The following article was published in Forbes Magazine on February 28, 2017, and was written by Joanna Belbey.
Sales, particularly in financial services, has always been an in-person, relationship business. Deals are forged with chit chat, on the golf course, over dinner, over time. However, there is a new generation of clients that is too busy, or just not that interested, to take the time to develop relationships in person. How can the financial services industry use new tools to deliver excellent, and compliant service when time is at a premium? And more pressing, how can financial advisors find new clients in a world where no one picks up the phone?
To find out, I asked Jason R. Hill, President, Client Focused Advisors, a financial planning and financial advisory agency, how he and his team used technology to attract new business and nurture existing clients. Here are his suggestions:
- Make it easy for clients (and your firm) to set up appointments. Use an online appointment setting system to avoid telephone tag. At Hill’s firm, links to schedule an appointment appear on the signatures of all outgoing emails as well as the corporate website.
- Capture and leverage everything you learn about your clients. As a firm that provides holistic financial planning, fact finding and needs analysis, takes anywhere from an hour to two years. In addition to investing criteria, Hill’s firm is interested in personal information as well. “Every time a client comes into our office, we give them our ‘Hobbies and Interests’ survey. We collect information such as their favorite sports teams, if they like to read, or golf. We ask about their hobbies, their university, and favorite charities. It helps us to better understand our clients now and creates a database that can be helpful for the future. Plus it’s an icebreaker for our meetings.”
- Use personal information to build and nurture relationships. ‘Favorite drink’ is one of the database fields in the survey. “When a client comes to our offices, we’ll make sure their favorite drink, such as Sprite, is available for their meeting so they feel special says Hill. The information we collect can also be used to create invitations to events for like-minded clients interested in golf outings or sports teams or certain charities”.
- Automate appointment setting for quarterly reviews to save time, provide more meaningful reviews and stay in compliance. Advisors who charge a fee for their services are required to conduct investment reviews. The manual process of calling clients to set up appointments for these reviews is time consuming, Hill explains. Instead, Hills’s firm has connected the customer relationship management (CRM) system to the online schedule system and uses it to automate appointment setting for quarterly investment reviews. Clients are sent personalized emails each quarter with a link to an online scheduler. “Clients like it because they get direct access to our schedule and can pick a time that works for them. Clients also have the option of skipping a quarterly review if they choose. That’s also logged in the system”. Hill explains that before automation, financial advisors would wind up leaving voice mails most of the time. Or sometimes the client would unexpectedly pick up the phone, but the advisor wouldn’t have all the information available to conduct the review then and there. Instead, the call would be just chit chat and what’s going on in the markets. “With a scheduled appointment, advisors can review the account and prepare all the information they need to make the best use of the client’s time” says Jason. Additionally, by incorporating appointment setting in their CRM, Jason’s firm has a log of all communications pertaining to reviews to show regulators in the event of an audit.
- Create original content for social media. Hill spends 90% of his social media efforts on LinkedIn and the rest on Twitter and Facebook. His firm uses a platform to share pre-approved content from articles from major publications. However, many advisors have low engagement rates as much of the content they are sharing is similar. To counter that, Hill was given the green light to create a blog with original content. The blog is sent to compliance for approval and then redistributed by the team through Facebook and Twitter. “I brought in a writer to create pieces on generic topics I provide. For example, instead of talking about the stock market, or products, one of our themes is ‘Simple Savings’, which has every day ideas for everyone. Also important, when they read our blog, they are on our site rather than third party site. That means that they might click around our website, and fill out a form to request a meeting”.
- Use LinkedIn to prospect. The bigger opportunity on social media for Hill is using LinkedIn to conduct searches to prospect for new clients. “Everyone is missing the boat. With the paid versions on LinkedIn, you can search by company, company size, title, years of experience and more.” Individual profiles then show you whether people are a qualified lead. Hill suggests sending simple, personalized invitations to people connected to your clients. “I always make it personal”, says Hill and sends note such as ‘I noticed that we have some common connections on LinkedIn, and I thought it may be beneficial to connect’. You’d be surprised at how many people will accept a connection request, especially when you personalize the invitation. Once they accept, instead of trying to recreate the wheel every time, send a simple pre-scripted note to thank them for connecting and offer them help if interested. A month or more later, I’ll follow up with a note like ‘Maybe we might be able to benefit each other from a short conversation. Maybe we can help each other’s businesses.’ And from there — and this is where my online scheduling comes back into play — if they say yes, I’ll send an e-mail saying, ‘Great. Here’s a direct link to my online schedule. Feel free to pick a time that works for you.’ I’ve connected with a lot of people and business owners and have scheduled over 100 phone calls via LinkedIn. Advisors are overlooking the search capabilities on LinkedIn. It’s all there, right at your fingertips.”
- Make a commitment to use LinkedIn consistently. “Learn how to do the advanced searches on LinkedIn and stick with it. Just like you did with cold calling. People spent an hour to three hours cold calling a day when they began. You didn’t get anything from calling for 15 minutes and then shutting your computer off, right? You did it every day, week in and week out. The same with LinkedIn. Commit to spending time to prospect every day and people will say yes to meetings”. All without cold calling.