Client meetings are one of the most important touchpoints we as financial advisors can have with our clients. A well-executed client meeting is an opportunity to build clients' trust and confidence in us. And one of the best ways to ensure the meeting is well-executed is through preparation. The caveat, though, is that the more clients we have, the less time there is, and the harder it may be to ensure that a thorough process is in place for preparing for client meetings... which can lead to a feeling of always scrambling from one client meeting to the next, struggling to keep track of all the relevant details of each clients' situation.
The way forward through this challenge is to systematize the process using checklists, which both help to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks, and makes it easier to free up time by delegating key preparation tasks. In this guest post, Teresa Riccobuono of Simply Organized (a professional organizer who consults with financial advisors about how to get more organized by creating systems and process!) shares some of her own thoughts, tips, and best practices for creating a client meeting prep process, as well as some templates to get started with your own meeting prep checklists.
And so whether it's creating checklists regarding the preparation of tasks related to financial planning, investment management, administrative tasks, timelines to coordinate staff preparation, or even planning for follow-up items in advance... the reality is, checklists can help you stay on top of your client meeting prep process and deliver a higher level of service to your clients that will make you more referable. So if you're looking for ways to improve your meeting prep process and get more marketing value out of impactful client meetings, I hope that you find this guest post from Teresa to be helpful!
Preparing for client meetings is one of those activities that, if done well, enhances the likelihood of a successful encounter with a client.
My philosophy is this: The best marketing activity you can engage in is taking exceptionally good care of your existing clients. What better way to take care of your clients than to dedicate the time and resources to prepare the best you can for your meetings with them?
Conducting thorough meeting prep provides several benefits:
- You and your team feel good about the level of detail you are providing to your clients.
- Clients feel you are taking good care of them, which makes you more referable.
- Thorough preparation may reduce the amount of follow-up. Follow-up is where many advisors falter.
- You may discover gaps in a client’s situation, and uncover opportunities for additional business, all while taking good care of your client!
- You may learn something about your client that will lead to an interesting conversation, deepening the relationship.
A Thorough Client Meeting Prep Checklist
Thorough preparation includes systematically taking more common actions such as reviewing beneficiary designations, but can include a whole host of regular steps. Yet unfortunately, it’s hard to remember everything to be done for every client, without a checklist for the financial advisor to ensure a repeatable process.
Accordingly, here’s a fairly thorough checklist of items to review and evaluate in preparing for a client meeting:
- Verify ownership of accounts - check pending and inactive accounts as well.
- Get information on accounts that may not be under your management, such as 529 accounts, long-term care and life policies.
- Verify automatic distribution or contribution arrangements.
- Check for money available to move or invest.
- Update client profile: Is the information current, especially telephone numbers, e-mail addresses?
- Review Beneficiary/Transfer-On-Death (TOD) designations.
- Check if there’s a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) due, for the client’s own accounts or an inherited retirement account.
- How much room is left for maximum funding of IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, Simple, Individual 401(k) plan?
- How many years are left on the term life insurance policy?
- Obtain an updated in-force ledger projection for variable universal life (VUL) insurance policy.
- Is there a Future Purchase Option to exercise on the client’s disability policy?
- What are the client’s current planning fee, method of payment, and frequency?
- Is there a planning fee due, how much, and are we increasing the fee this year?
- Is the plan paid for by credit card? What is the expiration date of the card?
- Is the plan paid for with a systematic payment arrangement? Are there enough funds in that account to cover payment?
- Is there a financial planning deliverable due to the client at this meeting?
- When was the last time we conducted a thorough insurance review, including property and casualty, and employee benefits?
- Updated Morningstar reports on the client’s holdings?
- Is there a stock watch list to review?
- Does the client have ESPP and Stock Options to review?
- Is the portfolio consistent with the Investment Policy Statement?
- Is the client eligible for an in-service withdrawal from his/her retirement plan?
Prior To Appointment
- Look for possible follow up items from the last appointment that have not been completed (for us and for the client).
- Print out all of the activity notes since the last meeting, to show the client everything we have done on their behalf since we last met (helpful for clients who don’t realize the shadow work done on their behalf behind the scenes, to reinforce that the client is getting the service he/she expects)
- Does their accountant need to be involved in this meeting (in person or by phone)? If so, contact his/her office to make arrangements. Do we even have their accountant’s contact information? Do we have their attorney’s contact information?
- Do we need to review the Menu of Services available to the client, or the Client Service Calendar we’ve committed to?
- Do we need to update or review the Investment Policy Statement?
- Do we have a current version on file of the document that grants us permission to share information with their other financial professionals?
- Do we need an updated client data gathering form/questionnaire?
- Do we have current information on family members?
- Check the Prospect Tracker to see if there are referrals we need to discuss?
- Check for client’s favorite drink and snack preferences (on hand?)?
- Any there any client educational materials to share (e.g., Forefield Advisor’s Timely Topics)?
- Conduct a Google, LinkedIn, Facebook search, and YouGotTheNews.com search for any updated news about the client?
- Check Unclaimed.org and www.MissingMoney.com for accounts the client might be unaware were abandoned?
- Do we need to update the client’s CRM record to adjust their A/B/C client segmentation?
- Request most recent 401(k) or 403(b) statement, statement(s) on assets held away, ESPP and stock option information.
- Check to see if the client is eligible for an in-service withdrawal from their retirement plan?
- Send meeting reminder call/e-mail/postcard to the client – include a reminder about needed items to send in advance or to bring with them.
- Ask the client if he has issues to discuss that should be added to the agenda.
- Prep agenda for the client meeting.
- Review of 2017 Marketing Calendar – are there client events to which this client should be invited to attend (or at least Save the Date)?
- Check to see if the advisor has programmed the office telephone number into the client’s cell phone(s) for convenient contact?
- Do we need to review their family’s disaster preparedness checklist?
Breaking The Meeting Prep Checklist Into More Manageable Bites
Before you shake your head and say, “There is no way we have time to conduct this kind of preparation for each client meeting”, hear me out.
For those clients with whom you meet with more than once per year, consider conducting focused meetings, which helps to reduce redundancy between meetings, and ease meeting prep. Here’s an example of a quarterly meeting schedule for a top client:
The client meeting prep checklist can be divided up into two, three or four prep sheets, based on the focus area and the number of times you meet with a particular client each year. For example, everything on the checklist related to assets can be combined onto one prep sheet. Everything related to financial planning can be combined onto another prep sheet. Everything related to taxes or tax planning can be combined onto its own prep sheet.
To break meeting prep down even further, you can delegate a portion of the prep to an appropriate team member. A client service associate can conduct some of the easier prep, or what I call “level 1” meeting prep. A Paraplanner can conduct the more difficult aspects of meeting prep, such as reviewing an updated in-force ledger for a Variable Universal Life (VUL) policy. I refer to this as “level 2” meeting prep. Delegating these tasks frees up the advisor to focus on gaps, strategy, and opportunities.
A Financial Planning Gap/Strategy/Opportunity Checklist
While much of the process in preparing for a client meeting is simply about ensuring all the relevant details of the meeting itself are covered, it’s also a good opportunity to review the overall client situation, and spot any opportunities – both pertaining to their financial planning needs, and also their relationship with the advisor and firm itself.
So when you are preparing for client appointments, in addition to your normal review, pay attention to the following potential gaps/opportunities:
- Is it time to increase the existing planning fee?
- Should we be doing financial planning with the client (if not currently)?
- Should the wrap or investment advisory fees be increased?
- Should the automatic savings plan be increased (e.g., to accommodate higher IRA contribution limits since it was originally set up)?
- Is there cash (here or elsewhere) that needs to be invested?
- Are there non-revenue generating assets that should, as a benefit to the client, be converted? (E.g., old annuities, old mutual funds in an outdated share class, or concentrated stock positions that need to be at least partially unwound?)
- Is there the possibility of in-service withdrawals to roll over or Roth convert a retirement account?
- Are there existing annuities that need to be reviewed or serviced?
- Are there insurance opportunities, such as existing policies that should be replaced or upgraded?
- Can this relationship be improved as it relates to referrals?
- Has the client max funded their IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, or Individual 401(k)?
- Is there any previously-given advice that remains unimplemented and needs to be addressed again?
- Do they have a pension that needs to be decided upon (e.g., Pension Maximization strategy)?
- Have we talked about long-term care insurance, both traditional and hybrid LTC types?
- Have we reviewed the property and casualty insurance to see if clients can reduce premium payments and free up cash flow?
Timeline To Prep For A Client Meeting In Advance
I am a big proponent of preparing for client meetings well in advance, allowing my subconscious to work on client cases and help me come up with the best advice and solutions.
Here’s a possible timeline leading up to the meeting itself, over which the meeting prep checklist can be executed:
- On Monday, the week prior to the client appointment, the person responsible for level 1 prep begins preparing for the client appointment
- Level 1 prep is completed by Tuesday morning and is shared with the person responsible for level 2 prep
- The person responsible for level 2 prep completes their work by Wednesday morning and shares their work, findings, and initial recommendations with the advisor
- The advisor begins his/her prep immediately following this meeting – opportunity, revenue and strategy focused prep
- The advisor compiles a list of items needed and gives it to the level 2 prep person by Thursday morning
- The individuals responsible for level 1 and level 2 prep have until Friday afternoon to complete these additional prep tasks
- Everyone goes home on Friday, with next week’s appointment prepared and ready to go
- Now, the subconscious can go to work on these client cases
- If you come in on Monday morning with someone out ill or you experience computer issues, you can relax because you are prepared for your client appointments!
- If you come up with an idea or strategy related to a client, you have time to do some additional prep and alter the agenda before the meeting
If this level of prep poses an undue burden on you and your team, start by conducting thorough meeting prep with just your top clients. Once you have mastered this tier of clients, move to your next lower tier of clients. Remember, not all clients have multiple accounts with you and thus require less prep time as many items noted on the checklists will not apply.
The Post-Client Meeting Checklist
Notably, checklists aren’t just for leading up to prepare for a meeting. They can be used throughout, including after the client meeting (for follow-up items), as well as other aspects of the financial planning process that can be checklisted.
An example of a post-client meeting follow-up checklist would be:
After The Meeting
- Was the next meeting scheduled at the recent one. If not, call to schedule the next meeting.
- Mark meeting as DONE in CRM!
- Check-in call with client 24 hours after the meeting, to see if they have any questions. This is particularly important if the meeting covered a lot of information or complex strategies!
- Delegate follow-up activities to the team (who is working on what items, timeline/due date), and note accordingly in the CRM (or ideally, assign actual workflows in the CRM!).
- Process any forms or paperwork that came out from the meeting.
- Scan documents and meeting notes to electronic client file.
- Add relevant information to your internal business tracking – new opportunities, financial planning issues to follow up on, potential prospects or referrals, etc.
- Update the CRM for the client’s A/B/C segmentation; should the client’s tier be changed based on the outcome of the meeting?
- Do we need to follow up with a referral? (Prospect, COI, Small Business Owner?)
- Do we need to update the client’s list of outstanding recommendations or action items?
- Create a task/reminder to follow up with clients on their action items.
- Provide a follow-up letter or other deliverable as appropriate; include agenda items for next meeting.
- Send summary letter to accountant if appropriate.
- Do we need to let one of our COIs know that our client will be contacting him?
You will notice that the meeting follow-up list is much shorter than the pre-meeting prep list. As I mentioned earlier, though, meeting follow-up presents the biggest opportunity to falter and let something fall through the cracks! By doing a thorough job of meeting prep, you have fewer items to handle on the back side of the appointment, allowing for less opportunity to miss something accidentally.
So what do you think? Do you use checklists for client meetings in your practice? Is there something on your meeting prep checklist that wasn’t included here? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
(Michael’s Note: Teresa has offered to share her full “Client Meeting Prep Checklist” document as a template for advisors to use. Click here to download a sample of the Meeting Prep Checklist, and contact Teresa directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for an editable copy you can use!)