By Autumn K. Campbell
“I didn’t realize how connected I could feel to someone I’ve never met before!” exclaimed a prospective client who just completed his first virtual meeting. He was delighted with how fluid the live video and screen sharing was interwoven into the conversation.
Technology use during meetings went from being (arguably) optional to necessary in a matter of weeks for many communities, including financial advisors. As if learning new technology wasn’t tricky enough, may advisors have found themselves managing virtual client relationships with regularity for the first time.
Building and maintaining relationships virtually can be awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are a few tips for meaningful virtual engagements.
1. Use Video & Do A Video 101 - Many clients may be experiencing virtual meetings for the first time. It will be helpful if you know how to toggle the video, audio, and screensharing settings in your virtual meeting platform so that you can help clients as they get set for the meeting. You can even screenshare your video settings to show them where to find the options themselves. Once they learn how to adjust their preferences, your current and future meetings can be much more comfortable.
2. Open Items to Share in Advance - Clients do not see you transitioning from one document to the next in virtual meetings as they would in person. To cut down on wait time, it is helpful to have documents and websites opened and logged in, ready for review when the time comes to share with a client. If there is wait time for a resource and it affects the conversation flow, it’s always acceptable to share with a client what you are waiting on, or to share your screen while the resource is loading so they can see the resource when ready.
3. Allow Time to “Get Settled” - Just as when you welcome clients into your physical space, it is helpful to greet them in your virtual space as well. They may be logging in late and flustered from fussing with the meeting software, or perhaps they are coming from another meeting that ended 1 minute prior and could use some adjustment time to be present with your time together. Some helpful questions to understand how they are coming into the meeting could be, “How has your day been so far?” or “What would be the most helpful use of our time today?”
4. Embrace the (Virtual) Space - Virtual meetings may have moments of silence that feel different than in-person meetings. If there is silence in the conversation, it could mean the clients are processing what was just shared. Coming to the meeting with quality questions will bring about the conversations that need to happen.
A couple evergreen questions effective in soliciting meaningful responses are “How does that feel?” focusing on the emotions behind the information, and “What else (is on your mind)?” which allows for exploration of thought and directs the conversation where the client would like to go. Engaged listening is one of the most powerful ways to create meaningful engagement, and so much of it can be nurtured with quality questions.
While managing virtual relationships may have some inelegance, bringing grace and candor as we all adjust to new ways of connection goes farther than we realize.
There are so many people looking for quality advice in a safe environment, and the more we are able to offer those services in various ways, the better we all are for it.
Autumn K. Campbell, CFP®, is a Pacific-Northwest native who now resides in Tulsa, OK after a few years as a teacher and counselor in Dallas followed by a financial planning residency in New Orleans. She is a financial planner and the Tulsa office lead at The Planning Center, a fee-only RIA. Autumn is an active alumni of Teach For America and member of Junior League. For social activities, she loves sports such as triathlons, flag football, rugby, weight-lifting and obstacle courses racing and is a strategy board game enthusiast.
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