#RecipeForSuccess: Southern-Fried Relationships

Hands down, going into business for myself was the best move I have ever made. I am both in charge of my own destiny and happier than I have ever been in my career. How did I do it? It took a lot of hard work, plus another key ingredient: the relationships that I have built over the years, both personally and professionally.

Today, I am going to share some of the easiest tips on relationship building you will find. You can even start incorporating these into your practice today. So,  grab your cast iron skillet – the one that has been in the family for generations – and start cooking today.

(To see other great recipes on a range of topics, from setting up charities for success to managing a remote workforce, click here.)

Master Chef Sous-Chef: Richard Roppa

Every good Master Chef has a Sous-Chef they trust.

I relate to Sous-Chefs much more than Master Chefs. Sous-Chefs move behind the scenes to prepare, troubleshoot, improve, correct and execute plans. That is what I do with my clients every day.

Today’s Special: Long-lasting Client Relationships

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup of Conversation
  • 1 Cup of Communication
  • 2 Cups of Transparency
  • 1 Cup of Technology
  • A Sprinkle of Thank You’s
  • A Dash of Attitude
  • A Pinch of Personality

Step 1: Add real-life conversation to the conversations you are already having. Next time you are preparing an agenda for a client meeting, add just three minutes to the agenda for ... just talking. But, change the small talk to BIG TALK. Stop talking about the weather, and start talking about things that matter.

You already know their business story, and you already know their financial story, but do you know anything about them as a person? Do you know anything about what makes them tick and what makes them smile?

People buy from, and engage with, people they like.

Ask them about their weekend, ask them about their kids and ask them what music they play in their office. Ask them anything at all that will create a bonding moment. It is important to have a personal connection and nurture that connection with the clients you work with. They will appreciate it and so will you. These personal conversations make it easier to ask what is working for them and what is not.

Make them feel important.

Three minutes at the beginning of a call is all you need for BIG TALK. Take notes about your clients’ hobbies, their kids’ names, favorite food ... anything. Start to incorporate those details into your normal routines, and listen to how their voice changes when they talk about their favorite things. That is the excitement you are after when talking about their numbers. You already know they are an important part of your business, and they should know that you feel that way about them.

Step 2: Add a cup of customer surveys and communications to taste. I am a believer that you must actively and frequently find out if your clients are seeing the value in your services.

Clients keep buying when they feel like they are being heard and that they matter.

Remember that gauging people’s level of satisfaction can be a double-edged sword. Don’t fear or discount any negative feedback. Your surveys should be short and ask precisely the questions that will give you the feedback you are seeking and sometimes the feedback you are not seeking.

You may find out that part of your service is not working for them, or that they wanted a slight adjustment you could have easily made a long time ago. All that is standing in the way from changing a contentious relationship to a five-star relationship is unfiltered feedback.

Step 3: Fold in mistakes, delays and problems together, until completely transparent. Looking for solutions to problems is not always just on you. Work with your clients to determine the best course forward and always keep them in the loop with any deadline issues. The golden rule of mistakes and changes? Make sure that your recovery is beautiful.

It is not the mistakes you make; it is how you recover.

Step 4: Add technology and stir. Technology is a wonderful thing. Just like kitchen tools, the right technology can make a surprisingly big difference in your work. Did you know that QuickBooks® has an invoicing and payments tool that helps you get paid twice as fast?

Technology can also make deals more profitable, if used to save resources and offer additional insights to your clients. Here are some of my favorite tools to save you and your clients time, while giving peace of mind:

  • Bento for Business. Bento is your finely-honed chef knife: dependable, precise and gets the job done in minutes. Bento is a card provider and expense planner, all in one. It’s as many cards as a company needs, with incredibly detailed spending controls. Budgets? Check. Expense reports? Check. Pictures of your receipts? Check. You can LITERALLY change the way expenses are handled for your clients. Bento is an incredible way to up your advisor game.
  • Slack. The name Slack is an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge,” and if you have ever used it, you already know that the name says it all. Slack is used by every team in a slightly different manner, but everyone who uses Slack says the same thing: time-saving game-changer.
  • Mixmax. Think of Mixmax like a KitchenAid mixer – a must have appliance. Part email scheduling, part calendaring and part email templates. It’s a real-time assistant that saves boatloads of time in the back and forth between you and other people to coordinate meeting times, days, addresses, numbers and more. It’s more than amazing. It will even help you do small personal bulk email campaigns.

Technology can be one of the best ways to keep clients happy. It's about knowing that they can get you in a private, client-only space, and knowing that you use technology to save them time, energy and effort. All of it helps with your relationship building and helps you become a better advisor, the advisor you want to be.

Step 5: Sprinkle with thank you’s. Your appreciation for your clients’ loyalty is more often than not the difference between a client and a really happy client. Thank them for their continued business, thank them when they get you those documents you are waiting on and then thank them again for being a part of your business.

This is where I will make a non-technology suggestion. For those of you that know me, this is a bit shocking to read, but handwritten cards are making a comeback. Send out a card for no reason, or send one when a new client signs up. Better yet? Use Send Out Cards and let them deal with the postage and mailing. It’s exciting to get something other than junk mail or a bill in the mail these days.

So, there you go. My five-step recipe for cooking up rich and long-lasting client relationships. It’s easy and anyone can do it, but it might need some practice to master, just like the perfect Gumbo Roux.

I’ve shown you my secret ingredients and just a peek at some of the tools I use. Make this recipe your own and I’ll be here for some taste testing when you are ready.

Editor’s note: This recipe first appeared on bentoforbusiness.com