JULIE LITTLECHILD'S BLOG


What Your Clients Really Need Right Now

Over many years, thousands of investor surveys and millions of data points, one thing has become crystal clear.

Leadership matters.

In fact, one of the most significant differences between those clients who are ‘profoundly engaged’ and those who are ‘merely satisfied’ is that they see you as a leader. And they define leadership not only in terms of expertise, but of guidance.

It’s at times like these that you have the opportunity to be the leader that your clients need and deserve. It’s not an obvious path, nor an easy one, but it is critical, and it is needed.

  • Leadership does not start with the right answers, but the right questions.
    • You cannot truly support your clients until you understand what they are thinking and feeling, otherwise you run the risk of trying to solve the wrong problem.
  • Leadership demands that you look at the situation though the client’s lens.
    • It’s easy to make assumptions about what we would find reassuring and believe it’s the same for our clients.
  • Leadership is human.
    • Take the time to acknowledge the impact the current environment may have on your business, get real on your own Plan B and talk to others who understand. Leaders require self-care as well.
  • Leadership demands that you walk into the fear that you may be feeling about your own business, life and family.
    • Leaders don’t allow that fear to stop them from reaching out to clients.
  • Leadership is less about fixing the problem than creating a sense of calm at the center of the storm.
    • You have the ability to give your clients the gift of breathing a sigh of relief, knowing that you are on the case.

Be Proactive. Get Real.

Addressing the current situation broadly and proactively with your clients can be provocative (for you). But this is the time to demonstrate leadership, to be proactive, to ask the difficult questions and to ensure your clients feel you taking them by the hand and guiding them through a difficult time.

The options may seem limited.

  • You could launch into a conversation with the 10 reasons that ‘everything will be fine’. That will make you feel better, but may leave clients feeling that they haven’t been heard, or
  • You could ask clients ‘how they are feeling’ about the markets. (I think you know the answer to that.)

Wouldn’t it be better to help clients articulate how they’re feeling about the future and then use that input to start a different conversation? You can do that through one-on-one discussions, an informal poll or as part of a more structured client feedback process.

I have one piece of advice for those of our clients who are being completely proactive and reaching out to ask for client feedback.  Address the elephant in the room. You cannot gather feedback and ignore how clients are feeling about the current situation. At best you will seem insensitive or, at worst, completely out of touch.

Instead, consider assessing confidence among your clients and using the responses as the starting point for a meaningful conversation. Think of it as creating a Confidence Index for your business, comprised of three parts.

  • Confidence: How confident are you that you will reach your primary financial goals?
  • Control: How confident do you feel that you can positively impact your own financial future?
  • Clarity: How clear are you about your plans for retirement?

Today you might start these questions with some context, such as ‘Given the current environment….’

Change the Client Conversation

To explore how you can demonstrate leadership through your client conversations, I invited Bob Veres to share some ideas and discuss different approaches late last week. We both agreed that we need to find ways to help clients open up about what they are feeling so that they can hear the advice you can provide.

Simply stated, I think we need to flip the switch. Before you tell clients what you want them to know, give them the space to tell you what they need to say.

Thanks for stopping by,
Julie

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3 Responses to What Your Clients Really Need Right Now

  1. Jay Paterson March 13, 2020 at 3:41 pm #

    Good Morning Julie,
    Excellent commentary.
    While it is simple to fall back on, “well, we’ve been through this stuff before”…, the reality is, and always should be, ‘how may I be of greater value to you and yours?’ At least, from my perspective.

    Maybe the old railway crossing signs would be a great guide, “Stop, Look and LISTEN”

    Thanks for being you Julie

    With Gratitude,
    Jay

    • Julie Littlechild
      Julie Littlechild March 13, 2020 at 5:12 pm #

      Thanks Jay. I love the railway sign analogy. I think it applies to many areas of our lives!

      Take care
      Julie

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  1. Weekend Reading for Financial Planners (Mar 14-15) - Outsource Bookkeeping Service Providers - March 14, 2020

    […] What Your Clients Really Need Right Now (Julie Littlechild, Absolute Engagement) – One of the key differences between clients who are merely ‘satisfied’ and those who are truly engaged with the advisory firm is that the most highly engaged clients see their advisors as not only experts armed with knowledge, but also leaders who provide guidance when times are difficult. In this context, it’s important to recognize that excelling with clients in the current environment is not just about providing them expertise (about investments, markets, and the economy) but providing them “leadership”. Which means not just trying to give the right answers, but asking the right questions to really understand what they’re thinking and feeling (or risk, as a leader, misunderstanding the problem and solving the ‘wrong’ problem, such as addressing questions about market volatility when the real question is “will I still be OK to retire?”), being able to look at the situation through the client’s lens (and not succumbing to the frustration of having the ‘same’ conversation over and over with the same nervous clients), being ‘human’ yourself (in recognizing how scary this can be as an advisor, and the need to mind the impact to our own businesses), being ready to walk into the fear to help others despite the fears and risks for yourself, and realizing that true leadership for clients is less about ‘fixing the problem’ and more about creating a sense of calm and confidence in the midst of the storm. Accordingly, Littlechild suggests that rather than just launching into a conversation with clients about how everything will be OK (“we have the charts and graphs to prove it!”), or asking them how they’re feeling about the markets (scared, obviously!?), try instead asking them: Given the current environment… “How confident are you that you will [still] reach your primary financial goals?”; “How confident do you feel that you can [still] positively impact your own financial future?”; and “How clear are you about your [current] plans for retirement?” And explore the conversation that results. […]

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