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If you want to improve, you need to know what you’re bad at and how to do it better. But in business, your strengths and weaknesses aren’t always clear—you don’t know why a client left, a prospect ghosted you or a referral source dried up.

In reality, you can fix this easily with feedback from the people you serve. They’ll tell you exactly what you could do better—and sometimes even how you could do it better.

In this episode, Julie Littlechild stops by to help you gather more feedback and turn it into actions that grow your business.

Ready to leave behind confusion and know exactly how you can take your business to the next level?

Listen now!

Show highlights include:

  • The biggest trend for financial advisors that helps you multiply the value you provide… without multiplying your work! (4:16)
  • How to find out exactly which feedback questions to ask for maximum clarity and results (don’t ask any question before you figure this out). (8:26)
  • How timing can give you a tiny trickle of referrals—or a massive flood! (18:19)
  • When to avoid and ignore feedback. (21:15)

If you’re looking for a way to set more appointments with qualified prospects, sign up for James’ brand new webinar about how financial advisors can get more clients with email marketing.

Go to TheAdvisorCoach.com/webinar to register today.

Ready to learn even more about becoming the successful financial advisor you know you can be? Check out these resources:




Read Full Transcript

You're listening to Financial Advisor Marketing, the best show on the planet for financial advisors who want to get more clients without all the stress. You're about to get the real scoop on everything from lead generation to closing the deal. James is the founder of TheAdvisorCoach.com, where you can find an entire suite of products designed to help financial advisors grow their businesses more rapidly than ever before. Now, here is your host, James Pollard.

James: Welcome to this week's episode of Financial Advisor Marketing. I'm glad you're here listening with me. If you're a first-time listener, please make sure you go back and download all of the other episodes, as well as subscribe and leave a review. If you're a long-time listener, thank you for tuning in again. Whether you're new or not, get ready to have your socks knocked off. There's an old quote by Sir Isaac Newton and it goes like this: "If I had seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." That's how I feel about the guest that I have on today because she has influenced my thinking about building financial services practices in many different ways. [0:01:04.9]

She always brings real, actionable advice. It's almost always backed by data, so there's not just theory or generalities or anything like that. There is just hard data. She is the founder and CEO of Absolute Engagement and she is also the author of The Pursuit of Absolute Engagement. She's also been recognized twice, not just once but twice, as one of the most influential people in financial planning. She's transforming the industry with information she's bringing to the table about using client feedback to grow your business. That's what we're going to talk about today. So, without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce Julie Littlechild. Thank you for taking the time to be here with us today.

Julie: Well, after that introduction, I think that may…that's a top 10 introduction right there. Thank you.

Jonathan: Thank you. Yeah, I mean you have so many different accomplishments. You've done so much. I don’t even think I scratched the surface, but yes, that is definitely a long-winded introduction for me.

Julie: It's a pleasure to be here chatting today. [0:02:02.2]

Jonathan: For the financial advisors who are listening, the story behind the interview that you're listening to right now is that I reached out to Julie as a result of a webinar she was doing called What Your Clients Can Teach You About How To Grow Your Business and it was perfect timing because I had just gotten an email from a financial advisor about using client feedback that morning. This wasn’t the first time. I get questions, I would say once a week or once every two weeks, someone would ask me something specifically about client feedback. I told them I wasn’t really an expert on that particular topic. About two hours later when I saw that Julie was doing something about it, specifically, I knew that I wanted to get her on the show. To kick things off, can you give the audience a broad overview of why client feedback is so important?

Julie: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that we would all agree that the client is at the center of everything that we do. I think we probably also agree that a truly differentiated client experience is really built around the needs of our ideal client. [0:03:05.9]

If both of those things are true, then I think we really need to stop relying on assumption about what our clients want and to have some sort of formal process in place that will not only measure how we're doing, but really and form the kind of client experience that will help cut through the noise. For all of those reasons, I just think it's a critical part of what we do.

James: Yeah, absolutely. It's like compound interest, where you know a little bit more about your clients and you can improve your experience a little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more. Eventually, you've got a business that's head and shoulders above everything else.

Julie: Absolutely.

James: Even the things that you dreamed of.

Julie: It's so true and it's…look, it's easy for all of us to assume what's important and what clients value and it's not like we're going to be wildly off base. I mean, we…hopefully, we know our clients at some level, but I just think that it's so important and needs are changing so quickly that having a more intentional process in our business becomes a really important thing for us to do. [0:04:07.2]

James: Oh, yeah. I love that word, being intentional. Well, are there any trends that you're seeing right now when it comes to financial advisors and feedback?

Julie: There are. There are a couple of things. You know, the biggest trend, and I would say that as an industry, we're just catching on to this trend. It's not new in and of itself, but this whole concept of co-creating value is something that we think about a lot at Absolute Engagement. The concept, I mean it goes back to the 70s in academic circles, but the idea of course is that as we progress that we will not just deliver value to clients, but we'll actually co-create. The client will have a more active role in defining value and even delivering on value. It's kind of a big concept, if you think about it, but we see examples of this outside the industry all of the time. [0:05:05.5]

To me that's one of the bigger trends that's just pushing us as an industry to say, "Okay, well at a minimum, if we're going to co-create value, we need to understand what value even is." I would say, you know, that's kind of one of the overarching trends that we look at because I think we're moving in that direction. The other trend I think we're seeing is… you know, and I don’t know what comes to mind when we talk about client feedback, if this is the case for you, but often people say, "Well, yeah, it's a survey. It's, you know, it's doing a satisfaction survey," and that can absolutely be part of it, but I think this idea of thinking a little more broadly about the voice of the client and the myriad of ways that that can influence the processes in our business. So it might be surveys, but it might be an advisor report. It could be an exit interview. It could be an onboarding survey. It could…you know, there's all sorts of different ways to get feedback and I think we're early days on this, but I do think that's another trend that we're seeing. [0:06:09.2]

James: Yeah, I totally agree with you that there are different levels. Like yes, you can do a survey and that's better than nothing but there are so many different options available to you. You actually mentioned exit surveys, and I got a question from an Inner Circle member about a client that had been with him for several years, like 5 years…

Julie: Okay.

James: …and he considered this person a friend. From what I understand, he knew her very well. Would it be appropriate for him to give her an exit survey, I mean, if he knew her and they were really close or whatever because I told him that he probably already know everything that she's going to tell you. So I said, "No," but would you disagree with me telling him no that he would still, he should still do it?

Julie: Well, I guess it depends on what his answer was to that. You know, I think you're right, if you say you probably know and if he does know, well, there's no real need for it.

James: Right. [0:06:59.9]

Julie: If he's scratching his head a little and saying, "Huh. You know, I don’t." The reality is, if that's the case, that the client probably wasn’t dissatisfied. They were probably neutral and neutral is a risky place to be. Right? Because it means you're open to other discussions and so that's where I think exit interviews can be helpful. Now, you can do them yourself. You can have someone else do them if you want to create some distance, a bit more…you know, because it's hard for somebody to sometimes open up about why they've left if it's the actual person, but … and I think that the key to the exit interview is that it has to be done without the expectation that you're going to change the client's mind. Right? Because as soon as we get that in our head, it influences the conversation a little too much.

James: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's a great idea to have someone do it. Otherwise, it's like a breakup in a boyfriend and a girlfriend, "Hey, why did you leave me?"

Julie: Yeah, "Why did you leave me?" [0:08:01.0]

James: "Please come back."

Julie: Exactly. And you know, I mean, there are professionals that do this, but it could just be somebody else in your office. It could be someone on your team who's maybe a little more distance. As long as they've got the requisite skills, I think just creating that distance is helpful.

James: Exactly. Yeah and aside from exit surveys, just getting feedback in general. What are some of the best feedback questions that advisors can ask?

Julie: Well, so much of it comes down to their core objectives because I really believe that the only good questions are those that reflect what you're trying to accomplish in business and so, I mean, broadly I think they fall into a couple of different categories. Questions that help you measure how you're doing, so overall metrics - that might be satisfaction. It might be a Net Promoter score. It might be value, even trust to some extent - all of these have pros and cons. There are questions that help inform the client experience and those kinds of questions, I think, are things like, you know, how often do you want to meet - how do you want to meet - are you comfortable working with team members, but again, all of these change a little bit depending on who the advisor is and what they're attempting to do but really, you're trying to tease out insights that will help you to deliver a better standard of service. [0:09:28.6]

But you mentioned that webinar that we did and in that particular case, we were really honing in on questions that would help drive growth in 2020 and so there were four types of questions that we looked at there. One was still an overall question like satisfaction and the reason that I see that as a growth question is because if someone is neutral or dissatisfied, you have a flight risk and so if you can identify the clients who are in that category, it gives you that opportunity to reach out before they leave. So, just, you know, how satisfied are you with the overall relationship could be certainly a good one to ask. [0:10:13.2]

The second set of questions that I think are really helpful have to do with what clients are really interested in learning about. So if you're thinking about, for example, what kind of a client communications plan you should have in place - you know, should you be sending information out on the market - should be sending it out on particular topics. Well, just ask. I mean, it seems almost trite to say that, but we can ask clients which topics really resonate for them and then build some campaigns or some communication around that and I think that when we do that, we can make our client communications more shareable. Right? Like I don't know - my advisor sends me a market update. It's really good. I think it's really well written and I happen to like it because I'm a bit geeky that way. [0:11:00.6]

However, I have never sent it to anyone. In no world would I send it to a girlfriend and say, "Hey, you should see this market update. It's just really on point." I don’t do that, but if he asked me and said, "You know, are you interested in something to do with, I don't know, parenting or raising financial independent children or health and wellness or something, that's the kind of stuff I share. Right? I think if we can really lock that down, and then there are questions about have they referred because that uncovers referral opportunities that you may not have even known existed and even just asking clients things like, "What are you interested in learning more about" that might lead to… well, it depends on your business - maybe it's an insurance opportunity - maybe it's talking about philanthropic giving - maybe, you know… just ask them, "What do you want to know about? What are you interested in? How are we doing? Have you referred?" I mean, that's your growth plan for 2020 right there.

James: Yeah, without a doubt. And I mean, that's a lot to take in and I hope financial advisors were paying attention because there were three gold mines in there. [0:12:06.6]

Hey, financial advisors, if you're looking for a way to set more appointments with qualified prospects, I invite you to sign up for James' brand new webinar about how financial advisors can get more clients with email marketing. Go to TheAdvisorCoach.com/webinar to register today. On this webinar, you'll discover why email marketing is able to generate upwards of 4400% ROI for smart financial advisors, three fatal mistakes nearly all financial advisors make with their emails, and the proven three-step process for converting prospects into booked appointments using email. All you have to do is head on over to TheAdvisorCoach.com/webinar and register today.

James: The first one, it comes from constantly getting feedback. I know we're saying the word "feedback" quite a bit on the show, but I mean, you're getting feedback from your clients and producer Jonathan isn't here this week. Whenever I do interviews, producer Jonathan isn't around, but he actually used to co-host the show with a marketing legend named Doberman Dan and I don’t expect financial advisors to know, but he has a paid newsletter that he sends out every single month and at the end of the newsletter, he has a little form where he's like, hey, if there's anything you want to know, let me know and he actually takes it to heart. He will help you and it's just a beautiful thing. [0:13:22.4]

Julie: Right.

James: Number two thing that I think financial advisors should take away from that is when she was talking about the market update and how it's cool and all but she won't share it. That's like the key to the kingdom. Sometimes, your financial advisor clients, they don’t…it's not that they don’t like the stuff that you're giving them, but it's not enough and they're not being engaged enough to share it and to promote you. Then number three, and I want to a little bit more about this is getting feedback about referrals and I have always noticed that it seems like financial advisors, they're stepping on, trying to step around a land mine. When there's a particular client that says they like them and they engage a little bit or at least it seems that way but they haven’t referred anyone and the financial advisor is just jumping out of his or her skin trying to figure out why in the world has this person not referred. [0:14:16.2]

It's a really touchy subject for some people. How can you approach that, if someone hasn’t referred but you want him or her to do so?

Julie: We do a lot of research in this area. Every year we go out, we do an investor study and every year we ask about the referral process. That data heavily informs my views on this whole thing. Because I think…I mean, to some extent the answer to the question starts with understanding why people refer and when they don’t. What we know now and I think has become…I mean, when I started talking about this in 2008, it felt like a blinding flash of something and now it's sort of accepted wisdom that people refer to help their friends and family, not to help you grow your business. That alone begins to inform how we get referrals. We have no evidence that just asking for more referrals actually works. I mean, it's not going to hurt…

James: Right. Exactly. [0:15:17.4]

Julie: But there is evidence to say that people want to help the people they care about and if they think you're the answer, if you have connected the dots between the problems they're hearing about and the solutions that you have got in place, they will refer you in the same way as they'd send a friend an article or a website or a tedex or you know, whatever…just wired that way. But I don’t think that clients are connecting the dots because we haven’t made it particularly easy for them. We haven’t really communicated the problems we solve in the words that they use when they're talking to their friends. If I know that my advisor is an expert at managing wealth across generations in a tax efficient manner, that's lovely and entirely accurate, but I've never had a conversation with a friend over dinner where it's, "You know what I'm really looking for? You know, somebody who manages my wealth across generations in a tax efficient…" Nobody uses those words. Right? [0:16:17.3]

James: Right. Yeah.

Julie: But if we talk about fear or we talk about retirement or we talk about …you know… I just think the whole thing needs to shift. Here's what I think, you know, just sort of back to how feedback comes into this is what we also figured out with the research is that way more people are actually referring than we know. Right? About a third of clients say they have referred their advisor and yet, advisors tell me, I don't know if you hear similar stats to this, but that they probably get referrals from maybe 3 or 4% of their clients, when you just do the math, which means a whole lot of people are hearing about you but you don’t even get the chance to have a conversation with them because there's no introduction or they just never get to you. [0:17:07.3]

But one of the things feedback does, which is really interesting, is simply by asking, "Have you provided a referral?" you're able to drill right down to a list of clients who say they have referred and if you haven’t met anyone, now we have a conversation that tries to get back to that core motivation that they had, which is like "Can you tell me a bit about the circumstances? Why did you think we could help?" And if they're still a live opportunity, you're going to get that referral because you'll talk about it differently.

James: Yeah, that's so insightful, and I'm actually guilty of that and for everyone listening, we're actually recording this around the holiday season and I received a gift from my accountant and it's a beautiful gift. I really liked it. I took a photo and I shared it on my personal social media and a lot of people commented, like, "Wow. Your accountant must really like you."

Julie: Right.

James: I was like, "Yeah, he's awesome. He's great." You know, and they're asking, "Well, who is it? What does he do?" So on and so forth. We just talked to like six different people and I would bet money right now that none of those six people reached out to him. I don't know if there's something else I should be doing or…I am definitely guilty of what you just talked about. [0:18:14.7]

Julie: Well, because I wonder if it just needs to be the right time for a referral. The difference would be is if you're out for dinner and someone says, "Oh gosh, you know, I've got this, I've got a business here and I've got one in another city and I've got my financial advisor and I've got my lawyer and nobody seems to be in charge of anything, you know," But if you knew that your advisor was, or your accountant in this case, excuse me, was particularly good at being the quarterback and working across cities or something…you know, when there's an answer to a problem, that's when that referral is going to matter. Somebody may reach out if they're looking for one and you got a nice gift, but they're not probably connecting that to a real need at that moment. There's no pain point. [0:19:05.7]

James: Yeah. And when I think about the referrals that I've personally given, it's definitely triggered by an event where I can connect the dots, just like you said. It's all making sense. It's crazy. There was someone that I had met who, and we're going to get kind of technical here, but…or at least, I'll try not to … he had a single member LLC and it grew and grew and grew and he converted it to be an LLC that's taxed as an SCORP and I was, "Well, I actually know this guy who does insurance who can help you put all that stuff together," and I gave that person a referral and I don't know what came of it, but that was a specific event where I knew that the insurance could be purchased by the company and all the technical stuff behind it. I connected the dots, just like you said. I was like, "I know someone." And I did it to, just like you said, help the person who converted to an SCORP, and…[ 0:20:03.0]

Julie: You knew that about your advisor or your, you know, the lawyer or whomever in that case because what…you'd either gone through it or you'd been told that and I think that happens in all sorts of ways, but what we often fail to do is talk to our clients in those terms, like to…I often put it in the context of helping clients spot a need for advice but not a need for an advisor. That is to say most people don’t know they need an advisor, but they often articulate a need for advice. It may be subtle and that's when the opportunity is, but I think we're asking a lot of our clients to figure that out on their own without maybe helping them see what the problems that you can solve.

James: Yeah. And when I mentioned to a few advisors that I was going to talk with you about client feedback, one of them got back to me and was like, "If Henry Ford asked people what they wanted…" You've heard this, right? People would say they wanted faster horses. [0:21:06.4]

Julie: Absolutely.

James: I want to give some credit where credit is due, like the advisor has got a point. Is there any scenario or situation where it makes sense to avoid or ignore client feedback?

Julie: Well yeah, and what's interesting about that is that it's not necessarily a knock against feedback, it's about asking the right questions. Right? So…

James: I agree.

Julie: …you know, the right question might have been do you need to get from A to B faster or do you need to do it more comfortably or is it painful? If you ride a horse or … you know what I mean? Like you're really trying to unearth the fundamental challenges that your clients are facing. It's not their job to figure out the solution and I do think that's a failing of feedback is, would you be interested in and then something entirely complex where the answer is, "I haven’t got a clue. Like how am I supposed to know that?" [0:22:03.0]

But if you can understand their needs and challenges and goals and aspirations and then respond to that, we're good, but I think the whole idea of ignoring feedback is kind of interesting because I think… And maybe this is just a human tendency. We get feedback all the time. It doesn’t have to be formal and when I think we maybe need to ignore it is if it's unsolicited. You know, everybody has an opinion on our business. I don't know if you've noticed that - maybe it's just me. They may not be experts in it. An individual comment doesn’t make a trend. Right? So I might not ignore feedback but I go, "Hmm…I'm just going to put that away for a bit," and if I keep hearing that same comment, that's a trend. If it's just this one person who really feels that way, then I can't twist myself into knots trying to make it work, so one off feedback but if it's quantitative, if we're doing a survey and if we have really asked the questions well, and there is some art and science to that, then I think we need to respond to that. [0:23:19.7]

James: Yeah, and I'm reminded of an advisor in Australia, where they do, they can do a lot of Facebook ads in Australia and he emailed me. He was like, someone had commented that - and sometimes I don’t know why they think I'm the one to come to with this - but they're like, this guy commented that he hates seeing my ads and he wished that they wouldn’t pop up in the feed or whatever. I was like, okay, but how many people clicked on it and engaged? He was like, oh, a couple hundred.

Julie: Right.

James: So one versus a couple hundred…

Julie: Let's do the math together now. Yeah. But isn't that interesting because that's where we all go. Right? I mean…

James: They focus on it.

Julie: I say that but you know, if I do a speaking engagement, you know - I could have 300 people who are thrilled and the one guy that's not and I obsess over it. It's what we do. Right? And it's crazy. We should not do this to ourselves. [0:24:06.9]

James: Now, are there any tools that you recommend that advisors use to get feedback? Any particular software or anything that you like to use?

Julie: Well, yeah, I mean. It would be… I mean, we do that. I'm entirely biased in terms of saying that. There… you know, there's two paths to go down, I would say. There's the do it yourself or there's partnering with firms like ours to do it for you. If it's a do it yourself, there are, you know, just Survey Monkey or there's technology out there that you can use. One of the challenges that we're finding and it's, I mean, we're working on hard on is firms are really locking down now with privacy, data security. There's so many restrictions now - how you email - are those emails tracked. We spend an enormous amount of time obviously ensuring that we're very compliant and secure and I know firms that won't allow their advisors to use Survey Monkey, for example, because just because it doesn’t… it has not been vetted through the system. [0:25:13.7]

You got to be aware of those things or partnering with a firm like ours where we'll customize for you, execute and provide all the reporting tools.

James: That's why I wanted to ask because I know that there are some firms out there that won't let you use Survey Monkey, just like you said. I would definitely recommend partnering with a firm over trying to rough it out yourself. A lot of people ask me about SEO, email - can I do this - can I blog - can I do all this myself? It's like, well, even if it costs you less, technically per hour, you're going to take way more time, you're not going to do it as well, it's not going to be as efficient. Then you have the opportunity cost on top of that. If you have a chance to hire someone who knows what they're doing and get it off your plate so you can focus on higher value tasks and still get the benefits, I would recommend that you do so. [0:26:05.8]

Julie: We all do. This is the reason I have a financial advisor.

James: And financial advisors should have financial advisors and so…like who do the doctors go to when they're sick?

Julie: Who do they go to?

James: I've always wondered about that. Are there any projects that you're working on now or anything that financial advisors should look for from you?

Julie: Well, we are, you know, we're very focused on rolling out new tools to support the client feedback process right now. We have a report that we have just written called "Integrating The Voice of The Client in Your Business," which looks really just a little more broadly at all of those different ways. You can get that on our website. We'll be doing our next investor study over the next couple of months. Then of course, you can always look for us sharing some of the insights that we pull from that.

James: If people want to learn more about how you could help, how can they get in touch with you or how would you prefer they get in touch with you, I should say? [0:27:01.9]

Julie: Yeah, well I mean, there's lots of information on the website including our blog, which is where we share a lot of our information. That's at AbsoluteEngagement.com but any questions, no problem at all. Just emailing me directly at JLittlechild@AbsoluteEngagement.com.

James: Alright. Well, thank you very much for taking the time to be here. This has been a lot of fun and I hope that the financial advisors out there were taking notes or at least paying attention because there were straight up gold in this episode and there is definitely a lot to think about. I encourage you to take some time to outline how you could use this information to grow your business. I will catch you next week.

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