It's vacation time but this opportunity to keep clients and win prospects won't last

August 8, 2011 — 12:48 AM UTC by Mike Byrnes, Guest Columnist


Brooke’s Note: Mike contacted me late Friday and asked if he could write a column that could run on Monday. There was a sense of urgency in his voice. A light bulb almost immediately went off in my mind. These are crisis times and staying cool is what advisors need to do to keep clients from panicking. But this is no time for nonchalance. This little article could be just the talking-to that many of us need.

Is it déjà vu all over again?

Yogi Berra’s famous yogi-ism is a very appropriate description of what investors are feeling these days. Last week’s market downturn combined with the Standard and Poor’s downgrade of the United States’ credit rating are enough to send some clients into panic mode, especially as the nightmares of 2008’s financial crisis are not at all forgotten.

It seems that the debt crisis, and Washington’s slow process to create a solution, gave vast numbers of clients across the country to an uneasy feeling. As a result, most advisors have been busy reacting to client calls. This week will be an even busier week for advisors, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Client retention lesson

If the market turmoil of 2008 showed us anything, it was how strong and frequent communication separates successful advisors from unsuccessful advisors. Those that were proactive reaching out to clients retained most of their business. Those that hid their heads in the sand lost clients.

This lack of confidence of what the market is going to do causes many advisors to retreat until the market works itself out. That makes some sense, as nobody owns a crystal ball, but in reality it is probably the worst thing one can do. Clients are paying advisors to assist them with their financial decisions. If advisors are not there when clients need them the most, they are likely not going to be managing those accounts for much longer.

There is no doubt that this is a client relationship driven business. Research shows that it is not performance or fees that drive most loyal clients, it is a trusting relationship that is developed from continual interactions.

If there is a double dip, it is likely that clients will not blame their advisors for the movements of the market, unless they feel like the hired resource was asleep at the wheel.

Bad news is a selling opportunity

Once advisors have had a chance to contact each client, they might feel exhausted and want to just go home, but they need to dig deep and put in a stronger effort. Advisors should focus on their prospects during this time, more than any other. That is because during turmoil and confusion, prospects are often open to a second opinion.

It is at moments like these that clients are questioning their existing relationships. If a new advisor contacts an individual before an existing advisor does, that business might change hands. Plus, individuals that think they can do it themselves are most open to using outside resources in times like these.

There are certain triggers when individuals make a decision to use an advisor. Most of these are life-milestone related. For example, a married couple just had a baby, an individual retires, a spouse loses a loved one, etc. The problem is that it can be hard to know when prospects are hitting these milestones. Sudden market downturns are in a different category of triggers; unlike life milestone triggers, advisors know when market corrections are taking place, for all target markets, all at the same time.

Do not let this opportunity slip away

If growth has been a business objective, recent news and events dictate it is time to work overtime. Advisors are often their own bosses, especially RIAs, so it is really up to them to seize this opportunity, probably when many are planning on going on summer vacations.

Here are four tactics to consider using now:

1. Pick up the phone. It seems obvious to contact clients, but because not all advisors follow through on this, it is listed as the most important activity. Make individual calls out to all clients and solidify a strong relationship that will last for years. If calls come in, do not let them go to voicemail. Make them a top priority. If clients take it upon themselves to reach out, there is a heightened concern there that needs to be addressed.

2. Send out e-mails. Whether it be an email that is copied and pasted over and over or an e-newsletter that gets blasted to all clients, send out what is known when it is known. RIAs have an advantage here, as they seem to be able to jump through compliance hoops faster. Use a service like Constant Contact and track who opens the emails. There is usually a correlation in the level of overall client panic and email open rates.

3. Hold group meetings. This is an efficient way to communicate to multiple individuals at once, which does not replace all personalized interactions, but likely makes communications of some topics much more efficient. For example, a one hour conversation needed with 150 clients will take 150 hours. One group meeting, including the invites and set up, might only take 5 hours. The meetings can be in person, on a teleconference or via a webinar.

4. Get exposure. Now is a great time to talk with reporters and get interviewed. Media coverage in a time of uncertainty helps increase your credibility and strengthen relationships with clients. Maximize communications using social media outlets like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.

For all these tactics, include prospects too. Even ask clients to share names of others you can help (aka: get referrals.) All these activities are great opportunities for prospects to see an advisor in action. If the advisor is on the ball, right when there is a major need, it is likely that lead will be converted.

Remember, the glass is half full and now is a great opportunity to bring in new clients.

Mike Byrnes founded Byrnes Consulting in Boston to help advisors become even more successful. His expertise is in business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness, along with several other areas. Read more at

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