The most glamorous of careers are all about having a process that can be repeated. For example, the quarterback of an NFL team practices day after day to perfect a limited number of plays to be executed each Sunday in the fall. An actor practices his lines ad nauseam so he can deliver them perfectly at the appropriate time—no matter the circumstances.
Do you have a repeatable process you have mastered for each stage of your relationship with your prospects and clients? Imagine if the stages of your process were so defined and so well understood that you, your team, your prospect or your client knows exactly what will be covered in the next meeting.
If you review the various steps you have taken in each relationship, you should begin to see a pattern, which defines the repeatable process you use in your practice. If you can repeat that pattern in the same way for each relationship, you will ensure that your clients will have a similar experience and that your support team will have the direction and initiative it needs to help you in your work.
Our unique process
At our firm, our unique process starts with an introduction from a client or a center of influence. Our new client kit includes information on our team, firm and process. The kit also has pieces about the client, including: a prompt sheet to make sure I don’t miss any of the questions I want to ask during the first meeting, a list of documents I wish to collect, a list of objectives to discuss and what my client or prospect can expect from us. I create a picture of our unique process that allows me to show the prospect, step by step, what he can expect from us and what sets us apart from the competition. We then start off the conversation with a holistic audit of the prospect’s current situation, followed by an in-depth discussion and analysis of his family’s goals. I lay out the obstacles or coordination gaps that exist in his current situation. Once he fully understands these, we involve him in the creative design process by weighing the pros and cons of various strategies available for implementation.
The time and effort each process takes prevent us from taking on too many clients.
Each of these strategies is customized to address the specific coordination gaps previously identified. This process ensures that the prospect fully understands his current problems and the solutions available. Only after the prospect is completely satisfied with this discovery process do we move to the implementation stage. The entire process could take from four to more than a dozen meetings. The benefit, though, is that the prospect has never had an advisor invest so much in his education, and decisions are made in discussion sessions so that implementation becomes nothing more than the task of filling out the paperwork. The sales process is taken off the table since the prospect decides what he is going to do throughout the process. Although years were spent perfecting our process, we continue to refine it based on feedback from existing and new clients. Because our process is unique and our clients realize its value, we started charging fees for it.
And as we continue to improve and upgrade our client base, our fees continue to increase as well. In just five years, we have grown our minimum fee to $4,500, which, only a few years ago, seemed unimaginable. This has allowed us to review our practice each year and determine which clients we wish to continue working with and how many new clients we wish to acquire. The time and effort required for each process prevent us from taking on too many clients and ensure that each client receives the time and attention he pays for—and deserves. We can also better define our objectives for the coming year. This year, for instance, our goal is to add 16 new clients.
Our value to our clients
Our unique process has a great deal of value—it allows us to attract prospects and convert them to long-term clients. But this up-front investment in the relationship requires that we also develop strong retention rates. As a result, we have created several personal touches to ensure that our clients continue to have an enjoyable experience. Each area of their financial lives must be addressed regularly to keep pace with changes in their lives, the economy, the tax code and the financial markets.
We group our clients into “A,” “B” or “C” categories to determine the proper amount of ongoing service they will require. Because each client classification is assigned a service model, our team knows ahead of time how to block their time to service each of them. For example, each “A” client receives 10 touches a year, including quarterly calls to review their statements, two in-person meetings, a birthday card, a year-end performance review, a Thanksgiving letter and a personal holiday call.
We have worked hard to develop a repeatable framework for our practice to reduce the high costs of reinventing the wheel for each prospect and client. The result has been a highly efficient and responsible team working for devoted and supportive clients. This all started by realizing that a common pattern of events takes place in every client relationship that can be defined and fine-tuned to reflect a great deal of credibility and a high-quality experience from the beginning.
As a financial advisor, you, too, have a pattern that will allow you to create your own unique process. Do so now and take your practice to the next level of success.
John P. Enright is a registered representative and investment advisory representative with Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer and registered investment advisor (CRN200702-2003039). You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.