Blog Entries by Stephen Peters and John Glennon, Institutional Sales Directors

What’s the Difference between a Financial Advisor and a Life Advisor? Client Relationships that Last.

When it comes to advising clients on their investments, you’re a pro. It’s what you do for a living, and the expertise you possess and advice you dispense are valuable commodities. But when you’re building client relationships, are they enough to sustain and grow the relationships? Good question—with a simple answer. You’ll find that your client relationships can be greatly improved—from establishing trust to increasing the frequency of client contact—when you go from financial advisor to “life advisor”.

Now, we’re not talking any New Age touchy-feely thing here. We’re talking about a very practical, down-to-earth strategy for broadening and deepening your client relationships. You provide value-added services that go beyond traditional advisory services—and touch upon all aspects of your clients’ personal and professional lives in the process.

Consider these examples of being a life advisor:

  • Your client happens to mention he’s looking for a good restaurant where he can entertain some out-of-town visitors. Once you get off the phone with him, you go on the web to research good restaurants in the area, then e-mail him some recommendations. It’s a great way to show you’re always listening and always willing to go the extra mile—perfect ways to build trust and loyalty.
  • Your client is a shrewd business person in a very competitive market. She lives and breathes her business; it’s all she talks about. When you see one of her competitor’s ads in a magazine, you clip the ad and send it to her with a little note that says, “Thought you’d be interested in this…” What better way to prove you understand your client’s professional needs, and that you’re always looking out for her best interests.
  • Your client says his daughter wants to be a doctor, and will be starting college next year. You respond by forwarding some research on which schools offer the best pre-med programs. Or, in passing, your client says she was once a Girl Scout and still loves Girl Scout cookies. You buy several boxes of the cookies and send them to her.

Taken together, small actions go a long way.

Sure, each of the actions described above may seem like a small thing, but taken cumulatively over a period of time, they can make a big difference in how your clients perceive you. They tell your clients that whatever their interests and needs, you’re there for them. Whether they need the services of a real estate agent to sell a house, a car dealer to buy that sports car they’ve always promised themselves, or anything else under the sun, make yourself the expert who can advise them. All you have to do is be a good listener. Pay attention to the details of what they tell you. Do a bit of research to make yourself knowledgeable in the areas where they can use help. And offer well-thought-out recommendations.

The reality is, people want you to be their guide. Most of them are looking for “their go-to person”—a resource they can rely on for just about anything. High net worth individuals are no different. In fact, people with extensive financial resources may be the people who need advice the most.

But what if you’re not a bona fide expert in one particular area of interest to your client?

If you’re not a specialist on your client’s hot button topic, be honest about your capabilities, and send them to someone who can properly give them the answers they need. This helps prove that you’re not trying to monopolize the client’s time and good will, that you have their well-being at heart, and that you’ll do whatever it takes to ensure they get the assistance they require.

For example, if your client has questions about how a contract resolution issue will affect his business and income, send him to an attorney you recommend. Or if there are tax considerations that will affect his compensation and level of investable assets, send him to a CPA you know and trust.

This type of forthright approach can work wonders. Because, as the client will surmise, if you’re honest about what you don’t know, you’ll also be honest about the many things that you do know. You’ll have a blank slate on which you can clearly convey your talents to your clients—to the point where they fully understand that when you do something, you do it well. So take a pass on advising them on a topic that’s not your specialty, and send them to the experts instead.

Build your network of experts, then reap the rewards.

But who are the experts, you ask? Well, it makes good sense to build your network of contacts to be as robust and far-reaching a possible. That way, you’ll have feelers out to lots of people at all times, creating a network you can rely on when you’re looking to direct clients to service providers, merchants, potential business partners, and anyone else who can help enrich their lives. Quite simply, be sure to know as many experts on as many topics as possible.

You’ll find that it’s worth being a “life advisor” from the start. At your first meeting with a client, don’t talk too much about financial products. Instead, get your clients talking about themselves. They’ll tell you about their families, their hobbies and interests, perhaps their aspirations and dreams. Learn all you can. And moving forward, be ready to earn their trust as an advisor who not only cares about their investments, but about them as people.  Quite simply, when you give your clients good advice on many aspects of their lives, you’ll find that you’ve cultivated a full lifecycle customer. 

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