From the minute a client signs on, your key to success is to keep yourself hired. Stay hired by enough clients for a long period of time and you’ll do well.
How can you stay hired? From the minute you meet a prospect, consistently execute these points that differentiate advisors who stay hired for long periods of time from those who get fired sooner than later.
Be Attractive. The evolutionary function of “attractiveness” is to pull people toward you, so from the first second you meet a prospect, make yourself attractive to them by being your “physical best.” Few of us have movie star looks, but studies show that in that first blink, physical appearances influence how people judge you. Then, proceed to make yourself likable. Do so by showing a good sense of humor, listening to your clients and exhibiting a confident posture. When was the last time you told a client a joke?
Demonstrate Expertise. In early times, nobody went to the town fool for advice. The more a client perceives you as “expert,” the more likely they are to continue to seek your advice. From meeting one, let your client know your qualifications and show them on your wall, desk, cards, emails and other business correspondences. When you update your training by attending a tax or social security professional seminar, let your clients know.
Keep Expectations Realistic. Expectations are akin to “mental bets,” probabilities that specific future events will or will not occur. A client follows your advice because he or she is betting on what you say will come to be: Advisors keep their clients happy by meeting or exceeding their expectations. The caveat is that in order to do so, client expectations must be realistic—that means your skill more likely than not will determine your results. Thus, from the day you are hired, identify your client’s financial expectations to see whether or not you can perform accordingly.
Many advisors make a fatal mistake: They tell the client they can meet their “unrealistic” expectations, usually because they want the client’s business. When these expectations are unmet, the client experiences disappointment and anger; Trust declines and the advisor is often terminated. Take some time to assess the expectations of your clients. What data are you using to determine if you can meet them?
Keep in mind that expectations are best kept fluid. Two years ago, data might have suggested that your client is realistic in expecting a six percent return. Today, that might be unrealistic. Thus, keep your client informed about the changing reality of their financial expectations and how it impacts achieving their financial goals. In other words, clients don’t like surprises.
Frequent Communication. How often do you speak with your clients? If you want stay hired, I suggest you do it frequently. Most advisors are reluctant to give their clients bad news or for that matter, to take the time to give a “status quo” call. Advisors who stay hired communicate often and thus stay “connected” with their clients.
Frequent communication also provides you with the opportunity to practice relationship stabilizers: reiterate realistic expectations; review progress report for financial goals; explain rationale for maintaining or adjusting financial strategy; listen to client's needs; and be likable. Take note: Emails do not take the place of phone calls.