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Keep clients close to prosper

Paul Dawson, of Zurich International, urges IFAs to focus on existing clients in rocky markets

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Terms such as ‘trust’, ‘peace of mind’ and  ‘comfort’ express what clients feel they get from a strong and continuous relationship with their adviser. During recent times, those advisers who have maintained regular contact with their clients have been able to demonstrate real value.

Generating revenues is always a top priority for intermediaries; but it’s of even greater significance during tough economic times.

The challenge often stems from deciding how much focus should be on maintaining robust client relationships, compared to searching out new opportunities – particularly where the latter are often seen as the primary way to generate revenues, which for many in the international market is the case.

Reassurance

Existing clients want comfort and reassurance at all times, but even more so when the media is frequently reporting economic and financial ‘turmoil’. This might not point to obvious revenue opportunities for advisers, but it’s important to not forget two of the key reasons why you should remain close to your clients.

The first, and perhaps most obvious reason, is that existing clients still offer revenue opportunities. This might only be the occasional ‘gem’ that comes about through remaining close and having a strong relationship, so that a client knows who to contact should something unexpected happen.

More often additional sales come about because your records remind you of an important time in your client’s life that requires additional advice, for example the birth of a child or moving home.

Securing revenues

The second reason for staying close to your existing clients is less about generating revenue today, but more about securing your existing revenues and allowing you to spend quality time on bringing in new business, rather than spending your time trying to put right what has gone awry.

Volatile fluctuations in investment values often lead to more complaints about the original advice provided and/or savings policies being cancelled – particularly from those clients who have little or no contact with their adviser.

This creates a challenge as spending time reviewing client complaints becomes a cost to a business, while losing existing business can hit trail and renewal commissions.

Scheduling in regular client reviews provides genuine opportunities for additional sales, whether it is new protection or savings plans or topping up existing plans.

Tips for making the most of your existing clients:

Stay in touch

Whether it’s face to face; via the telephone, email or newsletter; or even through a blog on your website, ensure you maintain regular contact. Consider sending cards on special occasions such as birthdays. Make sure you have a contact strategy for existing clients to remind them that you’re still around and provide them with a reason to get in touch with you.

Say thank you

Letting your clients know you appreciate them builds a personal relationship and can help keep them loyal. You may consider ‘thank you’ notes to be obvious, but many sales people fail to do this. Take the time to show your customers that you genuinely appreciate their business: they are likely to remember your thoughtfulness.

Meet them in a non-sales environment

Bringing your clients together or taking them out for lunch creates a stronger relationship than pure adviser/client.

They start to feel part of your business community and can also benefit from meeting like minded people. This can be extremely valuable amongst expatriates and offers the potential for you to  introduce business opportunities to your clients. If you can help your clients grow their businesses, they are more likely to remain loyal to you – and  provide referrals.

Gather feedback

Don’t be afraid to ask your clients what they think of you and your business. You can do this informally during conversations, or consider doing more formal surveys via telephone or email. Asking your existing clients if there are ways you can improve your service to them – and acting on it – is a useful way to develop your business and make them feel valued.

Ensure good news travels

Whether it’s positive feedback from a client or an article that appears in the press about your business, ensure other clients are aware of this. Include press articles and client testimonials in a newsletter, on your website or in a corporate brochure. This will increase your client’s belief in you and give them the confidence to recommend you to others.

Advisers who remain close to clients and keep them up-to-date stand a far greater chance of making additional sales plus avoiding complaints and/or clients cancelling their plans. Where clients remain reminded of the reasons for advice alongside their medium to long-term financial goals, then the value of the initial and ongoing advice is easy for clients to see.

Now, more than ever, investing time and effort to remain close to your clients should be seen as an integral part of your business plans.

Paul Dawson is Head of Advisor Services, Global Life Emerging Markets, Zurich

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