5 Best Practices for Building Client Relationships that Last

These five strategies will help ensure you’re building client relationships for the long term.

By Kristine McManus, CRPS®, vice president, business solutions, practice management, Commonwealth Financial Network

As an advisor, you have clients at vastly different points in their financial journeys. And each client will continue to evolve their goals and perspectives as they move through different phases of their lives. Although every client is different, the principles of building client relationships that last can look quite similar in practice. As you consider strategies to foster long-lasting relationships, consider these five best practices:

1. Maintain connections with their spouses

Developing strong rapport with close family members is something we discuss frequently with advisors as a strategy for building client relationships. According to a recent Fidelity Investments research paper, “Advisors and the Decade of Generational Wealth,” only 46 percent of advisors are successful in supporting a woman client after the death of her spouse. That means many advisors are losing relationships rather than creating lifelong clients.

For fee-based businesses, client retention is likely a top priority — and risking half of your relationships is untenable. Consider this: A widow grieving for her husband may be facing difficult life changes, family issues, and financial challenges. Ideally, she should be able to turn to an advisor she already knows and is comfortable with for support and guidance. If she’s out looking for someone new, though, that may mean she hasn’t felt like part of that relationship. Make this the year that changes.

2. Pay attention to the next generation of clients

Our industry faces a generational wealth transfer that will transform the financial profile of many Generation X, Y, and Z investors. The same Fidelity study reveals that advisors have worked with adult children in only 38 percent of their client relationships, so there’s huge room for improvement there — and untapped opportunities for building client relationships that stand the test of time. As you meet with clients in 2022, think about raising how planning strategies can help meet a family’s complex needs, and make sure families know you can support them on challenging topics.

You can also ask to be introduced to your clients’ adult children. The widespread use of videoconferencing services such as Zoom makes meeting and incorporating next-gen children into discussions much easier, no matter where they live. In addition to inheriting one day, these prospects could have great careers and contacts that make them ideal clients in their own right.

3. Stay in sync through technology

Many advisors gained virtual clients — people they’ve never met face-to-face — during the pandemic. There’s no reason this trend can’t continue. Look at your practice through a virtual lens to pinpoint what you need to do to capture the attention of ideal clients you haven’t met. Digital onboarding will be critical, as will be the use of video, which can help convey what it’s like to work with you. Be sure to include your team in the process to brainstorm ideas for reaching your target audience.

4. Make sure clients’ goals evolve according to their needs

It’s unlikely you’ve gone through the past few years without making some changes in your life. The same is likely true of your clients. For example, an advisor may share that she thought her clients had yet to fully process the impact of Covid-19 on their families and lives; everyone was focused on simply getting through. What will happen on reflection? Priorities may have changed, and clients may be reassessing. They may have decided they want to retire early, quit or change jobs, relocate to be closer to children, or ramp up charitable giving efforts. Don’t assume that the people you’ve worked with for years are the same people now. Build open-ended questions into your meetings and gently suggest revisiting key goals and funding.

5. Pay attention to your practice

The way you run your business creates the framework for building client relationships, helping you deliver the kind of experience you strive for, reinforce your value, and position you to keep clients for life. Think about best practices you can adopt — in everything from scale and efficiency to marketing. Even small changes, such as adopting a calendar function that makes it more convenient for clients and prospects to book appointments themselves, can make a big difference. You might even continue with a virtual practice, institute a hybrid model, outsource portfolios, or leverage webinars to scale time and find prospects.

Effective client relationships are the foundation of your success as an advisor. Every client has unique needs and preferences, and there are ways to help ensure you’re building client relationships that last. By focusing on helping your clients succeed in their financial goals, you’ll be positioned for success in hitting your firm’s benchmarks as well.

Want to spend more time with your clients and less time on administrative tasks? The right firm partner can make that a reality. Book a confidential consultation with our Field Development team to learn more about how Commonwealth can help you build strong relationships and enhance your service to current clients. Take the next step by calling 866.462.3638 or emailing fielddevelopment@commonwealth.com.

This post originally appeared on The Independent Advisor, a blog authored by subject-matter experts at Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.

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