By adding financial advice to their service offering, accountants have the potential to tap into a whole new client base. But to build rewarding advice relationships, it’s critical to engage clients in the advice process right from the start. Here’s how you can.
For new advice clients, going to see someone about their finances for the first time can be a daunting experience. Some may be wary about sharing their financial history, some may be nervous about their financial situation, and others simply don’t have a good grasp on what financial advice involves.
“Until clients really engage with the advice process, they won’t realise the enormous value it can create for them,” says business coach Philip Volk from Horizons Wealth, who currently coaches advisers from over 20 Count practices.
“But there are many ways you can improve client engagement right from the start and build richer relationships over the long term.”
1. Get a head start
The more you know about a prospective client before the first meeting, the more rewarding the meeting will be.
“Call the client before the meeting so you can start getting get to know them,” Volk says. “By opening the conversation about why they’re seeking advice, you’ll be able to use the meeting time more effectively.”
Use that initial phone call to get some insight into the client’s situation and goals. It’s also worth asking them to do some homework before you meet, such as an online financial assessment.
2. Be welcoming
To ensure a great client experience, it’s vital to make the client feel welcome and expected even before they get to your office.
“For many clients, seeing someone about their finances for the first time can be more stressful than visiting the dentist, so you want them to feel as comfortable as possible,” Volk says. “Do simple things to let them know they matter to you, like suggesting a good spot for them to park when they arrive... or perhaps even providing them with a parking spot with their name on it!”
When a new client gets your office, make sure you or a colleague are ready to greet them warmly and offer refreshments. And of course, don’t keep them waiting.
3. Make it about them
“The first meeting should be all about the client, not you,” Volk stresses. “It’s a chance to find out what’s really important to them in life.”
Let the client lead the conversation by asking open-ended questions about their values, needs and goals. If it’s a client couple, direct different questions to each partner to make sure one partner doesn’t dominate over the other.
Then, build a picture of their situation to show that you’re on the same page.
“During the conversation, use a spreadsheet to outline the client’s financial circumstances onscreen,” Volk says. “This shows that you understand their situation, and its sets the context for your advice.”
4. Show value
Make sure the client understands how their situation will change if they follow your advice, compared to if they continue on how they are. Frame the conversation around their needs and goals, rather than just the financial outcome.
“If the client is worried about running out of money by the time they’re 80, explain what they can change now so they’ll be able to live comfortably until they’re 100,” Volk says. “By showing them different options — like working more, taking on a bit more risk, or selling their holiday house and reinvesting the proceeds — they’ll be able to decide which strategy best suits their lifestyle.”
If the client clearly understands how your advice will benefit them, they’ll be more likely to take the next step.
5. Keep at it
Rewarding client relationships aren’t a case of set and forget — if you want to ensure loyalty, you have to work on it over the long term. That means communicating with them regularly, and keeping an eye on their financial strategy to make sure it stays on track.
Volk says: “Make sure you always have open and honest conversations with your clients, keep your promises and wherever possible, exceed their expectations. The more engaged your clients are, the more likely they’ll be to refer others.”