The new statements have arrived in your clients’ mailboxes. The phone has started to ring with the sound of shocked, suspicious or even angry, voices that say:
‘Am I reading this correctly?’
‘I had no idea we were paying you that much.’
‘What exactly am I getting for this money?’
‘That’s almost half my future retirement!’
‘You know what? I think it’s time we try a robo-advisor.’
The banks had to face the music a few months ago, and now it’s your turn. A regional director recently shared with me ‘when fee transparency hit the big banks, we got a flood of calls from people wanting to transfer business to us. It’s been great, but we know that the reverse will happen if we don’t handle this right.’
Trust is the only currency that really matters in our business, and CRM2 is shaking that trust right down to the foundation. This is actually a good thing for the financial industry. A business model based on one party controlling all the information is problematic. You provide a valuable, essential service and the need for that service will survive the shake-up.
But some practices won’t.
In order to be on the winning side of this transition, it’s important to handle these conversations with care. Your firm may have provided some training to help prepare you. You may even have some scripting that you’re comfortable with. But information alone cannot fully prepare you to navigate the emotional fallout of CRM2.
Here are some strategies to consider:
There are two wildcards in each of these upcoming conversations. Your client will at the very least be confused, and could certainly be shocked and angry. They are the first wildcard. The second is you! You’re human. No one likes to face accusations or interrogation, complaints or insults. That, plus the potential loss of business can send our own emotions spiraling out of control.
Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, authors of the highly-referenced book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 write:
‘…the daily challenge of dealing effectively with emotions is critical to the human condition because our brains are hard-wired to give emotions the upper hand… A high level of self-management ensures you aren’t getting in your own way and limiting your success.’
Awareness of how we are feeling when facing a challenging conversation gives us the power to self-manage. To choose how to respond, instead of reacting.
(I recently wrote an article that goes in-depth on Navigating the Emotional Meeting. Check it out for more on this topic.)
Once in conversation, consider the following steps:
Step One: Acknowledge and Diffuse
All you have to do is recall the last angry conversation you had with a spouse or family member to know that emotions must be dealt with before logical explanations are provided.
What pisses you off when you’re upset? Most likely you’ll answer: being ignored, patronized, belittled, criticized, rushed or stonewalled. If we believe in any way that our concerns are not being taken seriously, we can hit the roof. The same, obviously, is true for your client. So, the first step must be to hear them out, and acknowledge with respect and understanding whatever emotions they are feeling. This will diffuse the heat enough to permit rational conversation.
Step Two: Declare Positive Intent
Once your client has calmed down, the very next thing they’ll want to hear from you is that you’re going to give them a clear explanation and that you’re here to help.
Steps one and two together might sound like:
‘…David, absolutely I can see why you’d be confused or shocked by the new statement. There’s no doubt that seeing the numbers laid out in this way can be a surprise. Let’s walk through it together and I’ll answer all of your questions.’
Step Three: Field Questions and Concerns
You’ll notice your client’s emotions spiking and plunging as they take in the implications of the transparent fees. How you manage this process will determine whether you retain most of your clients or not. You have a tremendous opportunity to reestablish yourself as their trusted advisor. Any hint of defensiveness on your part and they’ll bail.
Invite their questions. Encourage them to air out their concerns. Continually reflect back and acknowledge what you hear with warmth and professionalism.
Step Four: Articulate Your Value
You cannot control market performance. Your client must come to understand the value of your advice and planning expertise beyond rate of return.
Remind them of the difficult decisions you’ve helped them to process and what impact those decisions have had on them, their family and their future. Remind them of the security and power of the coverage you’ve helped them to get, and the tangible benefits they provide. Also, remind them that you are only a phone call away, whenever they need advice.
Whenever possible, dollarize the positive impact of investment and tax strategies you helped to set up. ‘…saved you x%’ is okay, but ‘…saved you $43,000 last year’ is far more powerful.
If you’re part of a team, highlight the level of expertise they have available, through you. Connect the dots for them ie. ‘Last year, Nancy found you a great mortgage with ideal terms and we shaved xx points off of your payments. She and the whole team are here to support you.’
Step Five: Share Good News
If, in reviewing their portfolio you have since uncovered further savings, more coverage for the same money, or better potential returns, share that now.
Let them know that you are continually looking out for their well-being and that means that they can keep their energy and attention available for running their business and/or caring for their loved ones.
Step Six: End with a Renewed Commitment to the Relationship, and to Transparency
Having followed the above steps, you will have demonstrated that you have nothing to hide, and never did. That your commitment to their well-being is real and of value. Don’t be afraid to say that out loud!
‘…David, I’m so glad we’ve had this talk and that you know exactly what you’re investing in. Please know that you can ask me anything at any time, and you’ll always get a straight answer. It’s a privilege to serve you and your family and I look forward to supporting you as your needs grow and change over the years.’
The CRM2 conversation is a fork in the road. This is a moment when you can distinguish yourself and create an even deeper bond with your clients. Some tech-savvy clients will take the other road and you can’t do anything about that. Take a deep breath and let them go. But for everyone else, the fate of the relationship really is in your hands. You have the power to not just articulate, but demonstrate what it feels like to work with you.
Most of us long for human connection. To feel that someone’s got our back. To pick up the phone when we have a genuine concern and hear a real person on the other end of the line. That need isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. When you pair human caring, empathy and understanding with your financial expertise, no contest.
CRM2 will come and go and you’ll be stronger for it.
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Kira Callahan is an expert sales conversation coach serving the financial industry. Her private clients typically experience 30% – 100% increase in appointments and business booked. Click here to find out more about Kira.