Not every client wants to reveal all their personal goals to a total stranger, but having a more intimate initial conversation about their hopes and aspirations can help financial planners deliver more appropriate results. That has certainly been the experience of Victoria-based DMG Financial director Ben Lancaster who implemented client engagement software approximately four years ago. He says their relationship with clients, as well as business, has never been better.
“It might not be for every business, nor is it for every client, but we’ve found it certainly deepens and fast-tracks the relationship we have with clients. Getting to know and understand our clients better allows us to provide much better advice and create better outcomes for them,” Ben says.
Based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it works as a prompt for advisers to ask their client to not only outline their aims and prioritise them, but to focus on their aspirations and examine why they want it. It can get quite personal, but that’s the beauty of it, because it builds a relationship with the client more quickly, Ben says.
“If their objective is to put their children through education and you ask them why they want to do that, you start drilling down further, delving deeper into what makes them tick and you move towards a more emotional response. One client said that he had never had the opportunity for further education – so you start to learn more about them,” Ben says.
Tears can be a result, as can the odd comment such as “I didn’t realise I was coming to marriage counselling,” but overall it has strengthened the connection they have with their clients, Ben says.
Another hurdle is that it can take time to implement. Initially, advisers can find it a bit confronting to ask such personal questions and it can take a while for them to adapt a natural flow or get used to the, sometimes, awkward silences. However, says the training is easy because it’s just about having a conversation and that once it becomes part of the company culture, the process becomes second nature.
One of the questions to ask is what’s stopping the client from achieving their aspiration. Most often the answer is time or money, but it may also be because the spouses may not agree with each other.
“We had a client whose husband said that he had always wanted to go and see Manchester United play football. His wife said: ‘We’ve been married for 50 years and not once have you ever said this’. He never brought it up because he had never thought it would be possible. They have since been,” Ben says.
“So, we extract the information that sometimes clients are too busy to sit down and have a conversation about. We facilitate that conversation and it can be pretty rewarding.”
The company produced a short video to prepare a prospective client for their first meeting, to let them know that the conversation is not only going to be about salaries and numbers.
Ben says the company implemented the software when they decided to focus on differentiation. As more of boutique planning agency he felt it was important to differentiate what they did from the guy down the road. Getting to know their clients on a more personal level was one of the ways of doing that.
“I find that it helps with engagement dramatically. This is about the client and it will really differentiate you. All of a sudden you’re not competing in the same space as everyone else,” Ben says.
Ben believes it’s a powerful tool to use. He points out they recently had a successful businessman in his 40s opening up to a 23-year-old planner and his only concern at the end of the conversation was, who was going to look after his account when she went on maternity leave.
“If the adviser can prioritise, come up with a solution and produce the outcome the client wants, they will want to pay you for it, and they will love you for it,” Ben Lancaster says.
Asking the simple questions, ‘why is this so important to you?’, and ‘what’s stopping you?’ really cements the relationship with a client, from whom they receive over 60 per cent of their referrals, Ben says.
Developing such a good relationship with clients has a secondary benefit of eradicating any potential issues with fees or fee increases.
Ben believes the most important thing for a business is not to be afraid to try new things, “what’s the worst that can happen?” he says.
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