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High-Touch Means Clients for Life

Developing a systematic approach to getting to know your clients allows you to cement your relationship and grow a referral-based business.

By Gary F. Thomas, CLU, ChFC

How do you serve your clients over time? Do you have a method of learning about what is happening in their lives? How well do you know your clients? Do you know their cell phone numbers and email addresses? Do you know what their interests and hobbies are? What clubs and organizations they belong to? Do you know what colleges or universities they attended? Do you know where they last went on holiday? Do you know every policy and investments they own? Do you know the names of their parents and adult children? Do you know the names of their siblings and what they do for a living? Do you know the name of their best friend? Do you know the names of their lawyers and accountants? Do you feel that it is important to have this information at hand, or is it just a bunch of useless trivia?

It is important to know as much as possible about your clients and their immediate circle of friends and relatives because that is where the bulk of your referrals will come from. In addition, the more personal information you have, the better you can relate to and identify with your client.

Storing it properly
Where do you store essential client information? Is it hidden in the pages of last year?s calendar, lost on a sticky note or in a 2-inch thick file folder? If that is the case, you are missing out on your most valuable sales tool. You need a system for gathering, storing and recalling key facts about your clients. As your clients become many, a good, easily accessed electronic database is absolutely essential for client confidence. Recalling your client?s personal information?your past conversations, the facts of his life that are important to him?lets him know that he is important to you, and that you are truly his personal advisor.

Your clients? immediate circle of friends and relatives is where the bulk of your referrals will come from.

Gathering information
The first step in collecting information is to be genuinely interested in your clients? lives and interests. Gathering information is not a one-way street. We learn about our clients during the pleasant social give-and-take that is part of every meeting or phone conversation. Without becoming overly personal, and without expressing strong opinions best left at our own dinner table, over the years we have met our clients on common ground and shared the details of our own lives, and the things we have in common.

Every time we have a client conversation, we enter notes regarding our conversation in an electronic client file. If I don?t have time to type in the note or if I am in the car, I will dictate a note. I subscribe to a remote transcription service, so after a conversation I will call the service and dictate a brief record of the conversation. The resulting note will be emailed to me by the end of the day so I can paste it into the client record.

Whenever we are speaking with the client, we have his file available and have reviewed it in advance. In addition to having the information in the office computer and on our laptop, I carry it on my phone and pocket computer. (Of course you always want to be sure that your client information is encrypted and password protected in case your equipment is lost or stolen.) That way, if I need to call a client from the car, I can quickly review the notes of our last conversation and chat with the client on a personal level before we get down to business. We all feel flattered when someone asks about our pets and children by name. We feel flattered also when someone remembers where we went on holiday six months ago and asks about our experience. Recalling personal information helps us bond with the client and distinguishes us from other advisors and salespeople.

Recalling your client’s personal information lets him know that he is important to you and that you are truly his personal advisor.

Putting it into practice
Here is an example. Retirement planning is a large part of our practice. In the course of our relationship with our clients, we know when they are planning to retire, and we celebrate the decision. We schedule a retirement dinner for them at a good restaurant and ask them to invite their closest friends, neighbors, co-workers and family. The dinner generally includes 10 to 15 people. At the dinner we generally do not discuss business. Instead, it gives us a chance to meet their circle of friends and family. It shows the client off to be someone special. We get to meet people on a social basis. This is far from a chore, and pays for itself in cementing our client?s relationship to us, ensuring that we serve him for his retirement planning and forming valuable new relationships that may turn into client relationships over time.

For six more ways of improving your clients’ experience, read the first part of this article “Spectacular Service for Spectacular Sales.”

This is an excerpt from a speech given at the 2007 MDRT Annual Meeting. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Gary F. Thomas, CLU, ChFC, an 11-year MDRT member with eight Top of the Table qualifications, is president of the Wealthy Technology Group in Springfield, Mass. Contact him at 413-739-3511 or gary@wealthtechnology.com.

 


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