Tag Archives: julie littlechild

5 Ways to Enhance Client Engagement

As an industry, we love to focus on “best practices.” We examine the strategies and tactics of the most successful advisers and ask how we can replicate those in our own businesses.

  • The upside? Best practices focus us on what’s working today.
  • The downside? Best practices don’t focus us on how things might be changing in future.

It’s fair to say that our collective goal isn’t just to keep pace, but to stay ahead of the curve.

And if that’s the case, don’t we need to focus squarely on the trends that will shape our future? Instead of thinking about best practices, don’t we need to: think outside the proverbial box, look at how other industries are innovating and ask how that might affect the future of our own industry?

In fairness, we do a good job of this when it comes to things like technology, perhaps because we expect it to play a disruptive force. But what if other aspects of our business – like the way we engage with clients – is also being disrupted? Don’t we owe it to ourselves to consider the future and ask how it will impact the core of what we do?

See also: Should You Recommend Castlight to Your Clients?  

The Big Five

To understand how client engagement is being disrupted we draw on our own on-going investor and advisor research. As (or more) importantly we look outside the industry at case studies of (and research into) innovation in client engagement. We’ve identified the five ways in which client engagement is changing and in ways that will impact you, your clients and your business in future.

1. Client satisfaction is no longer enough.

I’ve shared research more than once that highlights the low bar you set if client satisfaction and loyalty are your only goals. The reality is that clients are both satisfied and loyal. Achieving either (or both) makes you just as good as everyone else. In the future, we’ll need to find new metrics to measure success.

If that’s the case, how do we measure success?

2. Client engagement is the new client satisfaction.

When we create a deeper and more enduring relationship with clients we create a meaningful bond. While great service can drive satisfaction, driving deeper engagement means playing a qualitatively different role in the lives of your clients. Engaged clients see their advisor as providing leadership in areas that extend beyond investments. In the future we’ll need to find ways to proactively demonstrate leadership in the lives of our best clients to add value.

If that’s the case, how do we create true value?

3. Value will not be provided, but co-created.

While we often focus on the traits of effective leaders, leadership is really a two-way street. In the past value was firm-centric – you decided what you were offering and hoped it sold. It has since morphed to become client-centric, with clients influencing what is offered. We believe that, in the future, the client experience will be actively co-created between advisor and client. In the future, your clients will play a bigger role in defining the experience.

If that’s the case, how do we co-create value when the needs of clients differ?

4. Cater to the needs of everyone and you cater to the needs of no one.

In order to fully connect with clients, we need to focus our attention on a more defined target. We cannot be all things to all people so your client experience will need to reflect the unique needs of your ideal clients. In the future, advisors will need to build a client experience around a more narrowly defined target or offer.

If that’s the case, how can we operate efficiently?

5. ‘Predictable’ and ‘consistent’ are so last year.

In an effort to deliver a great client experience the industry moved toward the notion that we need to standardize processes to provide a strong and repeatable offer. While it’s clear that we cannot re-invent the wheel for every client, personalization and connection are the watchwords for the future. Our challenge is to determine how we can create a personalized experience efficiently, drawing on what we know about what is important to our clients and using technology effectively.

See also: The New Paradigm of Connected Insurance  

If that’s the case, how do we take action?

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? We have some thoughts on that.  I’d like to invite you to join us on May 25th, if you haven’t already registered. We’re going to run a webinar that will put these five ‘imperatives’ in context and focus on what we can do to take action.

Join the webinar

In fact, helping you craft a plan for the future of client engagement is so important to us we’ve formalized a new suite of programs to help you take action. It’s called The Client Engagement Suite and you’ll hear more about it very soon.

Thanks for stopping by,
Julie

Easy Ways to Start Mentoring Program

If there is one aspect of business building that has confounded even the smartest of entrepreneurs, it’s developing the team. The reality is that we simply don’t have the skills to develop their skills, and that can have a long-term and negative impact on the business.

Where Are You Today?

In 2015, we conducted research for the FPA’s Research and Practice Institute and Financial Advisor IQ that focused on team compensation and benefits. As part of that study, we examined team development, and I was impressed to see that almost all respondents support their team members’ personal and professional development, through training, financial support or continuing performance reviews.

At the same time, I noticed that most development initiatives were informal. Although 60% of respondents administer formal performance reviews, development activities such as new-employee training are overwhelmingly informal. The same is true for mentoring.

Have Your Considered Mentoring?

Mentoring is one development option that is generally considered very effective. Like all such development tools, of course, it’s only effective if it’s done well. Remember that mentoring can mean you being a mentor to the team, someone else on your team being a mentor to others or simply helping your team find outside mentors. It isn’t just an option for large businesses.

The reality is that mentoring doesn’t have to be a “time-suck” for you personally, despite its reputation for being exactly that. Today, I want to help you think about taking the first step to understanding where your team needs help and the role that mentoring might play in helping them maximize their potential.

See also: The Keys to Forming Effective Teams  

What Are Your Gaps?

An obvious first step is to figure out what gaps mentoring (or any development activity for that matter) is going to bridge. A performance review process is clearly an important first step. You may opt for a formal tool (such as DiSCPredictive Index or any of a range of tools) or you may opt for a good old-fashioned conversation with a team member.

Whichever approach you take, consider the following in evaluating your team members, ensuring that you cover three potential types of objectives.

1. Performance Objectives

  • Success in meeting specific, measurable objectives based on role
  • Joint accountability: the ability to work well with and support the entire team
  • Attention to detail within sphere of role
  • Timeliness in completing work
  • Initiative: goes above and beyond defined role

2. Competency/Development Objectives

  • Customer service skills
  • Sales
  • Time management
  • Public speaking
  • Business writing
  • Leadership
  • Software skills
  • Graphic design
  • Financial planning

3. Personal Development Objectives

  • Personal improvement goals that the team member sees as important to moving career forward, for example:
  • Professional designations
  • Training courses
  • Advanced Business Training

You might also consider skills assessment tools, which differ substantially from performance review tools.  These tools can be helpful when you are thinking more about getting the right people in the right roles – or who to hire in the first place.

Consider the following:

Kolbe. The Kolbe A Index is designed to measure the conative faculty of the mind — the actions you take that result from your natural instincts. The index validates an individual’s natural talents, the instinctive method of operation (M.O.) that enables you to be productive.

VIA Strengths Test. VIA has identified 24 character strengths that are universal across all aspects of life: work, school, family, friends and community. Whereas most personality assessments focus on negative and neutral traits, the VIA Survey focuses on what is best in you and is at the center of the science of well-being.

Strengths Finder. Based on research from Gallup, you access this assessment by purchasing the book. It’s designed to help uncover your talents and incorporates strategies to leverage the strengths you identify.

Mentoring Options

Mentoring is an option (whether delivered formally or informally, internally or externally) that I believe has a strong potential to have significant impact. Of course, it’s not always easy to get moving.

In an interview with Rebecca Pomering for our Spotlight program, we reviewed the three types of mentoring available at Moss Adams. This is a helpful way to think about what you are trying to accomplish and highlights that mentoring can be more or less involved depending on your needs.

At Moss Adams, Rebecca explained that there were three types of mentoring available:

1. The Buddy

A buddy might be assigned for a new employee. That individual may or may not be involved in the actual job training, but is there to help navigate the office and company. The buddy is someone a new employee can ask any question of and not feel judged in any way.

2. The Mentor

A mentor is more traditionally defined as supporting the team member either on a specific topic or skill or on a longer-term basis. Employees may be asked to identify a mentor or go to management if they are looking for support on a specific issue. On some teams, mentors are assigned, but the jury is out as to whether relationships that are not explicitly chosen are as effective.

3. The Sponsor

A sponsor’s objective is to actively support and promote the individual in career advancement and development. Sponsors are typically individuals who have the political and organizational connections to make that sponsorship effective. Sponsors may or may not be mentors and vice versa.

See also: How to Pick Your Insight Team  

Talk to Your Team (First)

If you’re considering implementing a mentoring program, ensure you start with clear direction from the team on what will work and what won’t. Below are a series of questions that could form the basis of a survey or a conversation:

  • Have you had experience with any form of mentoring? If yes, what form did it take, and how would you describe the impact?
  • Do you think it would be valuable for us to consider implementing a mentoring program, which we’ll jointly define?
  • How do you think a mentor could help you?
  • How would you describe your ideal mentor? What skills, experience or personality traits would he/she have?
  • Specifically, what kinds of issues would you hope to address with a mentor?
  • Would you prefer to be assigned a mentor or to have support/guidance in finding someone yourself?
  • How would you describe the outcomes of a successful mentoring program for you? What would have to happen for you to describe the process as successful?
  • Is there anything that you feel definitely wouldn’t work when it comes to implementing a mentoring system?

Talk to Yourself (Not Literally)

You’ll also want to get clear on your own goals and objectives for providing or facilitating mentoring. To that end, consider the following questions if you are thinking about finding your own mentor. Or, if it’s for your team, ensure both the mentor and mentee clarify exactly what they’re hoping to accomplish and how they know if they’ll be successful.

  • Exactly what are you trying to solve for? Are you looking to develop a specific skill, gain general insights into a specific topic or have someone you can go to for continuing advice?
  • How long do you anticipate the mentoring relationship to last?
  • How often will you meet, where and for what length of time?
  • How will you both prepare for those meetings?
  • How do you define success?

Personally, I consider team development one of the most challenging aspects of running a business. We surround ourselves with these incredibly talented people, and it’s easy to feel like you are letting them down. Ultimately, development is about prioritizing and booking the time to do something, even if that something isn’t perfect.

Thank for stopping by,

Julie

Turning Referrals Into Introductions

We tie ourselves into knots trying to understand why more of our clients, who clearly love us so much, don’t tell their friends and families about us.

I’ve written, at length, about why clients don’t refer and why they do, and I believe that understanding the answers to both questions is critically important. What I haven’t specifically addressed is how they refer. And how clients refer is almost as important as if they refer.

We know, from our investor research, that very few referrals are actually introductions.

If you think about it, two things need to be in place for a referral to result in an actual meeting.  First, your client has to make a compelling case for the value you deliver. Then, the prospect needs to be so motivated to talk to you, he or she will track you down and set up a meeting. I’ll go with “unlikely” on that one.

The answer to the problem, of course, is that we need to find a way to encourage our clients to make direct introductions.  But how?

At the risk of over-simplifying the solution, I’m going to over-simplify the solution:

Ask clients about how they referred, and they will likely tell you. Then use that information to encourage more clients to refer (or introduce) successfully.

See also: Two Checklists for Getting Referrals  

So how do you go about it? Consider this:

Identify five clients who have provided referrals over the last year and invite them to lunch or ask for 10 minutes of their time at the end of a review. They referred you to someone they care about (the world’s greatest indication of trust) so there’s a good chance they like you and will say “yes.”

Let the client know that you’re trying to understand more about how clients refer and that you would value their input. Try this on for size:

I was really honored that you referred me to <insert name of client>. It means a great deal. I wondered if I could ask you a bit about that?

From there, dig in on the circumstances:

  • Did <he or she> ask you for an introduction to an adviser?
  • Was there something about his/her circumstances that made you think we could help?

Probe on the circumstances, how your client’s friend raised the issue and why the client thought you could help. Had they experienced the work you do in that area, read about it on your site or learned about it through stories you shared?

Then dig in on the process. Try this as a starting point:

It’s interesting, but we hear that clients refer all the time, but we don’t often meet those clients. Can I ask how did you make that referral?

Probe on whether your client shared contact details, sent the friend to your website or perhaps passed on information or articles you had written. Dig into whether there is anything you could do to make it easier.

The way the client responds to the first questions will help you understand:

  • What topics are clients discussing when they think of you (e.g., was it related to investments, to life or to retirement?)
  • Did your client refer you prior to being asked for a referral, or did he/she wait for a clear indication that a referral was being invited?
  • How do your clients perceive the problems that you can solve?

That information will help you craft stories that will help your clients spot a need for advice.

See also: Restoring the Agent-Client Relationship

The way the client responds to the second question will help you understand the specific ways in which they refer, and if and how that translates into introductions. It will also help you understand if there is anything you could do to facilitate more referrals or make introductions easier or more comfortable.

A Bonus

And you may just find that by asking the client to help you understand referrals, it reminds them that you are open for business. Not a bad result.

Thanks for stopping by,
Julie

Don’t Forget Your Best Strategic Weapon

There’s a lot in print and on the web about the concept of “engagement” and how it applies in the insurance and financial services sales process. We all know what engagement means at an everyday level as we work to connect with people in various ways or describe how someone is engaged or even engaging. It’s exciting when we hear of a couple becoming “engaged.”

In business, the word “engagement” has many applications, ranging from simply having an agreed upon appointment time (an engagement)… to reaching a deal, resulting in buying or contracting for some service.

When it comes to sales, client or prospect “engagement” needs to be understood much, much more. Engagement is a strategic asset or weapon when a professional intentionally and regularly stays in touch with their clients and centers of influence or trusted partners by connecting personally and relationally. Being highly engaged means the professional is staying focused with all these people in the continuing delivery of value, investing time, staying in touch every two to three weeks and building a deeper personal relationship with each person based on their individual interests and needs.

This type of strategic investment always builds trust, keeps the pathways open for serving added needs and finding new opportunities and always gains new prospect referrals and introductions.

See also: How Advocates Can Reengage Workers  

Research about engagement in the financial services industry brings some startling information to the table. The work by Julie Littlechild of Absolute Engagement of Toronto shows that clients who have a “satisfied” relationship with their provider have an overall loyalty rating of 99%, yet only 20% have actually provided a referral to their financial adviser. So they’re satisfied and are likely going to stay as clients, but only one in five has actually referred a new opportunity to their provider.

However, when the survey polled clients who felt their provider was very engaged, the results shift dramatically. These clients had a 100% loyalty rating, and 98% of these had actually already provided referrals to their advisers during the past year.

So, do the math: Highly engaged relationships provide more times more referrals than those where there’s less or little engagement. Now imagine you had all of your clients and trusted professional connectors feeling that you were in a real, connected relationship with them. What could that potentially yield to you in the way of new sales opportunities, month in and month out?

The national sales leader of one of the largest and most recognized Insurance companies in the world told me that “our competition really comes from inside… it’s the inertia inside of my firm…,” meaning producers keep doing the same things that they’ve always done and then get the same lukewarm results. All of that can be changed with added emphasis on training his teams on the importance and specific ways to create better engagement with clients and centers of influence

Today, insurance leaders are universally concerned about technology disruption… you know, the threats coming from startups like Lemonade right now, and Zenefits before. I know that any professional worth his suit can readily withstand these competitors by focusing on using his No. 1 asset: the ability to build highly engaged relationships with clients and other professionals that will increase loyalty and generate a multitude of new referred client opportunities.

As a producer, your best asset is your ability to strengthen each and every relationship in your network on a person-to-person basis to where trust is the glue and your personal connection provides the ties that bind. I’ll guarantee that no newcomer or technology can easily replicate what you’re building when you reach out and make a personal contact with the people in your networks every two to three weeks. That provides the inoculation against disruptors — essential if you’re serious about protecting and growing your business.

See also: MyPath: Engage the Next Generation  

Imagine how 30 to 35 of these important people would feel if you had a routine that showed them how important you believe they are. Imagine how they would feel if every two weeks or so you were to make an unexpected visit, send an email with something they are caring about, make a quick, unplanned phone call or write a short personal note of appreciation with no other purpose in mind but to make them know that you are thinking about them and that they are valued and important.

To build these engaged relationships, you first must develop a mindset of being a “giver.” To make it happen consistently, use tools to keep you scheduled and on track and systematically ensure that you’re staying engaged and in touch to provide meaning and value and create close connections. Then, as Robert Cialdini states in his noted book “Influence,” as you give meaningfully to people, they will have a desire to reciprocate, and if you teach them how to give back… with referrals and introductions, they will! Become one of the few getting excellent ratings for engagement in your industry, and you’ll reach every goal you have.

Someone once said, “Your network is the key to your net worth.” That statement has never been more appropriate than it is right now!

And I’ll add that engagement is the key to building your network!