If you have ever experienced serious difficulties in life, you know the phrase "Call me anytime." That's what everyone tells you. They sincerely want to help, but they don't know how. So after expressing condolence, they say: "If you need anything at all, just call me. I'm only a phone call away."
I've done it myself. I said it to the mother of a young girl who just died. I said it to a woman who was in the rehab unit after a serious car accident. I said it to a man whose wife was told she had less than six months to live. As inadequate as it felt, it seemed right at the time.
Afterward, it was also easy to assume I had been released from my obligation. If there was no call, they must not need me. Right?
It wasn't until I was widowed myself that I realized the hollowness of that phrase. I can't count the number of people at the wake who told me to call anytime. But I didn't. A few of the reasons:
I honestly couldn't remember who said it and who didn't (or my impression of who meant it and who didn't).
I felt silly calling for little things, like being unable to open a peanut butter jar or just needing to hear that I'd be OK. It seemed the need must be substantial to justify a phone call.
I didn't have the energy or strength to reach out. All I could do at first was put one foot in front of the other. I could barely understand my own needs, much less ask someone else to fulfill them.
I was acutely aware that everyone else's life was proceeding as usual, and I didn't want to be a burden. One time when I did manage to pick up the phone, the person I called was busy with something else and never called back. I didn't try again.
What does this have to do with your business as a financial advisor? Think about all the times you have told clients to call you anytime they have questions. If you say it with sincerity, and especially if they call you and get a response, then you are building good client relationships that sustain your business.
But no matter how sincerely you say those words to a grieving client, they often sound empty, and it just takes too much energy and too much courage for the person to make the call.
So instead of telling him or her to call whenever they need to, try this: Give a short list of the topics and outcomes you covered in your latest meeting with them. Highlight and underline anything the person needs to do. Give a time (usually two or three days hence) when you will call to see whether he or she has any questions. Then follow through and call.
Each time you talk to that client, whether in the office or on the phone, repeat the procedure by giving another time at which you will call. The interval between calls will depend on the complexity of the account and the issues you are facing. But the client will never have to pick up the phone to ask you something, will never have to wonder whether the question is big enough to justify a call, and will never have to work up courage or feel like a burden.
Instead, you are there without the client having to give it another thought. You can't imagine what a relief that can be.
Amy Florian is founder and CEO of Corgenius (www.corgenius.com), a company that specializes in teaching financial service professionals how to gain and retain more business by learning to support clients in times of grief.