Do you know how some books stay with you long after you have read them?
One such book for me was David Maister’s ‘The Trusted Advisor.’ The content resonated deeply with me overall but one particular chapter got me thinking about the financial services sector, especially here in the UAE. This chapter was about transaction versus long-term client relationships.
Initially, I thought about this through the lens of my industry, but I realized that it applies just as much to the trust and the relationship you share with any repeat or long-term service provider such as a doctor, a real estate agent, even your hairdresser (but what would I know about that, right? #baldguyjokes)
In a place like the UAE, which is known for its rather transient, expatriate-heavy population, I wondered how much long-term client-advisor relationships mattered to people. Are clients looking for them and are service providers looking to provide them?
Relationships in the Life Insurance Business
In the Life Insurance business, when a client buys a policy, the policy is intended to payout to a beneficiary upon the death of a breadwinner in the family. My goal, my promise to my clients when I sell them a policy is: I’ll show up with a check when you need it most.
Now, this pre-supposes that I will actually be around whenever that time comes. I cannot, of course, promise with certainty that I will outlive my client. But the intention is spelled out very clearly and to me, is a life-long commitment.
The reality is that kind of a commitment takes a mindset shift, a certain level of maturity for advisors, not just in this industry but in any.
It is the shift from transactional to long-term client relationships, even life-long in some cases. This cannot be a product sold, commission earned, commission spent, end of transaction scenario. I can’t imagine that short-term mindset leading to a positive long-term outcome.
There are, of course, factors outside your control: Your life expectancy versus your clients’, a career opportunity or family commitments, circumstances, life! So many unforeseeable reasons that might take you away, but it is the intention with which you start the client relationship that matters.
Begin with the End in Mind
Stephen Covey’s second habit in the renowned ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People:’ Begin with the End in Mind.
This might seem a little morbid, but when I sell a Life Insurance policy, I find myself thinking, ‘Will I be around to settle this claim when it comes?’
Beginning with the end in mind is perhaps one of the most powerful ways to shift into that long-term mindset. This is also one of the reasons why I choose to work with clients not younger than 38 or 39 years. At the time of writing this article, I’m 43 and there’s a good chance I’ll be around to settle those claims.
Also, because these are life-long relationships for me, I’ve got a very stringent set of criteria including the ‘Can I bring you home for dinner with my family’ check – to qualify my clients. We’ve got to like each other, after all, if we’re going to be in business for life!
What If I Die Before You?
Here’s the thing: None of my clients have come out and said, ‘What if you die before me?’ when they’re purchasing a Life Insurance policy from me.
But at some level, if you were the client, wouldn’t you wonder if this person you are buying from will still be around for a payout you will claim 30, maybe 50 years from now?
Don’t you find yourself wondering what might happen if your advisor isn’t around, wondering if there will be someone else who will pick up after them?
Let’s say you put an education fund in place for your child when they turn one. You’ll need that fund to payout 17 years later when your child turns 18. When you sign those papers, do you ever imagine picking up that cheque when they turn 18? Do you envision your current advisor, the person who sold you that policy, to be handing over that cheque? Or is it a blank face with a company logo on it in your vision?
I’m curious because I picture that end scene when I sell a policy. I imagine handing over that college fund or making that retirement fund wire transfer. And every time, I wonder if I will be the one processing that payout. I fully intend for it to be me, as far as my mortal, human control goes.
To me, that little future film reel that is running in my head adds a degree of permanency to every client relationship that I step into.
My Question to You
Questions, I should say.
Clients – Are you buying a product and the reputation of the company behind that product, or are you buying from an advisor and the trust you have in them? Are you looking for a long-term relationship?
And for you, Advisors – Are you thinking long-term with every client relationship? Are you focused on the commission today when they sign those papers, or on showing up with that cheque tomorrow?
I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.