How to meet your prospect’s unspoken expectation

par Jim Ruta | August 17 2012 08:19PM

What do clients really expect of me as their advisor?

It all seems backwards to me. The more we need help, the less help we seem to get. As our needs and expectations grow in today’s world, delivering on them seems to be slumping. Even on basic expectations, performance isn’t what it needs to be. This is surely not just in the financial services business. It’s everywhere.Why are we surprised when we get good service in the marketplace? Shouldn’t good service – even great service – be much more common as competition increases for the consumer dollar? But, we are surprised because good service is becoming a rarity. It’s a shame.

It’s the same in the financial business. As consumers get busier and busier in life, the advice and support of a competent financial advisor is more important than ever.

Consumer needs and expectations are also growing. Some of those needs are unspoken and that’s making it more challenging for everyone. But they are not impossible to predict.

Many advisors haven’t considered what clients really expect from them beyond the obvious work they do. Advisors can give decent service in their business, but if they miss the overall “unspoken” expectation they’ll come up short. That will result in less business, less loyalty and fewer referrals. It’s all bad.

The unspoken expectation clients have today is for you to be their “Overall Guardian of all things Financial”, regardless of what specific discipline you practice. This “overall guardian” role has developed as people became overwhelmed with their own responsibilities and the amount of information available to them. They need a guardian angel.

Service providers of all kinds have the same role expectation. The contractor who remodels my kitchen needs to be the “overall guardian of all things mechanical and structural” so we get to all the important issues. This includes the issues he can handle and the ones he has to subcontract out. He can’t just slough off the responsibility as “not my job”.

Sadly we don’t expect service providers to meet the unspoken expectation. So, when they meet this new higher standard, they really shine. “Value-added” really does come from doing the unexpected. This is the big new expectation clients have of their financial advisor.

How can you be their “Overall Guardian of All Things Financial”? First of all, not by trying to be the “overall doer of all things financial”. That is a proven recipe for mediocrity. No, you can’t be all things for all people.
But, you can inspect all the appropriate financial matters in a client’s portfolio for potential problems. This is part of rearranging a client’s financial portfolio to maximize its value to their family, estate and themselves. By virtue of being in the business, you already know enough to notice potential trouble. Some of it you can fix on your own. Some of it you have to refer. But you have to point it out. Either way, you provide an important and memorable service to your clients.

Overall Guardians need a team of associates that can help them with these other issues. Putting a support team like this together also increases your reputation and brand among your clients and prospects. Meeting this key expectation will ultimately increase your business, retention and referrals.

It doesn’t matter what I do, I just don’t get any referrals. What am I doing wrong?

Are you “referral worthy”? Are you deserving of the risk a client has to take to connect you with someone they know? That’s what it takes to get enthusiastic referrals. You have to be worth the personal reputation risk before they will take the chance. If their reputation risk is greater than the potential referral benefit, you will remain a secret.

Start with yourself. People will enthusiastically refer expertise and experience that’s relevant to their connections. They will refer advisors who make them look smart and influential. Do you qualify on these counts?

Acknowledged expertise: Are you a topic authority for your marketplace? Do you have the qualifications and expertise that makes you the go-to person for your clientele? You must have relevant knowledge of your prospects’ areas of concern. When people refer you for answers, they know they will get them.

Ease of doing business: Is it easy to get the right answers from you? Do you communicate clearly and often? Do you return calls promptly? Do you make people feel at ease? Remember, people may forget your name, what you recommended, and the company you’re with but they will never forget how they felt when they were with you. Make them feel good about being with you and they will want to pass that feeling along.

Engagement: If clients fully understand what you do, what will happen in the relationship and why it matters to them, they are more comfortable dealing with you. Written engagement is more than a compliance exercise. It’s a referral requirement. Relationship clarity attracts referrals. Relationship ambiguity repels them. Do you create and maintain clear relationships? They are easier to refer.

Service: Industry icon Lawrence Geller told me recently that the way he gets new business is by servicing the heck out of existing business. Are you known for your amazing service too? Do you make clients look and feel good? Do you communicate with clients before they expect it or need it? Do you anticipate their concerns? Think about this. If you segment your clientele into A, B, and C clients, you are unconsciously discounting your brand (what people think of you) to the majority of your clients and cutting your referability in the market. Could this be you?

Delivery Protocol: Every business is about delivering a product or service. Do you make the delivery of your product or service memorable? Or, it is just the next nondescript step in a long and boring process? When my client Norm Lang delivers his life insurance policies in an office vault, do you think it’s a memorable occasion? You bet! Value added comes from doing the unexpected greatly. Do you have happy surprises for your clients on delivery? That’s referable.

Asking for referrals is a reflection of your confidence in your ability to deliver on your promises. When you know you have these 5 points covered well, you are more confident asking. When you ask and have this sort of business behind you, people are much more likely to refer because they know you’ll make them look like heroes. It’s a powerful motivator.