topic of the story.

A simple, well-narrated and persuasive story is one of the most powerful and effective means of engaging your audience. Ultimately, we are beasts of emotion more than logic. We love to tell and hear stories. Consequently, even the most email and text message addicted client or prospect will find the time and appreciate a concise and well-told story.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.