Communication in a Crisis: A Great Way to Add Clients

I’ve written articles for FPA on a variety of topics, but each expressed a common sentiment: the importance of client communication. From working with hundreds of financial planners, I know just how critical it is and how much it means to clients. 

One-Third of Planners Dropped the Ball

Although the phrase “unprecedented times” has been used so much it has almost lost its meaning, we can probably agree its use is merited in 2020. Let’s review the challenges of this year’s tumultuous spring:

  • The Dow dropped more than 2,000 points in a single day. Two days later, it fell more than 2,000 points again.
  • One week later, it plunged almost 3,000 points in a day, the biggest one-day plummet in history.
  • The markets declined almost 14 percent in March, ending the quarter down 23 percent.
  • COVID-19 hit hard in many states, with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer suddenly in short supply, along with toilet paper, paper towels and bleach.
  • As people worried about their health and families, colleges sent students home and schools across the country moved to online learning.
  • Many companies moved all employees to working remotely, and entire industries closed down completely for a while.

There are more lowlights, of course, but you already know that—you lived through it. Given everything that’s happened, I was shocked to read a recent Financial Advisor Magazine article on a J.D. Power research study that found nearly one-third of clients never heard from their financial planner during this time. It’s stunning that so many failed to make sure their clients knew they were looking out for their best interests and would keep them updated. On the flip side, two-thirds of financial planners got it right—and likely benefited from that.

Outreach Is Imperative When Times Are Tough

I recently hosted a webinar with three planners, each of whom gained clients during the coronavirus pandemic. Although there were differences in terms of how they attracted prospects and new clients, they all shared one theme: communication. When COVID-19 and market gyrations were unfolding, these planners made sure their first move was to reach out to their clients, and right away. Their second and third priorities? Communicate even more. It’s clear that their outreach efforts—what they said, how they said it and when they said it—mattered greatly to their clients.

One panelist relayed an anecdote about a prospect she’d been talking with. The prospect was added to the recipient list of emails and updates sent out by the planner. Toward the end of April, the prospect called and said she was ready to transfer her accounts away from her current planner to my panelist, a direct result of receiving the information and reassurance she needed—and hadn’t received from her current planner.

When the going gets tough, planners who reach out to clients and prospects proactively are planting the seeds for future growth. Potential clients will want to work with you. They’ll look around, talk to friends or coworkers and realize they had a right to expect an update, however small, from their financial planner. They’ll decide they want a better planner—and that could be you.

Conversation Starters for Prospects

Here are a few conversation starters you might find helpful to try with prospects:

  • “These past few months have been extremely difficult. Did you hear from your planner?”
  • “Part of my job is to make sure my clients know what’s going on in the market and are prepared. Were you happy with the communication you received from your current planner?”
  • “How were your fears and concerns addressed with your current planner this spring? Did you get to ask all of the questions you had?”
  • “I pride myself on being there for my clients in all markets, but especially in difficult ones. That’s when it matters most. Was your financial planner there when you needed him or her?”

These might be some of the easiest opportunities to add clients you’ll ever have. Go after them! By being proactive and communicating, you’ve earned the chance for takeaways.

Kristine McManus, CRPC®, is the chief business development officer at Commonwealth Financial Network.