Face to Face

Managing Client Expectations Like a Dentist

by Tony DiLeonardi

I like going to the dentist. Does that tell you all you need to know to stop reading?  I recognize, however, and with great understanding, that most people do not like sitting in that narrow leather chair with a light in your eyes, fingers and instruments in your mouth and the occasional request to "spit." It is at best uncomfortable, and at worse, a paralyzing fear for some.

Have you asked the clients you serve how they feel about their annual (or semi-annual) visit with you? Do they feel uncomfortable, frustrated or even perhaps fearful of the encounter?  Ask them, they will tell you.

Ok, we don't draw blood or use laughing gas or reek of latex but the research says many clients find it unpleasant to meet with you or even trust you enough to "give" you more of their very emotional, real and significant family wealth.

It is widely known that the average financial adviser has less than 60% of high-net-worth clients' assets.  Furthermore, for those clients with more than 5 million dollars in investable assets, they have nearly 7 different advisers managing those assets.

In addition, we know that more than 80% of clients who will inherit some of the$ 40 trillion that is moving over the next 20 years will select a different wealth adviser to manage that wealth than the one who built it.

Perhaps why some of our clients won't take our call as often as we'd like or won't come into see you or better yet, will not bring their spouse in with them is for similar reasons why some people don't go to the dentist - they hate the experience!  It's uncomfortable and personal. It may be a bit painful at times.  It's concerning and causes more thought and work for everyone involved.

We can all agree that semi-annual visits and teeth cleanings are the best preventative action you can take to reduce tooth decay, gum disease and now the medical community tells us heart disease.   However, there are still people out there that will not go to the dentist. It's not the cost, because most employee plans include dental visits. It's the fact that they don't like the experience. They don't like it because of past experience.  They don't like it because of their concern for the future.  They simply are afraid.

If your clients and prospects don't like the experience of seeing you, how can you save them from themselves? How can you provide the excellent investment, wealth and legacy advice and service that you and I know will keep their portfolios clean, healthy and strong? Enough with the dental analogies!

Recently, however, I learned a valuable lesson from my dentist.  As I sat in my dentist's chair and had an old filling replaced and a new crown put on, I noticed the dentist and the assistant did something new-or perhaps I had never paid attention to their process before. 

As the 60 minute procedure took place they told me everything they were doing, were going to do, why they were doing it and about how long it would take. In other words, they did not let me create a false fear, or draw conclusions that most likely would not occur. Said another way, they walked me through everything they knew would occur in this time of uncertainty and anxiousness for me. 

Do you have clients who are uncertain and anxious about the markets, their portfolios, retirement or their generational wealth? Do you have clients in real pain?  The reality is how you manage or don't manage that pain really will make all the difference. It will set you apart good or bad.

In Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink, he shares an extraordinary study of the correlation of a medical doctor's bedside manner and his or her likelihood of being sued for malpractice.  The incredible part of the story is that being sued for malpractice has less to do with the technical proficiency of the doctor but much more to do with the bedside manner-their  passion, compassion and care. 

Furthermore, Gladwell discovered that the perceived better bedside manner occurred from patients when the doctor had just three more minutes of conversation with the patient.  So, three more minutes of genuine, caring conversation means a doctor is less likely to be sued than a doctor who is technically more proficient, but perceived as less caring, compassionate, and does not take the time to know his or her patient.  What does this have to do with you? Everything!

So let's simply use this experience I had in the dentist chair to create or in most cases for you, re-create a positive connection with the clients you serve to get them comfortable or dare I say, even enjoying this painful, uncertain experience in life. The more you do that, the more trusted you will be.  Now that's noble.

Tell them what you are going to do, why you are going to do it, what they can expect and how long it will take. And then tell them again and again and again. Don't keep them in the dark or worse, don't argue with them that there is nothing to worry about or that there is no pain. There is real pain, accept that and manage it.

Walk them through the intimate process of wealth building that you know so well and actually can deliver to them. You are the reassuring, proficient, caring professional that they need and want. Keep it simple. Communicate often and openly. Create intimacy!

Go and be noble because what you do is noble.  I firmly believe that funding people's retirements, helping them buy second homes, funding their children's colleges and building generational wealth is noble and you are involved in a noble calling.

And by the way, our teeth won't be needed when we pass on, but the wealth that you provide the next generation will. So build it with not just intellect but with compassion, emotion and intimacy.