Anyone who has ever been in business has had the gut-wrenching experience of losing a client. Sometimes we see it coming: the client has expressed some level of dissatisfaction or we simply “felt” it was a poor fit. While devastating, at least we’ve had some warning signs, and we can resolve to do better next time. But the losses that hurt the most are the ones that seem to come out of nowhere. Based on the financial advisors we’ve talked to, it seems that, more often than not, it is their female clients, or the widows in couples they serve, who left them high and dry. These were clients they assumed were perfectly content.
So why do female clients just walk away rather than tell you they’re unhappy? I put this question to a group of female friends over lunch recently. A lively conversation ensued, they all offered examples of doing just that, from putting up with poor haircuts for years before quietly leaving a hairdresser to being reluctant to fire a ho-hum accountant. The consensus was, they didn’t want to be unkind, rude or appear to be judgmental. They opined that they had probably been conditioned in many subtle ways, “to not hurt anyone’s feelings.” Nice girls simply did not complain. They readily admitted to being far more inclined to leave a bad situation, than “confront” the issue. Whatever the reason, this presents a significant challenge for financial advisors.
How do you know your client is at risk of leaving and, more importantly, how can you prevent it? First and foremost, do not assume that the client is happy and pay close attention to the strength of the relationship. In fact, women we interviewed frequently used the word “friend” to describe their relationship with their financial advisor. But those who didn’t, talked about their relationship in very different terms.
Ten tell-tale signs that a client may not be happy:
- They are not engaged in the conversation when you meet.
- They don’t ask questions or add their perspective when you call.
- They don’t thank you for the work you’re doing on their behalf.
- They don’t offer referrals or introductions.
- They haven’t added to their portfolio in more than a year.
- When you speak with the client, you do most of the talking (not the client).
- Usually, you wait for the client to reach out to you rather than you reaching out to them. And, more often than not, they call your assistant.
- You catch yourself getting defensive with them.
- You dread calling them because it always feels like a lot of work.
- You haven’t talked with them in the last six months.
Spend some time reviewing your client base. If more than 4-5 of the above apply to any one client, you may be at risk of losing them. Of course knowing who may be leaving is just a start – knowing how to prevent it is the key to success.
Three action steps to prevent a client from leaving:
Leave your ego at the door and confront the issue!
- While women may not be confrontational, they certainly like to share their opinions. And, if they are encouraged to express their views, they will.
- Schedule a meeting and ask them straight out whether there is a problem and / or how could you make it more interesting for them to engage in the conversation. Ask questions like:
– I’ve noticed you’re not as engaged as you used to be. Is there something wrong?
– What is going on in your life that may be causing you extra stress?
– What could I be doing differently to make our meetings more meaningful for you?
- But here’s the thing – it’s not enough to simply ask the questions, you have to be genuine in caring about her as a person (not just keeping her account). You have to listen, really listen and act on what she is telling you. Anything less and you’d be shooting yourself in the foot. Women have an uncanny ability to know when you are feigning interest in her.
The art of mindful listening and being genuine is a whole other topic – tune in to our next blog.Take away You may be able to spend less time chasing new clients if you take care of existing female clients. Women have more investable assets than ever before and happy female clients will refer you to their friends.