The next-to-last step in the six-step financial advising process is implementation—also known as closing the sale, or putting your client’s financial plan into action.
For a commissioned advisor, this is how compensation is mostly derived. Likewise, for a fee-and-commissioned advisor, this is another source of compensation. Even for fee-only advisors, who charge for assets under management, implementation is often a large part and sometimes the only form of compensation.
If implementation is truly the most lucrative step in this multistep process, why not skip the first four parts? The answer is what separates highly trained financial service professionals from fly-by-night, scammers and crooks. Simply put, you must follow the “Golden Rule” and place the client’s interests first. To do that, you’ll need to know a great deal about your client. In step two, you gather data, which you’ll later carefully analyze and evaluate to complete step three. Once you’ve done all this, the next logical step is to devise a practical plan to present to the client - the fourth step.
Once adequate fact-finding, analysis, and plan development are completed, the financial advisor now has a thorough knowledge of the client’s wide range of needs—and not just the obvious shortcomings. This is powerful information that you, as a financial advisor, now have in order to help your client take proper and complete action. This, in turn, may lead to additional product sales and follow-up services.
From the advisor’s perspective, this does not constitute leaving the “money on the table” for someone else to manage. For the client, there is a coordinated, comprehensive action plan that probably gets more done in a timely fashion than any other approach.
The final step in the financial advising process is monitoring. This also qualifies as a money step because it’s ongoing or continual implementation. Monitoring means building a long-term client relationship, which is the most rewarding aspect of serving as the financial advisor. Year after year, you get to see the rewards your client receives due to your expert guidance.
Once you’ve built your client base, monitoring is also the most efficient way to stay in business. Although cultivating a new client relationship is expensive, time consuming, and often tedious, monitoring your current clients’ plans is easy, inexpensive and can be downright enjoyable.
For highly effective and successful financial advisors, monitoring requires staying in touch on a regular basis. In my practice, I write a monthly newsletter called Money Monitor, which I send to all my clients. Note the subliminal message that I’m helping them “monitor their money situation” each month.
Just as dentists long ago discovered that people forget important health maintenance and need reminders, clients can forget or may deliberately procrastinate the need to get financial check-ups. So, I also send reminder cards to clients when it’s time to set up a consultation. Although this sounds simple, it works! Busy adults need help staying on track, and a periodic financial checkup will help them stay financially healthy.
The time interval between financial checkups will vary, according to the client’s needs and the advisor’s availability. In the first client consultation, I stress the importance of annual reviews during the first few years of a new relationship.
One-size-fits-all does not apply here. You must view each client’s situation as unique and each financial plan as tailor-made. Some need quarterly visits while others require semi-annual checkups.
Here are two other successful client-marketing techniques I use: I send birthday cards to all my clients. Next, I send them a desk calendar with my firm name printed on it; this constitutes a visual reminder they might see every day of the year.
Another much-needed service my firm provides involves clients, aged 70 or older, who have IRAs which require a distribution. We calculate their required distribution amount and send them a printout. This is a key component of a well-crafted overall financial plan and it shows the history and current year-end values, the minimum amount required this year, and our recommendation from which investment to withdraw the funds.
Also included is a form that requires their signature, as well as a convenient self-addressed, stamped envelope for them to return the completed information for processing. These simple-yet-significant techniques demonstrate to your clients that you are monitoring their plan.
To recap, here are the six steps in the financial advising process:
1. Establishing and Defining the Relationship with the Client
2. Gathering Client Data
3. Analyzing and Evaluating the Client’s Financial Status
4. Developing and Presenting the Financial Planning Recommendation(s)
5. Implementing the Financial Planning Recommendation(s)
6. Monitoring the Financial Planning Recommendation(s)
What’s the mark of a truly successful financial advisor? While compensation is important in this highly competitive and evolving profession, you’ll know you have arrived when seeing your clients financially succeed is your most rewarding form of compensation.
Donald Ray Haas, CLU, ChFC, CFP, MSFS, has been an insurance agent and financial consultant for 45 years. He can be reached at 248-213-0101 or at Donaldhaas@aol.com.