High on the list of critical areas that advisors can focus on to increase productivity is communications.
The fundamental goal is to avoid clutter in your communications. Unless you are paid by the word, there is no value in fluffy messages that cause the recipient to lose interest before he or she gets to the intended point. Respect other people’s time and free up more of your own by getting their attention, delivering your message and outlining the next steps.
Master the art of a concise, impactful email by adhering to the following guidelines:
1. Understand that good subject lines have one of two purposes: to inform or to intrigue.
- You are competing with every other email in the recipient’s inbox at any given time. Somewhere between the cable bill and 30% off cashmere hats is your request for their attention.
- Be deliberate in your wording to get your prospects' attention and let your current clients know what you have to say is informative and needs to be read.
2. Use email wisely. Send only messages that offer the reader a specific value.
- Don't fire off 18 different requests for business or status follow-up to your staff throughout day. Recognize this is inefficient. Get your team's thoughts on the best way to communicate status updates. Odds are they'll have a much more efficient way of making sure you're up to speed.
- Remember, you train people how to communicate with you. The more emails you send, the more you get in return. Don’t encourage the bottleneck.
3. Don’t keep your email inbox front and center all day, every day – and certainly shut off any notification features.
- There are enough distractions throughout the day. Don't let the constant pull to scan your emails be one of them.
- Know when a phone call is more appropriate. Train clients and staff to do the same.
4. Respect that anemail can't capture your sense of humor, your sincerity or any accurate sense of urgency you try to convey.
- The best thing about doing business with you is you. Your clients do business with you because they like you and they trust you.
- If you have something to celebrate and laugh about (such as a recent vacation or their child's graduation) or if you need to have a serious conversation (about overspending in retirement, say, or expressing condolences about the death of a client’s loved one), do it in person. Pick up the phone.
On that note, when you do make phone calls, avoid common pitfalls. Be sure to:
- Define your purpose for the call. For example, be clear that you are encouraging your client to come in for an annual review.
- Know the ideal outcome before placing the call. Be in control of setting the next steps. For the client due for a review, that could be scheduling an in-person appointment in the next week.
- Practice leaving short voice mail messages. Include a concise call to action and try to make it less than one minute. If you find yourself going over a minute, consider that this topic should not be left on voice mail.
- Resist the power of automation. From recorded phone messages to moving money to asking a question, so much is automated now that it’s important to pick up the phone and make a connection.
- Make yourself reachable. Your partners need to know you and your team. Find a way to designate key contacts – and get their direct contact information.
Whether the situation calls for email or phone contact, respect the time of your clients and associates by getting to the point in delivering a message to them. The best results are not done on autopilot, so provide everyone you interact with the personal element to make each interaction pleasant and effective.
Chris Kirby is a business consultant for Securities America Financial Corp.’s Practice Management Group and serves as a consultant and coach for the firm’s Business Consulting Service, helping advisors manage a more efficient, profitable and satisfying practice.
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