At the end of 2017, we started this blog series on how to be a successful fiduciary by emphasizing the importance of client relationships and service. We noted that the way forward involved mastering five disciplines: Leadership, Team Development, Documentation of Vision and Mission, and Consistency of Processes, each of which has been the subject of its own blog, and now, the fifth discipline, Ongoing Communication, brings the entire process together.
After learning how important it is to lead, to develop your team, to focus on shared goals, and then to flawlessly execute a client-service model, you should now have the requisite amount of self-confidence to successfully articulate to clients all that you do for them. Armed with that self-confidence, you may, in fact, find yourself proactively discussing your fee(s) at the onset of your initial conversation, rather than waiting for your client to mention them.
Educate your clients, allow them to be part of the decision-making.
Clients, of course, are primarily focused on returns, and understandably so. Some may be interested only in the number before the percent sign, but many clients relish the opportunity to learn more about your thinking. Educate your clients, allow them to be part of the decision-making. They may not need to understand the day-to-day trading for their portfolio, but you can help them understand you’re rationale for making strategy shifts and how you think bigger and beyond day to day returns.
For the best client relationships, technology is important, and so is your will and dedication to use it. Many successful advisers employ a Client Relationship Management system, or CRM, to keep notes on all they do for their clients. We recommend that everyone on the team enter notes and leverage the system consistently in order to be aligned. When we are aligned, we create capacity. This discipline also protects your practice in case any compliance issues arise, and makes it easier for you to remind clients of all the little things you do for them.
Be transparent with your clients.
Clients will be pleased to understand all of these important tasks you’re doing on their behalf—if you tell them. They will appreciate your transparency when you mention all the small details of client service you perform for them, the check writing, establishment of 529 accounts, the transferring of money, the mortgage advice, and such. Those services might be perceived as less valuable than a market-beating return, but these ‘little’ things, which might otherwise slip through the cracks, can instead be articulated to a client as significant parts of a holistic package of services, especially when they are reviewed in the aggregate. Clients are no doubt aware of the various fee structures in the financial-services industry, and these are the services that set you apart. However, clients do need to be reminded of all the services they are receiving. Remind them in every conversation in different ways. Use a service checklist, list of services completed that quarter, or show documents confirming actions taken.
Non-verbal communication matters, too.
Remember as well, that successful conversations with clients are not just a verbal art. Certainly the language you and your team use, what topics you choose to broach and when, are important elements in a successful client conversation.
Proper preparation is key but just as crucial is that you’ve set yourself up for success with clients by becoming skilled at the other four disciplines we’ve discussed.
If you have, you will alleviate the need to defend your fees, because it will be clear to everyone in the room exactly how you’ve earned them. Continue to spread the word and have your clients spread the word too! Provide your clients with the wording to introduce your business to a friend and also earn the referral.
And lastly, believe in the difference you and your team are making in clients’ lives each and every day, take time to celebrate along the way with clients and team members, and enjoy the moment!