BY JASON L. SMITH
IN A MILLION DOLLAR Round Table (MDRT) survey conducted in April, 39% of clients said their dependence on their advisor would increase in a time of a recession, up from 32% in October 2019. Prior to the National Bureau of Economic Research’s announcement that the U.S. entered a recession earlier this year, consumers were already expressing concerns related to economic uncertainty stemming from the impact of the coronavirus. When emotions run high, our role is to provide leadership to our clients and our team by encouraging them to stay the course despite the ambiguous future. To make these messages resonate with clients and their loved ones, proactive communication—and an integrated approach—is vital.
The same MDRT survey found that over half of Americans with advisors say their advisor can help them navigate the impact of coronavirus by discussing and adjusting their long-term (55%) and short-term financial goals (52%). More specifically, they look for guidance and updates on the following areas of focus:
- portfolio adjustments (44%)
- financial news and best practices (33%)
- ways to protect financial security in case of or in response to job loss (32%)
Knowing these priorities that inevitably emerged as the COVID-19 pandemic developed, I quickly realized the importance of being proactive in my communications to ease client concerns. The same survey found 66% of clients say their advisor proactively reached out to talk to them about the coronavirus. You can fulfill this need for more proactive outreach by implementing a segmented approach that ensures your valuable time and bandwidth is not limited by individual phone calls.
For instance, my clients are designated as A, B or C-list clients. We focus on conducting calls with our A and B clients as an initial touch point. From there, we can strategize how to leverage different technologies to continue the communication. Then, we tend to be more reactive with our C-list clients— legacy clients that might not fit into our ideal client profile or those who are not as engaged in the planning process and simply worked with us for a transaction in the past—based on their needs. By altering the frequency and modality of exchanges with clients, you, too, can identify a successful and efficient way to support them.
An initial touchpoint when the situation escalated was essential, but the work didn’t stop once the crisis passed its initial peak. As we all look toward global recovery, I have increased the frequency of communications with my clients, getting in touch on a weekly basis at a minimum. I recommend implementing a similar approach but varying the ways in which you reach out to them. Using the same methods can reduce the effectiveness of messages especially as you ramp up frequency or if you or your clients are not used to that level of interaction. Consider how you can scale your time to disseminate messages frequently and in a customized manner without placing individual phone calls each week.
Many advisors are used to more traditional communication methods such as emails and phone calls between regular in-person meetings. Some may have tried out new strategies in the past, but the impact of stay-at-home orders has enabled our industry to experiment with innovative technologies at a rapid pace to improve the customer experience.
When COVID-19 news coverage began to increase, we knew many clients would be concerned about the implications on their individual financial plans. While it was important to make some initial calls—especially with our A-list clients—we could not conduct an hour-long review with each individual client as quickly as they would prefer.
To navigate this dilemma, we used Snagit, a screen recording product, to capture a 10 to 15-minute review and update of client plans. We customized recordings for each client to provide peace of mind, recording our screens as we navigated accounts and plans while narrating with our advice and guidance as appropriate. Then, if they had any questions after reviewing the recording on their own time, we could set up time to discuss. Evaluate how you can scale outreach efforts while still providing updates specific to individual plans in a timely manner.
“As we all look toward global recovery, I have increased the frequency of communications with my clients, getting in touch on a weekly basis at a minimum.”
To keep our communications engaging, we also subscribe to BombBomb, just one of the many platforms that distribute videos in mass. Every other week our advisors can use their webcams to record themselves speaking directly to multiple clients at once with high-level messages that are applicable to every viewer. The content of these messages can vary based on your needs and can even include updates about in-office protocols and in-person meeting availability. Many tools like BombBomb are available to integrate directly into your existing CRM systems for ease of use.
Additionally, we work with a voice broadcasting service to send pre-recorded messages to clients’ phones. The tool we use, Call Loop, also offers text messaging capabilities. This platform enables us to pick and choose who we send messages to so we can customize the outreach accordingly.
This integrated communication approach is important to continuously engage clients and drive them to take appropriate actions. For instance, we use each of these touchpoints to encourage clients to register for our webinars, which serve as reminders of the resilient plans we have in place for our clients.
As I mentioned, webinars are another method that can help you disseminate messages to your full client base at one time. Our series entitled “Weathering the Storm” is designed to put clients’ minds at ease and reinforce the planning we collaborated on leading up to this point. We provide a historical perspective on the market, citing what recessions during 2000-2001 and 2008-2009 looked like and how the markets recovered.
By having as many clients attend the webinars as possible, we can easily provide advice specific to how we structure our clients’ plans. Every client of ours has a bucket plan, which involves segmenting assets based on a time horizon and purpose. This commonality in planning gives us the ability to speak the same language to all clients. They can all relate to the same terminology, and these webinars can serve as critical reminders that the “now” and “soon” buckets they have in place enable them to wait out the volatility. If you are looking for a way to conduct webinars, identify the terminology and planning expertise that all clients can relate to as your first step.
One unique strategy to consider to expand your reach is to open up your virtual resources to clients’ friends and loved ones. This gives you an opportunity to build goodwill with your existing client base and demonstrate the services to potential prospects. Not many advisors offer this, so it can set you apart and lead to a referral process. It is simple for clients to forward webinar invites or digital resources to show how they have high levels of financial support during uncertain periods that extend to their loved ones.
Overall, your interactions with clients may still look drastically different than they once did, but your planning processes should not be put on hold during uncertain times. Instead, view the pandemic as a major life event affecting every single client. Step up and provide the additional guidance they need now more than ever. COVID-19 is certainly a trigger for us to return to our initial work and discuss fluctuations in priorities just as we would after any job change, marriage, death, etc. For instance, I use worksheets when meeting with new clients to help identify priorities and pain points. They rank common long and short-term goals based on their personal situation in an interactive exercise, which allows me to focus specifically on their goals rather than imposing my own. We re-evaluate these priorities in our annual review process and also explore changes after any life events.
As we look to return to a sense of normalcy, nurture and maintain open communications. Now that you have established effective ways of communicating and planning in a virtual environment, continue to give your clients a choice moving forward. Virtual, in-office and traditional phone meetings are effective ways to ensure you can keep your relationships strong no matter the comfort level of your individual clients. If you offer virtual meetings, consider conducting tech tutorials so that this can become a viable long-term option. If you are accepting in-person meetings, provide updates on cleaning protocols, mask policies and contact limitations to ensure additional peace of mind.
Take the time to reflect upon what you have learned in this unique situation—such as client priorities and preferences —and apply it to your practice moving forward. Overall, our leadership and how we communicate our expertise is vital as we look ahead to the next few months.
JASON L. SMITH is a nationally acclaimed speaker, coach, bestselling author, entrepreneur and financial planner. He has been an MDRT
Top of the Table qualifier for 13 years. Jason is the creator of The Bucket Plan®, a holistic planning approach that purposefully structures assets throughout the phases of life. He has a passion for helping others, with the goal to simplify the financial planning process for one billion people worldwide.
Founded in 1927, Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), The Premier Association of Financial Professionals®, is a global, independent association of more
than 72,000 of the world’s leading life insurance and financial services professionals. More info at mdrt.org.