Three C’s of Strong Client Relationships | American Funds

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Chris Gies Senior Vice President of Advisor Education, Capital Group

         

 

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Three C’s of Strong Client Relationships

Key Takeaways

  • An effective credibility statement is one to three sentences that describe your credentials in terms that clients can relate to and that articulate your track record of helping them to achieve their goals.
  • Having a quarterly engagement strategy allows you to build deeper connections with clients by systematically engaging with them on a regular basis and helps you to expand the scope of client relationships.
  • Delivering consistency through excellent client experiences requires developing standard operating procedures across your practice and informing clients that these procedures are in place.

Based on extensive research into the psychology of trust and the nature of strong relationships, we’ve identified three core elements that advisors need to focus on to take their client relationships from good to great: credibility, connection and consistency. In working with thousands of advisors, we have found that advisors who focus on these “Three C’s” have higher growth and more resilient practices.

Building credibility, consistency and connection in your practice, however, is easier said than done. Based on our work with high-performing advisors, we’ve found several effective techniques can help to strengthen these principles across your team and communicate your value to clients. We have also found that focusing on transparency, alignment of interests and communicating “the why” of your career as an advisor allows you to build on the trust that is the bedrock of your client relationships.

 

Overview of the Three C’s

Our research shows that client attitudes toward their advisors are shaped by three primary factors: credibility, connection and consistency:

  • Credibility: While credibility is something that all successful advisors have developed, most advisors fail to understand where their credibility comes from. Our research shows that an advisor’s credibility boils down to three primary elements: credentials, competence and character. Importantly, credibility is something that can be enhanced if you are intentional about conveying these qualities in a way that resonates with clients.
    Credentials such as CFP, CFA, CIMA or CPA are hard-won distinctions that require countless hours of study and adherence to professional standards. But these credentials alone likely won’t mean much to your clients. You need to explain how your credentials indicate that you are trained to help them reach their financial goals. Provide specific examples of how your training has prepared you to handle the challenges that your clients face, such as generating income in retirement or transferring wealth across multiple generations in a tax-efficient manner.
    When describing your competence, you shouldn’t talk about your clients’ performance relative to a benchmark. Instead, discuss your track record of helping clients achieve their goals, using tangible, real-life examples that illustrate how you have worked with clients who were facing similar challenges.
    Your character may seem like a difficult thing to converse about directly, but there are ways you can show your character without coming across as self-important or conceited. Make sure that your clients and prospects know that your interests are aligned with theirs. A good way to do this is to explain why you became an advisor and, again, by providing real-life examples.
    To help you articulate your credibility when talking with clients, you and your team should write a “credibility statement.” One to three sentences in length, a credibility statement describes your qualifications, what you do and your results. It serves as an “elevator pitch” that becomes part of your conversation with clients and prospects. You can download a worksheet that guides you through the steps of writing a credibility statement here.
  • Connection: Most advisors have detailed information about their clients’ financial lives. However, many advisors fail to gain this same level of knowledge of their clients’ personal lives. To build a deep connection with clients, you need to go beyond the financial basics and learn things such as what charities are important to them, what their favorite hobbies and sports teams are, and how they like to spend their vacation time. Sharing parts of your own personal story and journey can be a great way to establish common ground with clients and encourage them to share parts of their story.
    You also need to focus on connecting with the whole family. Even though one spouse typically takes the lead in managing the family’s financial affairs, it is important to build a relationship with the other spouse as well. These relationships should also extend to younger generations. With trillions of dollars of assets set to pass from baby boomers to younger generations over the next several decades, the time to connect with younger generations is well before they inherit the money.
    To strengthen your connection with clients and their families, it is important to create a quarterly engagement strategy that involves contacting the client on a regular basis. Rather than reaching out to them on an “ad hoc” basis, as most advisors do, create a system that reminds you to engage with each client about something that matters to them at least once every three months. This engagement could be as simple as sending them a copy of their favorite baseball team’s schedule or as involved as hosting an educational event for clients. The point is to have recurring, regular touch points with all of your clients.
  • Consistency: While it may not seem as important as building credibility or as energizing as developing deep connections with clients, providing consistent client experiences is every bit as important. Delivering this consistency requires taking the time to work with your team to develop and codify the processes for how everyday functions of customer engagement are handled.
    Client communications and reporting are two areas where consistency is especially important. You need to have procedures for how your team will handle incoming requests from clients, as well as outbound communications. You want to ensure that your team is delivering a unified message to clients regardless of whom the client interacts with. When it comes to portfolio reporting and status meetings with clients, you need to be consistent in orienting these communications around the clients’ progress toward their goals, rather than simply measuring their performance relative to a benchmark.
    While it may seem like a burden, creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) is essential to elevating your business from good to great. Not only does having SOPs in place help ensure consistently excellent experiences for the client, SOPs enable you to grow your practice in a scalable, efficient way. Plus, by letting your clients know that processes and systems are in place, it will inspire confidence that your firm is built on a strong foundation. (For more on this, see our article, “How Strong Processes Lead to Consistent Client Experiences.”)

 

Trust: The Foundation of Great Relationships

While credibility, consistency and connection are integral parts of building deeper relationships, trust is the most important element of any client relationship. Demonstrating that all of your choices and decisions have been made in the best interest of your clients is essential to building and maintaining their trust. Conveying why you became a financial advisor and showing how your intent aligns with theirs is incredibly powerful in building trust. You should be fully transparent in communicating with clients about all aspects of your practice, from compensation to fund selection. This transparency should begin in your initial meetings with prospects and carry through every meeting with existing clients.

Building stronger, deeper relationships with clients is one of the most effective ways to accelerate the growth of your firm and ensure its continued success in turbulent market conditions. By focusing on the Three C’s — credibility, connection and consistency — and showing that your interests are aligned with your clients’, you can take your client relationships and your firm’s success to the next level.

 


 

About the Author

Chris Gies is senior vice president of advisor education for Capital Group. He has more than three decades of industry experience and specializes in training high-level advisors on various practice development topics.


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