Archive for the 'Setting Expectations' Category

Who or What Answers Your Phone?

Does a person or a machine answer your phone during business hours?

Do you think your clients care?

I put our best phone person on to the task of answering the phone and the results have really paid off.

This staff member loves to talk on the phone. Sometimes I think she thrives on it! This genuine behavior comes through over and over again as people comment about how nice it is to call our office.

Since she was originally hired as an operations person, she is able to handle most customer inquiries right on the spot without transferring the call. The experience of the caller is dramatically improved. They feel cared for instead of feeling like they are imposing.

Guide: A person connects with a person, not a machine.

Action Item: Put an enthusiastic voice who is empowered as your client’s first point of contact.

© 2010 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

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Clients Want The Bad News Too…


As trusted advisors, we work very hard at doing the best work we can possibly do for our client. 

As the relationship progresses, we learn about our client’s needs, wants, desires, habits, beliefs and behaviors.

Eventually we know whether the client will be successful in their endeavors or if they will fail no matter what we do.

Imagine being a doctor and not delivering the bad news to your patient!  Do you think the relationship will be better if you spare the prognosis?

Is this fair to our clients?

I like to tell the following story –  “Thank goodness I am like the cardiologist and not the oncologist.  Most or many of the oncologist’s patients don’t make it long-term. For the cardiologist, most patients do make it.  The oncologist says that you have X time left.  It is very sad.  The cardiologist says, I am not worried about you right now, but, if the current behavior continues, I am very worried about you in 15-20 years.  You need to exercise, eat right, drink less, lose some weight and drop some of these dangerous behaviors.  If you do, you should be fine.”

Clients need to hear the bad news.  They get it and more often than not, if you are the trusted advisor, they will alter their behavior.  Why?

Because they want to succeed!  That is why they hired you in the first place.

Guide – Clients want to hear the bad news along with the good.  This allows them the opportunity to take corrective action.

Action Item – Tell them the story of the cardiologist and the oncologist.  Share the potentially bad news.  Be the trusted advisor.

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Staff Meetings or Meet with Staff?


Most businesses have staff meetings. Staff meetings have a bad rap for a good reason.

In most cases they just don’t work.  I won’t go into all the reasons why they don’t but I think we can all agree that it is the rare staff meeting where everyone walks out and says “Wasn’t that a great use of our time?”! Or even worse…..

So what is the alternative?

Meet with your staff – One on One.

Spend an hour or so having a one on one with each member.  The results are great.

They get to see how you are feeling and you get to see what’s up with them.  What is working and what is not working. You can offer constructive criticism without embarrassing them or yourself.  They won’t feel crushed or hurt and perhaps even feel relieved to know that you care about  these issues and they might get fixed.

You can ask about challenges, goals, co-workers etc.  There seems to be little that is out-of-bounds during these one on one times.

These meetings can prevent or eliminate hostility or resentment that can be building up due to the lack of communication.

Imagine going 6 months without speaking to your spouse or significant other without asking them how’s it going or how they are feeling.  There would certainly be hard feelings!

Staff meetings can be productive if they are short and have a single message or focus.  Otherwise spend some time investing in a single person meeting.

Guide – Schedule regular one on one meetings with the members of your staff.  It beats staff meetings hands down.

Action Item – Book the meetings now and plan your agenda. Ask them to plan theirs – What is working, what is not working and how they think they can fix it.

© 2010 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

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Client Segmentation & The Service Matrix


You’ve heard it  – Segment your client base!  But do you know why?

First there is the 80-20 rule: 80% of your revenues come from 20% of your clients.

So the first step is to determine who those 20% are.  These are your top clients.

In our firm, we use an “old school” naming convention – A, B, C, D & F – just like in grade school.

Others may use Gold, Silver, Bronze, etc.

Consider using a bell curve methodology.

Client A – 3%

Client B – 13%

Client C – 68%

Client D – 13%

Client F – 3%

But what is the point?  Why is this useful business information?

First, you may want to know which clients are profitable and which clients are not.

Clearly your A-client will be very profitable; your F-client may not!  You could actually be losing money on the F-clients.

We used to say that an F-client is your most profitable client until you do ANYTHING for them, then they quickly become your biggest money trap.

Can you really afford not to know this information?

Now consider this.  You have an A-client that pays you a fee of $10,000 per year and an F-client who pays you $500 per year.

You know the F client is costing your firm money.

How do you think saying this out loud would sound? “Dear A-client, thank you very much for paying me so much money that because of your subsidy, I was able to retain some clients that are not profitable and your service suffered because of it.”

Does that hit you in the gut?

How do you deal with this problem other than firing all your small clients?

The answer comes in the form of a service matrix.  You cannot deliver the same level of service to all your clients.

A-clients deserve the highest level of service, then B-clients and so on down to F-clients who, perhaps, should get the legal minimums.

The service matrix needs to be communicated throughout your entire organization no matter how big or small.

This needs to be a written matrix so that everyone is clear as to what should and should not be provided and why.

Develop rules, policies and guidelines that reinforce your matrix.

Practice what you preach.

If certain clients expect a higher level of service, they need to pay accordingly.

It will allow you to focus your efforts where they need to be focused and your staff’s efforts where they need to be focused.

If it helps, find someone who will hold YOU accountable to keep to the system.

This is a fair system.  Fair to you and fair to your clients.

Thank you and Happy Holidays to all.

Guide – Client segmentation is a valuable business tool that can be used to develop your service matrix.

Action item – Segment your clients with clearly defined profitability measures. Work with your staff to develop a well thought out service matrix to match.

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Presentation Presentation


How do you present your presentation?

Back to basics.

Many have made presentations over the years but, putting content aside for now, how do yours look?

Here are some common methodologies:

  • Stapled
  • Paper Clipped
  • Laminated
  • Clear Folder
  • Manilla Folder
  • Colored folder
  • Colored Pocket Folder
  • Custom Folder
  • Three Ring Binder
  • Three Ring Binder with clear Jacket for inserts
  • Custom Three Ring Binder
  • Bound in house with:
    • Plastic Comb Binders – Black
    • Plastic Comb Binders – Color Matched
    • Wire Binding
    • Velobind
    • Thermo Binding

I realized there are significant cost differences between these methods.  Here are my minimum guidelines:

Colored Pocket Folders that coordinate with your letterhead – Customized by the local print shop with your logo. Solid color folders that are printed with a single color ink should cost under $1 each – You ARE worth it!

GBC Binding Machine with Comb bindings – Purchased from Staples or Office Depot, prices start at $200 with colored combs at $10 per box.  You can use clear transparencies as covers to get started with letterhead underneath.

These two additions to your supply closet will make your presentations look substantial and presentable.

Guide – Present every presentation as if it was being shown to your largest prospect ever.  It might be!

Action item – Purchase the materials you need, folders and a binding machine, to create a minimum level of professionalism.

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Don’t be “Full of What the Birds Eat”.


My dear Irish mother-in-law has an expression, “You’re full of what the birds eat.”

Over the years, I’ve come to understand what she meant: Don’t try to convince her of something that she knows isn’t true.

So I’ll share a recent experience.

A valued client recently requested to pay his fee with a credit card. I said that we did not currently take credit cards as a form of payment, but I would investigate it right away and get back to him. I called my bank first (you might remember them from a previous guide). They gave me the name of a vendor the bank itself was considering since they had no existing relationship.

I called this vendor and spoke to “Sally,” who was eager to assist. She faxed over some paperwork that was a fax-of-a-fax-of-a-fax. (1st warning)

Though the cover sheet displayed the bank’s name, I knew she didn’t work for the bank. And of course, the forms were blank. When questioned, Sally said, “Oh just sign the forms, fax them back, and we’ll complete them.” (2nd warning)

“Oh, and you’ll need to lease a swipe machine for the next 48 months at a cost of $X,” they further explained. When Sally called to follow-up, she identified herself as calling from my bank even though our caller ID said otherwise. (3rd warning) I decided to look elsewhere.

So off to my favorite internet search engine where I turned up several prospects. Call to company number one resulted in limited information. Call to company number two resulted in some less than helpful forms showing up. Then, as fate would have it, we received a COLD CALL from a credit card “processor.” So what the heck, I called them back.

The sales woman assured me they could handle my needs and faxed over some forms. (Drat: a fax-of-a-fax-of-a-fax!) This time the form was partially completed. When she called back, caller ID betrayed her when an individual name displayed, not the name of the company I thought I was dealing with.

After several questions, she put her manager on the phone (who, it turned out, was the individual identified by caller ID). He said he would make it right. He faxed over a set of completed forms (only a fax-of-a-fax this time!). The paperwork requested a signature that, in part, attested that I had received a copy of the terms and conditions.  Since I had not received any such document, I called back to request it.

The manager responded, “What terms and conditions? You have ALL the paperwork!” When I continued to protest, he said he would get back to me. Sure enough, the missing terms and conditions did show up by email the next day. It also included information on purchasing a swipe machine at a steeply discounted price.

However, I noticed something else as well—all references to the processor were in the name of DIFFERENT company, not one I had heard of to this point in the process. I called the sales woman who informed me that it was the name of the company they used. Huh?

Ok. Enough! I searched the internet and located this new company. I called their customer service number and got a very responsive person who said Sales would call within 48 hours (not right back!). Sure enough, two days later I got a call from the regional sales person.

After I explained my tale of woe, he first confirmed that the previous company did out-source to his company. He apologized for any confusion and said he would take care of me. He explained how the system works (bank, processor, merchant fees, etc), and faxed over his paperwork (crystal clear!) with all supporting documentation. He then called back and reviewed each and every line item and fee (how refreshing!!!).

I asked about buying or leasing a swipe machine. No need for a swipe machine, he replied. All you need is our web portal. When I mentioned that the first two companies had wanted me to purchase or lease a machine, he explained that they were simply layering costs to increase sales commissions (I can neither confirm nor deny this, but makes sense!).

I did sign with this firm and returned the paperwork. An hour later, I received two emails confirming everything. The next morning I got a call from customer service to schedule training, which took place later that day.

I then placed my first “sale” with them over the web. Ahhhhh. This company had explained the process in detail and delivered!

I am now an advocate for this company. I will recommend them to others and will refer them to my bank that is still looking for a vendor.

Now I am sure all the other folks could have processed my orders, but because they were “full of what the birds eat,” they didn’t get my business.

Guide – Tell it like it is and win business. Truth and honesty win out over “just trust us; we’ll take care of you.”

Action item – Prepare your documents with as much plain English as possible and deliver a complete set every time.

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Give Credit Where Credit is Due


As a professional advisor, sometimes it is easy to think that it is all about you.

Most advisors have staff or are part of a team.

Don’t forget to give them credit!

Your staff is likely your most valuable asset. You could not do you job effectively without them. You must let them know it.

There are many studies out there but time and time again, the number one most effective thing is to let them know they are appreciated.

This appreciation can easily be shown in some simple ways:

  • Say “thank you” – the most appreciated.
  • Buy lunch for the office yourself – Have a monthly employee lunch where one staff picks lunch for the entire office and you buy.
  • Give them a paid day off – Particularly if you see they are stressed. Do it spontaneously – “Take tomorrow off, you earned it”
  • Atta boy/girl certificates – AAA sells gift certificates good for area restaurants – give them out.
  • Tickets – perhaps you get offered tickets for events (concerts, theater, sporting events) – give them to your staff or, just buy them some.

And tell you clients how much you appreciate your staff. They will let your staff know too.

Guide – You are not a one person show. Don’t forget it.

Action Item – Let your staff/team know how hard they work and that you could not do it without them. Be sure to show them.

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

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