|Distinctive client service separates you from everyone else who talks about professionalism but doesn’t deliver on it. Take action with these 10 tips from a recognized, distinctive financial professional.
Every financial advisor talks about client service. You may state that client service is one of your top priorities. You may even have a poster on your wall or mission statement that emphasizes how much you value client service.
I say, “So what?”
Clients don’t care about posters or mission statements. Your clients and prospects want to know what makes you distinctive. So be distinctive!
For example, one of my coaching clients, Mary, is very successful. In fact, she was just recognized by her clients for the excellent service she provides. Though it seems to come naturally to her, Mary was asked to prepare some comments on how she creates amazing client service for a panel presentation in Hilton Head, S.C. Hundreds of financial professionals aspiring to her level of success listened for nuggets that they could apply to their businesses to gain an edge over their competitors.
Here’s the list Mary presented at the meeting. Perhaps her tips—and my commentary on them—can help you develop a new level of distinction in your client service.
- Create a professional environment. Start by taking an objective look at your work environment. Over 90% of effective communication is nonverbal.
- Listen to the unspoken message. What is your environment saying to others? There are experts in office design and feng shui. Most of those experts provide a free consultation.
- Let surroundings reflect your values. You need to create the environment that reflects your values. If you want a yellow room with sofas and cold drinks that promotes small talk and building relationships, invest in that room. If you want leather wingback chairs and a flat-screen television showing MSNBC that promotes quick decision making, invest in that room. Physical spaces make a tremendous impact on people.
- Maintain a professional appearance. Financial professionals need to perpetuate a professional image. That is a given. I want to push you beyond business suits and well-groomed hair. Those are minimal standards of appearance.
- Go the extra mile. Meeting distinctive standards of appearance may include investing in some cosmetic improvements, like having your teeth polished, getting laser eye surgery, or even having cosmetic surgery. Do whatever it takes to look your absolute best.
- Get strong. If you convey robust strength through your physical presence, you will gain trust. Yes, it’s true: people buy more from those who are more physically attractive.
- Be healthy and robust. Improve your physical appearance by eating well, sleeping well, and exercising regularly. If you’re lucky, your parents or grandparents taught you what to do. If not, invest in a personal trainer or wellness center. Read any bestseller by Dr. Andrew Weil. Our bodies are organisms in natural decay. What can you do to improve your physical health and appearance?
- Demonstrate professional behavior. All effective businesspeople have the basics of the professional demeanor down. They know how to:
- Lean forward
- Use good eye contact
- Take selective notes
If you lack those skills, hire a business coach or accountability partner. You can learn from them.
To become distinctive, you may need to practice additional behaviors. The most important behavior is to become comfortable with silence.
What do I mean by that? You need to shut up and listen! God gave us two ears and one mouth to use in at least that proportion. Practice being Quakerly. I worked in Quaker environments for nine years. It took me that long to become comfortable with silence. One of my coaching clients, who speaks too often, recently went to a Quaker meeting as a homework assignment. You might want to try the experience, too. There is something magical about shared silence. It can build relationships and lead to sales.
For instance, in your business, just after you state your fees for services, you need to become silent. Just after you state your recommendation for that fund, you need to become silent. Why? Because the next person to speak becomes the buyer! If you fill the silence with awkward comments, or a feature or benefit dump, you will lose the sale. As soon as you become comfortable with silence, the prospect will speak and invest. I call this a Quaker close.
Here are some more familiar client service tips:
- Make sure that you return all calls within the day
- Be early for meetings
- Deliver more than what you promise
- Gain knowledge: Read, read, read! Because you are reading this article, I know that you want to learn. There is plenty of great reading material on Horsesmouth. If you spend time staring at a television screen, you could be spending better time staring at a laptop screen. If you are working within a company like Mary, it can provide a list of great books on investing and product knowledge.
- Set a reading goal. Mary reads two books a month on average and keeps three open at a time.
- Be an active reader. She takes notes and writes book reviews and sends them to her clients. Reading should be interactive, not passive!
- Go public with your opinions. Add your review to Amazon or any online bookstore. Include your contact information so that people know how distinctive you are.
- Share your faves. Buy dozens of your favorite inspirational books and give them to your clients.
- Gain knowledge by interacting with others. One reason for seminars and conferences is to force people to interact. In fact, your most valuable seminar time may be those transition moments in lobbies, elevators, and meals. Engage others as if they were prospects, by asking about their business success. A great opener may be, “I am focused on making my client service distinctive. What do you do that is distinctive?”
People buy chutzpah. We all have chutzpah. When you share chutzpah, people will be attracted to you. For instance, Mary is an introvert, and practicing chutzpah is difficult for her. She makes calls from a private place. She closes her office door, and her assistant does not interrupt her. Sometimes she sits under her table because, she says, “It feels safe there.” When she engages someone on the phone, she stands up and walks around her office. At other times she hangs from a pull-up bar in her office, using her headset, because it gives her energy over the phone. You can become that person with the light in their eyes who is actively listening to someone.
- Share your knowledge. Mary used to follow the old advice “Fake it till you make it.” Now when she encounters a question she’s not sure about, she says, “I don’t know the answer to that question, but I will get back to you ASAP.” Then she finds the expert who can answer the question, thus expanding her own expertise and encouraging her clients’ trust.
- Treat others as if they were family. If you have older clients or prospects, take care of them as if they were your parents. If you have clients or prospects who are younger than you, look out for them as if they were your children or cousins. Respect trumps all obstacles.
- State your investment recommendation clearly. Mary used to provide multiple choices, background information on fund managers, and hypothetical spreadsheets. No more. People became confused. They hesitated. Now, Mary directs people to the fund that best suits their needs, and explains, “This is the best fund for you because…”
- Write articles for local readers. In Mary’s town, everyone reads the local paper, and she submits articles to it regularly. She uses articles straight from compliance and includes her headshot to be published alongside the piece. These informative articles always lead to warm prospects who say, “I’ve seen you somewhere before.”
10. Host birthday lunches. Among her many marketing tactics, Mary hosts bimonthly birthday lunches at a nice restaurant. Clients need to RSVP and are invited to bring guests who must also RSVP. Her clients love the attention. Not only do these events build the ties that bind, but they also generate both referrals and review meetings. For Mary, these pleasant get-togethers are fun—and productive.
The bottom line? You can become distinctive by really examining how you serve others, writing down your service values, and acting on them. Mary has a list of her top five values on a dry-erase board in her office. She looks at it several times each day. It’s more than a reminder; it’s an affirmation. She tells all her clients and prospects, “Nobody provides better service than me,” and then she lives up to that claim daily. She cultivates relationships with accountants and attorneys. You can too. Do it with chutzpah!