This is part three of a three-part miniseries on best practices. If you haven’t read part one on the importance of process. Next up was part two on the five best practices to crush the client meeting. I highly recommend you read at least part one before going through this article, as they lay quite a bit of the fundamental groundwork.
As a venture capitalist, one of the things that always blew me away was when entrepreneurs promised me a follow-up and then failed to deliver. It was always a bit strange. Think about the process behind a venture capital investment. An entrepreneur would receive a warm intro from someone in the community to either me or the partners of the fund. I would usually be the first point of contact and would set up a coffee meeting with the entrepreneur. During that coffee meeting, the entrepreneur’s goal was to pique my interest so that I would want to learn more. This was just the first step – a normal process would take weeks to months, depending on various factors. The rest of the process would generally involve multiple follow-ups and, yes, homework! That is, it was my job to get educated on an opportunity, but the entrepreneur’s job to help provide me with information. And, generally, this process went by smoothly. In fact, during my time as a venture capitalist, I would say it went smoothly 19/20 times. However, there was still the occasional 1/20 where it didn’t. In those situations, I would want to learn more about a startup, the founder would promise to deliver me the information, and then would not follow up. This would always trigger red flags in my mind. If a founder looking for investment could not get back to me with the materials I needed, would they drop the ball in a similar way with a big client?
Now, I don’t mean to sound harsh. The entrepreneurs who met with me tended to be ambitious, incredibly talented people. They were also exceptionally busy. Having now spent time sitting on the other side of the table at Finaeo, I realize just how onerous the process of fundraising from investors can be. It is a full time job alongside the other one of, you know, actually building a company. But, still, in an industry like venture capital, you can’t make these sorts of mistakes. In that, I find many similarities with the financial advisory industry. Like entrepreneurs trying to sell a vision of their business, financial advisors are trying to sell a vision of the future to their clients. And, much like founders trying to raise capital, financial advisors are in a zero-sum competition with both other advisors and alternative services such as robo-advisors. This means that the margin for error in financial advisory is minimal. I’ve said this before, but I’ll reiterate – it’s not three strikes and you’re out. It’s one strike and the ref bans you from the stadium. Your job, as an advisor, is to avoid strikes to the best of your ability. The importance of process cannot be understated.
In the last part in this series, I discussed five best practices that top advisors used prior to meeting with a client. These were based on interviews with ten high-performing financial advisors. They were made up of wealth managers, financial planners, insurance advisors, and hybrids of the three. All of them had grown successful books of business and I wanted to understand what they did differently from others in the industry. From these qualitative conversations, I collected a number of best practices surrounding the client meeting. Thematically, there were two main areas that these advisors focused on. The first was prior to the meeting. Advisors discussed that the central tenant of success before the meeting was being thoroughly prepared. We discussed this in detail in the previous article. In today’s blog, we are going to focus on the second part – after the meeting.
I’ve broken this down into a few key practical tips. Much like the pre-meeting best practices revolved around preparation, the post-meeting best practices revolved around organization (and the touch points that flowed from being organized). In the end, I have another five best practices that you can start incorporating right away that will add rocket fuel to growing your book.
Imagine Bob, our intrepid, dashing financial advisor. It’s Friday afternoon, and Bob is finishing up for the week. He looks over his calendar to see that everything is in order and realizes he forgot all about Susan. She had met with him bright and early Monday morning but, in the hubbub of the busy week, he had completely forgot about their meeting. Bob goes through his notes from the meeting but they are not in-depth – it’s pretty hard to build rapport while taking down thorough notes and he’s struggling to remember what they talked about. She was looking at potential life insurance policies, that much he’s sure of, but there was something else. Was it her RRSPs? Did she want to set up a RESP fund? Bob thinks she may have just had a daughter, but he’s not certain. He might be confusing her with another conversation or another client. He’s had a busy week and he can’t remember for sure.
The one word in his notes that jogs Bob’s memory is “iPhone.” She had just bought her first iPhone and was really excited about it so, knowing that the Apple Conference was a few days away, Bob had promised to send her a link to view it online. The Conference happened on Tuesday, so Bob knows he dropped the ball there. He also can’t remember any next steps for after the meeting. Was she supposed to get him more information? Were they going to meet again to discuss further, or was she just waiting on him to send her some forms to fill out? Bob is at a loss. He decides to send her as general of a follow-up email as possible. It’s a hail Mary attempt, in his opinion and Susan never responds.
Now, it’s pretty obvious where Bob went wrong. The problem is, no matter how obvious, we have all been in those situations. I know I certainly have been. There were a few times, in my previous career, where I would come to the end of the week and realize that I had forgotten the details of a meeting from earlier that week. So I get it, when you’re back-to-back in meetings with minimal downtime, it’s easy to become disorganized. It’s easy to lose track of what you’ve said and offered to do.
In the previous blog, I had a quote by Aly (Finaeo’s CEO) talking about his two assistants. He talked about his first assistant, and how her only job was to get him prepared before the meeting. But he also had a second assistant and her job was to get him organized after the meeting. She would keep him honest, on point, and ready to rock his meetings. And this was a common pattern amongst high-flying advisors. They would generally have administrative help to deal with keeping things organized. They considered it that important. Over and over, the advisors I interviewed told me that staying organized after the meeting was the difference between good and great.
Now, if you’re an up-and-coming financial advisor, it’s pretty easy to think “oh, I just need to hire an assistant, no big deal” and roll your eyes at me. I get it – assistants are expensive, especially good ones. And if you’re in rapid growth mode, you may not be able to afford one yet. To that end, I asked these advisors what they did before they had a superstar assistant which helped manage their days. How did they stay organized? How did they make sure they were on top of things after the meeting?
The best practices listed here are valuable with or without an assistant. For those of you with an assistant, make sure he or she is helping you do this after every meeting. For those of you without, you’re going to have to grind a little harder. However, every best practice listed below is doable alone. Nothing requires another person helping, it will just make your life a lot easier. Without further ado, the four best practices to make your clients love you after the meeting.
Best Practice #1: Getting It All Down Right After the Meeting
This was probably one of my favorite pieces of advice. I want you to imagine Bob again, but this time Bob has an awesome assistant in his office. Right after the meeting, Bob’s assistant calls and asks him for a quick summary of the meeting. The assistant takes down notes and, voila, Bob now has a perfect record of what’s going on. Quite a few advisors I talked to described this approach to keeping track of their meeting notes. Since it was right after the meeting, client details, follow-up tasks, and overall meeting summaries were top of mind. Advisors who adopted this method pointed out how, even with poor notes, even while on the road, they would never forget details on their clients. If you’re not already doing it, you should start right away!
Okay, great, so does that mean if you have no assistant, you’re out of luck? No! Create a voice memo! Whether you’re on the Finaeo platform or not, you have a smartphone. And if you have a smartphone, you can easily create voice memos through it. Right after the meeting, spend two minutes talking about your meeting. Focus on the high level meeting summary, the follow-up tasks you promised, and any personal details about the client you want to remember. It’s a neat little hack that recreates the experience of having an assistant call you right after a meeting to debrief. Even if you’re on the go, even if you’re rushing to the next meeting, you can do a brain dump and get all that information somewhere that you can later use it.
Best Practice #2: Compile Your Tasks by End of Day
Of course, creating a voice memo isn’t very valuable if you don’t listen to it. A second best practice that came from a number of interviewed advisors was making sure they had clarity on what their follow-up tasks were by the end of the day. That is, many advisors discussed how they made sure to know exactly what steps they had to take for each client by the time they left the office that afternoon. Quite a few booked time into their calendars to do this. For more established advisors, this list was often compiled by their assistants, meaning they only had to glance through it. Advisors who used this technique raved about how it helped cement the meeting in their mind and ensured that they didn’t forget time-sensitive tasks.
A great anecdote came from one advisor who told me how a client had mentioned his son was playing his very first hockey game that evening. The client was incredibly excited to go watch. At the end of the day, as the advisor was looking through his notes and picking out his to-do tasks, he realized this was a great moment to send a quick “good luck” text to his client about his son’s game. It was a very humanizing moment between him and the client. It seeded a bond that would remain for a number of years afterwards. The key, though, was that the advisor did his work that afternoon before leaving the office. If he had waited even one more day, he would have never had a chance to send such a message. As with most things in life, timing was everything.
Compiling your tasks also means that you understand how busy you will be over the next few days. While this is a good problem to have, it makes sure you are not overbooking yourself and overcommitting to clients when there’s no way you can finish it all. Moreover, just keeping track of everything you have to do will keep you more productive. Whether you do this on a whiteboard in the office, in Excel, or through an online platform (shameless Finaeo plug here) doesn’t matter. Keeping track of everything will pay dividends in keeping you on top of your day and your clients happy.
Best Practice #3: Build a Personalized Client History
You should also use your voice memos to add personal details to your clients. Store these details somewhere you’ll find them before the next meeting. During the meeting, always focus on unearthing at least one more interesting client detail that you’ll remember. This can be anything from a hobby to an anecdote to an exciting trip the client just took. What you’re building here is a personal history of your interactions. It’s fleshing out a more thorough understanding of your client.
For example, one of the advisors I talked to created cue cards for each client. She had been doing this for over two decades. Whenever she learnt something new and interesting about the client, she would add to the cue card. Many of her clients had multiple cards due to relationships that had lasted for a very long time. What she loved about this record was the history of it. She told me a story of how she brought up the elementary school a client’s daughter had gone to 12 years later, when said daughter had just started college. This was a powerful moment. The client was blown away that she remembered the details and spent half the meeting reminiscing about the past with her. It was a shared history between the two of them, making the client feel like the advisor actually cared. But it could only exist through an organized practice over many years.
If you’re basing this information off of a voice memo, you can push this off to the end of the week. However, I’d highly recommend just getting into the groove of doing it at the end of the day alongside your tasks. It’s worthwhile to start building these habits and make sure you don’t get lazy because you know the information is always accessible. Getting to something later often becomes getting to it never at all.
Best Practice #4: Write Thank You Notes the Following Morning
The thank you note was a consistent theme for successful financial advisors. They recommended it it for two key reasons. First, it was just a polite thing to do. Second, they could outline the follow-up tasks they were supposed to do, as well as the follow-up tasks they needed from their clients. This was important – it made sure that if they had forgotten or missed a follow-up task, the problem would be corrected immediately. Better right away than weeks later when the client is expecting something from you. Advisors also thought it was valuable to make it crystal clear to the client what his or her responsibilities were. This halted situations where nothing moved forward because the advisor was waiting on something from the client and the client had totally forgotten it was required in the first place.
The thank you note also forces you to be more organized. If you haven’t compiled your tasks the night before, you’re not going to be able to send an email reminder of them. If you haven’t gone through your notes, you may not remember what to bring up in the email. As such, a proper thank you note can help force you to stay organized, maintaining this highly valuable practice.
In terms of what you should write, most advisors I talked to had templates for their thank you notes. At Finaeo, Domo, our AI helper, uses a simple thank you note template himself:
Hey <Client Name>, great meeting with you yesterday. Really enjoyed our chat about <conversation topic>. Looking forward to <client ask>. On my end, I will <follow-up task 1> and <follow-up task 2>.
Excited to connect again on <date of next meeting> over <the phone, a coffee, video chat, a drink, lunch, dinner>.
Feel free to use this format or make your own. It really is that simple!
Best Practice #5: The Unsolicited News Articles
The final practice is my personal favorite. It wasn’t mentioned by everyone interviewed but I had multiple financial advisors bring it up independently, and I found it to be a really powerful relationship-building tool. Okay, so above I talked about the value of learning personal details about your clients. One of the really neat, creative things you can do with this information is the unsolicited news article. That’s a lot of words to basically say you should take the initiative to send your clients news articles they will personally find interesting. That is, if your client loves wine, you find a really interesting article about wineries and send it to him or her out of the blue. Simple, but powerful.
One group benefits advisor had her three in two weeks rule. She believed, fundamentally, that within two weeks of a meeting, you should send three articles to cement a relationship with a client about a topic you discussed together. Another, a wealth manager, used a more consistent approach, opting to send out an article to each client in his portfolio every month. To him, this both kept him top of mind and showed that he was thinking about the client even when they hadn’t seen one another for a long time. Plus, in the context of investments, it often allowed him to frame the conversation around topics he wanted to discuss. For example, he would send articles about oil investments to his clients before bringing them in to discuss a portfolio shift away from oil & gas commodities.
Aly, Finaeo’s CEO, would use this tactic regularly as well. With some of his clients, he found that it opened up a line of communication. He would send them articles and they would return the favor. It would create a stronger rapport based on mutual interest and conversation. It also helped keep him from being blindsided when someone came in for a meeting and demanded his opinion on a Morningstar report. Instead, many of his clients would send him the report ahead of time and ask for his thoughts. It gave him time to prepare for the meeting.
This one’s an easy one. Go over these five best practices and start adopting all of them. I know, I know, it’s easy to dictate from back here, but trust me – if you do these five best practices, if you turn them into habits, you will reap the rewards. But, as with all new processes, expect that it will take some time and discipline to turn it into a habit. Don’t give up if you miss a few days, just keep at it. Within six weeks of doing these tasks daily, it will become second nature and you will be well on your way towards growth.
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