By Rob Swystun, Pristine Advisers
At least once per year, you should be calling your clients into your office to discuss all things relating your ongoing relationship with them.
As Financial Advisor Consultant Elizabeth Jetton, CFP(R) outlined in her webinar Increasing Retention and Referrals Through Quality On-Going Client Care, you have the role of being your clients’ advocate and you’re not just advocating on behalf of this client today, you’re advocating on behalf of who this client will be in the future.
And to help with this process, it is important to have a great annual renewal meeting. Some people call this an annual review meeting, but it’s better to consider it a renewal because you’re primarily looking ahead, not behind (although reviewing plays an important role).
The annual renewal meeting is a time to reconnect with your clients, monitor and audit the progress their investments are making, follow up on action items you’ve recommended to them throughout the year and decide on new action, monitor investment and financial planning policies, review their life resources, engage in strategic planning, adapt and make adjustments to their portfolio and prepare for life’s upcoming transitions into new life phases.
A great renewal meeting has great payoffs and will:
- Improve possibilities for your clients’ success;
- Enhance clients’ experience of your value;
- Develop trust;
- Increase retention;
- Increase client satisfaction and referrals;
- Reduce risks in your practice;
- Increase effectiveness in your practice;
- Allow you a chance to enjoy your clients and practice; and
- Deliver on the vision and purpose of your firm.
Model for Great Meetings
When you are face to face with your clients, this is the most important time you have to interact with them so don’t waste it. They should leave feeling that they were really taken care of.
It is imperative to have a meeting process. Everyone has bad days and one of those bad days might just fall on a day when you have an important annual client renewal meeting. But having a bad day doesn’t necessarily mean having a bad meeting. If you have a process to follow, your meeting should run smoothly no matter how poorly the rest of your day might be going.
The six-step client meeting model:
- Prepare strategically.
- Establish connection and purpose.
- Guide conversation around compelling content.
- Complete the meeting effectively.
- Follow through and follow up.
Let’s look at these a bit more in depth.
1. Strategic Preparation
Gather all updated client information before the meeting, including anything you have about their core concerns and circumstances.
If you are meeting with clients as a team, your entire team should strategically prepare together so everyone knows what needs to happen at this meeting.
There should be tangible materials prepared ahead of time, including an agenda and a one page summary of your clients’ known goals, investments, progress throughout the year, what you’re tracking and what they can expect to get out of the meeting.
Don’t forget the ambience. Make sure your office looks good and clean, buy some fresh flowers to brighten the place up and make sure the place looks like a place where professionalism is the top priority.
And prepare yourself. That means all calls are put on hold and your mind is focussed on this meeting. The meeting doesn’t start for you when your clients arrive, it should start at least five minutes before they arrive with you reviewing what you need to know. Remember, you cannot waste this precious time.
2. Establish Connection and Purpose
Do a check in first. You may or may not get an honest answer to the typical “How are you?” but it’s important to ask. Possibly the most important question you can ask at the beginning of the meeting is; “How much time do you have?” You don’t want to discover 45 minutes into what you thought was going to be a 90 minute meeting that your clients have to run off to pick up their children from soccer practice.
After a general check in, flesh out the client’s agenda before you get into your prepared agenda. Ask what’s important to them to get out of the meeting. Make sure you write it down and make doubly sure you address what they want to get out of the meeting at some point during the meeting.
Review your prepared agenda for the meeting with them before diving in and when you’re done, ensure you’ve addressed all their questions, updated their progress and talked about what needs to happen next for them to meet their goals.
This is the opportune time to gain critical insight into your clients’ experiences, expectations, beliefs, concerns, challenges, strengths, priorities and understanding of what you’re doing for them.
Get to know as much about them as you possibly can (without crossing into stalker territory) and engage your clients to motivate and inspire them. They may have nagging doubts about reaching their goals and some reassurance from you can go a long way to quelling those doubts by creating clarity for them.
Use the meeting as the springboard to getting agreement and action from them for results.
4. Core content conversation
Here is where the review comes in and it comes in very handy for you. Be sure to reflect on the conversations and actions that you engaged in to support your client throughout the year. Don’t be shy about reminding them what you’ve done for them throughout the year because they’ve likely not kept track of it and have more than likely forgotten about it. Remind your clients of what you’ve done for them throughout the year so they know you’re worth it. They need a sense of progress. Look back but mostly work forward to create value.
Review and renew their financial and investment policies, give them an update of financial statements and perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis with them. Set priorities for the upcoming year and confirm their understanding of everything that you’ve talked about.
Review not only your own agenda for the meeting but theirs, as well, to make sure you’ve addressed everything they want to know.
Summarize any decisions made during the meeting and establish an action plan.
Assign responsibilities for what needs to happen (for teams) and ask your clients what help they need at the moment and what you can do to help them.
Ask for feedback on how the meeting went from their perspective, but also ask about what they’ve taken away from the meeting. It’s important to get them to actually verbalize and articulate what exactly they’ll be taking away from the meeting because once they are out of your office, their daily lives will take over again and they’re more than likely to forget immediately what you just spent an hour trying to make sure they understood. (This is not to say your clients are fools, just that the intricacies of an annual client renewal meeting probably don’t rate highly on their list of things to remember because in their mind, they’ve got you to remember that stuff for them.)
6. Follow through and follow up
Here you get to demonstrate your value to them through timely completions of actions and follow up communication.
Do a team debrief if applicable, write up a summary of post meeting notes and share them internally but also with the clients.
Schedule, assign and complete the action items decided upon in the meeting (again, in a timely manner) and communicate the progress of these completions to the client.
Update any client information as needed, including anything that you’ve learned about them. And keep communicating the progress you’re making with their portfolio to them.
Referrals without asking
Rocking your client referral meetings means you help your clients learn to articulate the difference you make in their lives. Essentially, you are teaching them how to talk about you to others. And when they talk about you to others in the right way, they’re referring you to others (whether they’re aware of it or not).