My best days at work happen when I leave knowing I made a difference with someone, like the client who quietly told me, “you really made me think,” at the end of one meeting. Our sales are important, but conversations like these that build deeper client relationships are what truly drive our success.
Developing these relationships takes time and requires discussions that go below the surface, to what best-selling author John Maxwell calls the “heart level.” Having this level of openness with your clients and yourself is key to reaching a sense of professional fulfillment and meaning.
Go Beyond Money
Securing new business doesn’t mean you know clients as people, and creating a strong relationship requires more work than you might expect. Think about it: in a first meeting with a new client, they tell you they’re 36, married with two kids, they hope to retire by 70 and want to take a family trip to Thailand. They would say those same things to people they meet at a Labor Day BBQ. While you may now have more knowledge of their financial goals, on a personal level you know just as much as someone they’ve met in passing.
To become more than a stranger who knows a lot about their money, schedule regular meetings that give you the opportunity to explore deeper into a different topic each time. Action-oriented meetings form the foundation of our business, but relationship-focused meetings are equally important. Use more casual meetings to explore their dreams and goals, meet their families and just get to know them. As you do this, you’ll learn about their hobbies and interests, which provides you an opportunity to send your client articles, podcasts and event notices relevant to them. Sharing these along with short notes helps clients see that you remember them, and that you’re someone with whom they can talk about more than finances.
Have Two-way Conversations
We often tell stories of professional successes or growth to explain recommendations or provide comfort. But if we expect clients to share personal stories with us, we must reciprocate. A willingness to go first in sharing personal topics can help your clients trust you, as this demonstrates your trust in them. On top of the fulfillment you’ll feel from the connection, it will give you more credibility when you discuss strategies that can help improve their financial security.
To open up on a personal level, we must know the experiences, interests and people that matter most to us. The awkward icebreakers we’ve experienced can make sharing these things seem trivial, but they’re very consequential parts of ourselves and are often foundational to closer bonds with personal and professional contacts. Though this does require us to actually make time for our own interests. Advisors who struggle with, or discount, work-life balance should investigate tools like MDRT’s Whole Person concept, which can help keep you engaged with your loved ones, your health, spirituality and service.
We make sales when we successfully connect with people in the moment, but we must make sure those connections aren’t just transactions in our workdays. Put continuous effort into your relationships with clients, and you will set yourself up for greater professional success and fulfillment.
John F. Nichols, MSM, CLU is a nationally recognized disability benefits consultant, the creator of disability products and administration systems and an expert witness in disability proceedings. He serves as president of Disability Resource Group, Inc., a national insurance agency that he founded in 1999. John also served as the 124th president of NAIFA in 2013-2014. He is a lifetime and qualifying MDRT member with two Court of the Table and ten Top of the Table qualifications. John lives in Chicago, Illinois.