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Adviser toolkit: Building a long-term client relationship

In recent columns I have discussed how to plan and structure the all-important first and second client meetings, and it will soon be time to think about the advice process beyond them.

But before we leave those first and second meetings to think about the rest of the advice process, it’s important to consider where you are heading with your client relationship.

You have delivered the financial plan and helped the clients understand how much money they have and what resources they must devote to meeting their future financial goals.

You have recommended which plans should stay in place or be cancelled and recommended new investments to complement their existing portfolio.

But we don’t want things to grind to a halt at the end of this meeting. We want to build a long-term relationship with our client and, more importantly, with the people they know who are like them who can also benefit from our professional advice.

There are three key objectives for the second meeting:

1.Implementation: Whether your clients implement through your firm and you deal with the paperwork, or whether they implement elsewhere, you need to make sure they actually take the action that you have recommended.

If a lot of work is necessary, be prepared to break this stage up into smaller and more manageable chunks. If necessary help your client prioritise and suggest that you can contact them regularly to make sure each step has been completed. It is more time-consuming, but they will thank you for making sure it gets done.

2.Review Service: How you actually structure your review service will be covered at a later date, but at this stage all we need to note is the importance of encouraging your clients to buy into the review process. If we are still any good at “benefit selling” then now is the time to persuade your client that the ongoing monitoring of their plans and their portfolio is worth every penny.

We know it makes sense, rather like your regular dental check-ups, to keep your financial health ticking over, instead of lurching from one episode to another five years later when so much has changed that you will need to start all over again.

3.Introductions: Continue the client training programme that has been a feature of all of your client contact to date. Remind the client again what is special about your firm and how you work with clients. Refresh your client’s memory about the stages in the advice process and what sort of clients your approach works best with.

Finally, explain to your client that if they meet friends or colleagues with financial concerns, they can now explain how your firm works and why their friend would benefit from your advice.

Now, I was never brave enough to actually ask for referrals and wait while my client suggested names, but I certainly made clear that I expected my client to be so delighted with what I had done that they would talk about me to friends and family, at home, at work, at the club, after school, on Facebook. Each client would become my sales and marketing department.