By Gregory Fok
While many U.S. states and nations around the world are beginning to ease COVID-19 restrictions, the specter of social distancing will most likely lie over our heads for some time.
Advisors looking to the future should prepare for this reality, especially since a second wave of COVID-19 remains possible. Around the world, we have already seen fears of such a second wave pick up as new clusters of the virus appear in places that had previously been trending in the right direction.
Advisors must continue adapting to generating referrals, prospects and sales from online efforts. Proper preparation and shifts in business practices can even help generate more potential business than existed before the pandemic started.
Reviewing Existing Tools
Before jumping right into prospecting, advisors should conduct a review of existing tools at their disposal – they might find or remember one they have yet to use. About three years ago, I purchased a cashflow forecasting tool that sat unused until a few months ago.
I let it sit partially because, like many advisors, I’m a bit resistant to change, and because I had placed the bulk of my focus on nurturing my emotional intelligence. Clients place a premium on emotional intelligence in their financial advisors, as MDRT found in its most recent poll. But COVID-19 has made technological know-how an immediate imperative, and it became apparent that it was time to get familiar with my cashflow forecasting tool – and quickly.
Incorporating this tool into Zoom meetings with clients has been a win-win decision. Seeing the visual, clients better understand their finances empowering them to ask more relevant questions and provide more useful information to help me advise them.
Reaching The Online Public
Before COVID-19 struck, I often gave public seminar lectures to put my name out there and help educate the public. Once the pandemic arrived in Singapore, I thought I would need to cancel these lectures, but my MDRT mentor, Brian Heckert, suggested bringing them online.
To my surprise, my online webinars attracted more attendees and generated more referrals than my live seminars, and advisors across the world may also benefit from giving their own online presentations. While some of the interest may result from ease of access and a healthy dose of pandemic boredom, many attendees will stick around after society opens again and your name will be top of mind when they seek an advisor.
My webinars cover a range of topics, from general investing overviews to COVID-19 considerations. Different advisors will want to adapt their own online offerings to their desired audiences, whether those be different generations, cultural groups or workers in certain industries.
More generalized presentations can attract requests for specialized lectures, as I found out when a referral from one of my general webinars asked for an insurance and estate planning presentation for a group of pilots. These more specific webinars can also be better referral sources in turn, since advisors can impress with more developed knowledge.
Preserving Emotional Connections
The pandemic has necessitated picking up technological knowledge, but clients still expect a strong emotional connection and personal touch from their advisors. Just as with in-person client meetings, trust must be established in online meetings before diving into finances.
I have discovered the importance of weaving personal stories and questions for the audience into my webinars. The execution is different from swapping stories in on-on-one meetings, but the principle remains the same: an advisor’s audience must be able to connect abstract lessons to a person, and they also need time for personal reflection.
By now, advisors should be getting more comfortable holding one-on-one client meetings over Zoom or similar platforms, but they should always remember to treat them like in-person meetings. In particular, the first time an advisor sits down with a prospect or new client, they should focus more on personal conversation, listening over talking and learning about the person in front of them.
Until a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 hits the market, advisors must always be ready to return to shelter-in-place conditions. But with smart work and adaptations, advisors can avoid hitting the pause button on finding new clients and continue expanding their businesses.
About the Author
Gregory Fok, CFP is a 14-year MDRT member and a Court of the Table qualifier. He is the former MDRT Singapore Chair and author of “The Merchant of Time.” He is Senior Director of Financial Services at Manulife Financial Advisers Pte Ltd in Singapore.