How to Build an Onboarding Process That Creates Lifelong Clients
Episode 10618th September 2023 • Human-centric Investing Podcast • Hartford Funds
00:00:00 00:29:19

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Onboarding a new client is much more than paperwork. Libby Greiwe, host of the Efficient Advisor Podcast, details how to establish expectations for an overall positive client experience.

Transcripts

Julie [:

John, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sometimes visiting a business or purchasing something and the process unfolds and it’s pretty clunky. And sometimes I have to ask myself, even if they’ve been in business ten or 15 or 20 years, gosh, this feels like the first time they’ve ever done this. And clearly it wasn’t. I don’t know if you’ve had that experience at all lately.

John [:

Well, yeah, I think if you just think about how the tools that we use have changed over time, even, you know, looking back now over the past couple of years, we’ve all experienced through COVID, it’s changed. It should have changed processes. But in many instances, you know, we go back to what’s comfortable and we never really put the thought into the business processes that are key to the success of our practices.

Julie [:

You’re right. I kind of put it into the the mindset or the bucket of what got us to here isn’t necessarily going to be what gets us to there. And I think that that’s where the power of a team, especially in financial services, has become more and more important that we truly, if we’re the lead or the the more seasoned financial professional, but we can’t necessarily be all things to all people.

John [:

And that’s where I think no more apparent than, you know, when we think about the onboarding process of new clients. Julie and interestingly, it’s probably an area where many financial professionals don’t spend much time thinking about it. It’s almost like the hard work of client acquisition is over. And now while you brought up team all that and it’s up for my team just to kind of get everything else in order. But we know that things don’t always go so smoothly. And Julie, that’s why I really appreciated our recent conversation that we have with Libby Greiwe. Libby’s kind of an expert, by the way, very successful financial professional in her own right, but only came to this onboarding process. She brought in a lot of elements that I really hadn’t thought about before. So why don’t you share with our audience a little bit about who Libby is?

Julie [:

Absolutely. Libby Greiwe is the host of the Efficient Advisor Podcast, and she ran her own planning business for 16 years, culminating in a sale and retirement in 2019. Since selling her highly successful planning business, she’s obsessed with sharing her practical, step by step processes to help other financial professionals achieve the same results.

John [:

So let’s listen to what Libby has to share with us.

John [:

Hi, I’m John

Julie [:

And I’m Julie.

John [:

We’re the hosts of the Hartford Funds Human-centric Investing Podcast.

Julie [:

Every other week, we’re talking with inspiring thought leaders to hear their best ideas for how you can transform your relationships with your clients.

John [:

Let’s go.

Julie [:

Hello, Libby. Thank you so much for being here with us today on the Human-centric Investing Podcast.

Libby [:

Yeah. Well, thank you so much for having me. I’m looking forward to this conversation.

John [:

So, Libby, your viewpoint is very interesting to me because as I think about kind of the different phases that the financial planning profession is passed through. You know, there are some professionals who think the delivery of the financial plan is like the high point of our relationship with the client. But if we go one step further and say, man, not only that delivery, but now we’ve got this client, they’ve actually said, yes, what more is there to do? But your view point is that the onboarding of a new client is maybe one of the most crucial stages of the client relationship. And I’m wondering if you could start off by sharing with our audience a little bit about why you believe that and maybe a little bit of what your experience was in doing so.

Libby [:

Yeah, absolutely. So when we’re talking about delivering that plan and thinking that sort of the the climax or the pinnacle of this relationship, I kind of liken it to like getting engaged, right? If we think that moment of saying yes and commitment is it, then we totally missed the boat, right? Because anybody who has been in a relationship or has been married knows that the real work comes after the commitment. Right? It’s an ongoing living, breathing, moving experience that is so much more than just this single point in time. And so what I’ve learned over the last couple of decades in this business is that we really live in what I would call an experience economy. You know, one of the big kind of quote unquote claim defames. Right. For for my business was that we built this practice that was 100% referral only. And for most advisors, that’s like the dream, right? The goal is to have new vetted ideal clients lined up out the door to meet with you. And by nailing this onboarding process is one of kind of, for me at least, the key components that I’ve experienced. And then, you know, through the hundreds and hundreds of advisors that we’ve worked with, watching them make that transformation and that mind shift that has to happen from thinking about onboarding as just being a paperwork process of literally getting the clients you’ve already said yes and committed to wanting to work with you in a grander scheme or on a longer term basis. It’s more than just moving accounts from A to B, it’s more than just applying for insurance or filling out paperwork for an annuity. There’s so many different layers to onboarding that really create an experience for our clients that makes you and your practice extremely referable.

Julie [:

You know, it’s interesting, Libby, as you talk about an experience, and I think we’ve all had situations in life, maybe not necessarily in financial services, but just in in any relationship where we might step back and think, wow, is this the first time they’ve ever done this? It feels very clunky. It doesn’t feel as well oiled. So where where does a financial professional start? If they’re sitting here thinking. I love what you’re saying. I think I think I do a decent job. I’m sure there’s room for improvement. Where do we start this process and really kind of shifting our mindset? And what are some of the specific activities that an advisor can start to go through or a checklist maybe in their mind to say, Am I hitting the mark? Where do I need to make improvements? How would I grade myself?

Libby [:

Yeah, so I think the first thing that any advisor really needs to do is to recognize that onboarding is really a process and it’s really an opportunity. When you get the onboarding process right, it can be one of the most. And it’s fascinating to me every time I work with an advisor who experiences this. But when you get your onboarding process well-oiled and done correctly, it becomes one of the most referable windows of time because the experience is so unique, so different. It’s such a differentiator between a client’s experience with a previous financial advisor and then yourself. So there’s basically three layers of of an onboarding process. And I like to think of it, you know, like dating, like we say before, like once a client says yes and they commit to you, you know, we want to be in that financial planning process. We’re showing them that, Hey, look, we’re charming, we’re wonderful. You want to work with us, we pay attention to detail, and then if we stop dating our spouse or we drop the ball after that commitment, what often happens is we forget about how clients feel. And so whenever we’re coaching advisors or whenever we’re building out processes, we want to keep how our clients feel and how we want our clients to feel at the core of everything that we’re doing and build around that. So what often happens is we’re engaging in financial planning, right? We’re seeing the clients all the time, we’re meeting with them, we’re doing goals, we’re doing discovery, we’re gathering data, we’re presenting options, we’re showing them output, we’re doing all of these things. Then they say, Yes, we want to work with you. Great. We do the paperwork, we get the stuff over here, and then we just move them into kind of our traditional client service model, which might not be engaging with them for, I don’t know, depending on the advisor, another six months, maybe a year from now. And so we often forget that our clients will feel that, oh wow, they were really attentive when they were trying to get our attention. But now that we’ve committed to them, oh, look, we’ve kind of just fallen off this cliff, right? So we want to think about onboarding as an opportunity to let the clients kind of down from that experience and to set expectations. So the three layers are. Yes, doing the paperwork, actually getting the the money here to they’re doing the applications, all of those things that we mentioned and documenting it. So in order to avoid that feeling clunky or silly little mistakes, what happens is a lot of advisors, we do this all the time, right? And it just lives in our head. And then we hire an assistant and it lives in their head. And we have this this process. We know the steps that need to happen. We know what we need to do, but it literally just lives inside of our brains. And by getting it out onto paper and creating a true sort of standard operating procedure, it allows us then to step from that advisor role into more of a CEO role where we’re actually taking the time to review our processes and looking at, okay, what are the steps that we’re following? Are we actually delivering that? I’m on that consistently. And then how do we as a CEO level up this process, how do we make it incrementally that one step better? How do we improve that? How do we make it more connecting? How do we expand beyond just the paperwork? And so that then leads into what I would view as the other two layers of onboarding. So we’ve got our paperwork and then we’ve got this opportunity to really set expectations with our clients in so many different ways. And then to also add the third layer, which I call the human to human connection, which is this opportunity to move away from the business to business side. That is the paperwork, that is the how are we going to engage in an advisor client relationship into taking the time to really build out this human to human connection. And it’s so easy for advisors to do, but it’s often one of the most missed steps because we have this focus on just getting the business piece of this set up.

John [:

So Libby, it sounds like one of the things that advisers really need to think about is their the branding of their own practice and what they want to be known for. And they carry that through those levels of onboarding. Am I right about that? Because sometimes I think it seems like once we’ve captured the client, if you will, in terms of we got there, yes, everything that the brand stands for kind of goes by the wayside unless we’re solving a problem that the client may have had. You’re saying be proactive about promoting that brand recognition throughout, correct?

Libby [:

Yeah, absolutely. We want to be extremely intentional if you’re going to put any effort her time or, you know, utilize your team or your staff in any way, shape or form, you might as well be extremely intentional about it. And that’s where, you know, we talk a lot over at the official advisor about really stepping into that CEO role. And when you are operating as a CEO versus just an advisor who is literally in the tornado of our business, this is one of the most overwhelming businesses on the face of the earth. And I get that right. I lived that for for nearly two decades. But when we actually make time to step outside of the tornado and to be intentional and proactive and to take that brand, that that identity of who we are, our DNA of our practice and actually weave it throughout, what I would say are kind of the 7 to 8 main processes that every single financial planning practice has. When we actually take the time to be thoughtful about how we approach it, that’s when everything really starts to click and everything starts to gel. And our clients can feel that difference when it is focused on what is it that we’re ultimately trying to achieve, what is that the feeling we want to induce in our clients? How do we want people to talk about their experience of working with us?

Julie [:

Libby It’s interesting. You know, obviously, so many financial professionals have other members of their team, whether it’s a shared client associate, and that’s their team member or it’s, you know, five, ten, 15 other team members. And often, I would imagine that in these initial conversations, the client or prospect is just speaking maybe with one, maybe two members of the team. But obviously there’s a lot of human power and resources behind whoever that face or that primary lead of the conversation has been. How do you advise financial professionals to really kind of walk that line between when do I bring the rest of the team and when do I talk about them? When do I introduce them? You know, obviously it’s part art, part science, but I know that I engage in a lot of conversations about that. And I think there are a lot of different schools of thought. But I would be curious to where your your opinion is in the work that you’ve done and the success that you had sitting in that seat of an advisor and really indoctrinating your clients into your team and client experience?

Libby [:

Yeah. So one of the best experiences I ever had and as as an advisor is I can remember being in the office and I never did this towards the end of my career. But one day I remember the phone was ringing and for whatever reason I answered it and the client on the other end of the line was like, Libby, and I was like.... Yes. And she’s like, I don’t want to talk to you. I need to talk to Laurie. Right? Like, she was acutely aware that the need that she had was not something that I had any knowledge or capability of doing. And I was like, Well, that’s silly. I could help you and then she told me what she needed and I was like, Oh, absolutely right. I actually have no idea how to do that. Let me go find Laurie and I will make sure that she makes that happen for you. And, you know, at first it was kind of like, oh, how how dare she? And then it was like, oh, wait, that’s what we’ve been working really hard towards. So, you know, you say that there’s this fine line right between where when do I introduce my team? For me, there is no fine line. It starts at the very beginning. So for us, part of the DNA of our practice was that we were a team and that we had very specific functions. And from the moment a client walked in our door for the very first time, I wanted them to have confidence in the competency of every single person on my team. So we immediately started integrating different team members into different meetings so that our clients would not only get to know them and experience them, but also it would give my team an opportunity to ask questions and for the clients to answer and for them to really prove that competency level. And our clients felt so comfortable with the different members of our team that after that planning process was done, they were very, very clear on how our interactions would would be and how frequently or really infrequently they would actually be talking to me from that point forward and that they would mostly be engaging with other individuals to help them service, you know, withdraw funds, place trades, etc.. So by introducing different team members from the get go, our clients became very comfortable with that experience. And in fact, it’s funny because whenever I speak to a group about onboarding, I always have to stop and mention like, Hey, after the client said, yes, I actually wasn’t even part of that onboarding. While I was really integral in helping like design the process and, you know, be super oriented to how the clients were feeling, I actually didn’t do any of it. It was really fully handled by our team members from that point forward, which was extremely efficient for me, but also it was extremely efficient for our clients because they got exactly what they needed from who they were going to be interacting with anyway.

John [:

Libby as I think about what you just said, question, did you ever prepare anything in written form, like documentation that a client could take with them to understand who does what? And then a corollary to that question was, did did you spend a good amount of time kind of increasing the credibility of your individual team members, like a little bit about where they came from or, you know, why they’re so good at what they do? How much, so did you prepare something that was written as a takeaway? And then secondly, what did you do to enhance the credibility of the other members of your team?

Libby [:

Yeah. So we actually had this great document that we called the expectations of our engagement that we would go through with our clients in that onboarding process that would lay out, here’s how you know, here’s how we’re going to work together, here’s how we’re going to protect your privacy, here’s how frequently we’re going to meet. Here’s what we’re doing behind the scenes between each time that we see you. Here is how you can communicate best with our team. Here’s what you can expect from us as far as response and responsiveness. Here’s what we can do for you. Here’s what we can’t do for you. Here’s what to expect. And then here’s also, you know, expectations of what not to expect from us. So we did we had this really great document that outlined all of those things so that our clients, you know, I think human nature. I think one thing that is universally true for all humans is we have a natural desire to understand what’s going to happen next, like what can we expect next. So, okay, we filled out this application. Okay, now what? Okay, great. The money has arrived and you’ve played some traits. Okay, now what? You know, so being able to give clients, whether it’s verbally or written, I don’t care. But as long as they have a very clear understanding of what’s going to happen next, they can feel a lot of peace and a lot of comfort and a lot of just like ahh this is a different experience from things that I’ve experienced before because I really have my arms around what’s going to happen next. And so, yeah, expectations of our engagement was a game changer for us as far as being able to very clearly lay out that level of expectation with clients. And then as far as competency in our building confidence in the competency of our team, yeah, that was extremely intentional. So our objective was to take our team members and really highlight what it is that they were exceptional at. So if they had really amazing interpersonal skills, then we were going to keep them front and center and give them time and opportunity to interact with the clients. Perhaps before I came into a meeting, Lori, by Director of Operations, she was the most detailed oriented person on the planet. And so just by highlighting that for our clients and saying, Oh my gosh, she is the goddess of paperwork, there will be very few mistakes. If Laurie is involved. If I am involved, there will be more neygos than you ever, ever want to encounter in your lifetime. But she is exceptional at what she does. And I think for a lot of advisors, it’s just an ego check that we have to step back and be like, we not only are we not all things to all people, but we really actually don’t want to be. And by elevating and empowering our team, it also gives them that opportunity to really rise to the occasion, right when we’re setting the bar with our clients that, Hey, this person is the goddess of paperwork, right? It gives her the opportunity to really embrace that and step into that and take ownership of that role. And she really, truly not only was but became ultimately the goddess of paperwork because we positioned her in that way. And never, ever after that did we have a client expect me to fill out or complete anything on their behalf. Right. Because they knew that that was not my skill set. And by having a goddess of paperwork and having a goddess of, you know, appointment prep and, you know, all those things allowed me to just be really, really good at setting the vision for our financial plan and for our investment strategy.

Julie [:

I want to meet the goddess of paperwork. I almost feel left out that I haven’t. So she unbelievably to. I love what you’re saying. And I know John and I, we have so many more questions. And before we wrap up today, I think a couple of phrases that I hear fairly consistently in the conversations that I have with advisors and teams, and I truly believe that they’re coming from a good place, but I think that they can be strengthened based upon everything that you’ve just laid out for us here today. But one is if there is a team member, maybe they’re more junior, maybe they’re in a support role, whatever the situation may be, that they’re they’re positioned at the beginning of the relationship as Joan and will just be in here today taking notes or Joan is coming into our meetings to listen or Joan is just learning or Joan is new or whatever those the situation may be. And it just feels to me like that’s positioning them from a weak position and really eroding credibility before Joan has ever even had a chance to build that credibility with a client or a prospect. So that’s that’s one thing that I would love to hear your thoughts on. And then the second is, oh, we all just back each other up. And again, although I think I understand that that’s coming from a positive place, it feels like that’s not the most strong positioning of we all have a role here is how we function. Of course, we’re a cohesive team. We pick up each other’s slack, but there’s a there’s a big difference there. So I’m just those are like I said, those are two phrases that I hear consistently day in and day out in the conversations that I have and would love to hear your thoughts and guidance on maybe how if someone has been positioning someone in either way, the team or a team member, how can they maybe adjust that going forward just to strengthen the credibility that they’re giving their team members?

Libby [:

Oh yeah, If I could absolutely eradicate anything from our industry, it would be the term junior advisor. I don’t know why, but it makes my skin crawl and it makes my spine tingle. And I hate absolutely everything about it because it’s exactly what you were saying, right? Like, Oh, so-and-so is here to do the, the menial work, the unimportant stuff, like I’m the big show, I’m the big brain. They’re just here to support me. That just to me is like that blahh that just makes my skin crawl because what we’re doing is we’re basically setting it up. I mean, imagine if I always just try to put myself in the client’s shoes and say, okay, if I were coming into a CPA firm or an attorney firm and the attorney is sitting there telling me that, like this guy over here is just, you know, the assistant that’s going to be taking notes, and then later I find out he’s actually doing a lot of it’s a paralegal in there, doing a lot of the language thing in my contracts and such. You know, I’m not going to be as inclined to want to talk to them and ask them questions. I’m gonna be kind of miffed. I want the person to do the thing. So if if I could encourage any advisor to just level the playing field and recognize that there is no I in team, right. Like you might be the LeBron James of your team, but if there’s no one to pass to, it doesn’t matter how good you are if no one’s going to give you the ball. So making sure that we’re approaching it in a format or in a manner where everybody has these specialties and this idea of, yeah, we just back each other up and oh, so, so here’s really is really great. That’s fine and good. But there are a gazillion financial advisors and everybody has the capacity to be professional and offer really great products and services. And it’s this extra element of we are very intentional about how we care for our clients and that we aren’t just going to be a whole bunch of jack of all trades. But we do really have people who specialize in things that we can make sure your experience in working with us is as smooth and as consistent and as professional as possible because we do have specialties even within our own business.

John [:

So Libby. We talked a lot about the onboarding process today. And just to let you know, Julie and I have our own onboarding process for our podcast. We call it the Lightning Round. Now,.

Libby [:

OHH.

John [:

I’m not sure if we described this to you before.

Libby [:

No I love surprises!

John [:

But at the end of every podcast. We like to ask our guests some top of mind questions, so we’ll just fire at ya. And they’re not difficult questions and we really are looking for kind of your top of mind answers mostly so that our audience can get to know Libby a little bit better than they may have just from the time that we spent together so far.

Libby [:

Great. Let’s do it.

John [:

What was your favorite board game to play as a child?

Libby [:

My favorite. My favorite board game and still kind of is is Sorry. I feel like there’s just something so sassy about it and being able to like, sorry, not sorry and send people home. Just always as a child made me incredibly happy. And I see that same thing in my boys. And I was like, Yeah, there’s that like sixth sense of, you know, sense of satisfaction for like knocking somebody off a spot and sending them home.

Julie [:

Do you prefer to shop online or go to the store?

Libby [:

Online 100% at 2:00 in the morning. Said night person. Yeah.

John [:

That makes sense. How about your favorite city in the United States?

Libby [:

Ooh, that’s a good one. My favorite city in the United States. Gosh, I love Denver. I love everything about Denver. I do a lot of speak... There’s lots of conferences there. So I feel like I end up there speaking a lot. But there’s so much variety in the landscape and activities and indoor and outdoor and it’s just beautiful.

Julie [:

Would you rather travel to the past or to the future?

Libby [:

Well, if I go to the past or I get to fix mistakes, or do I just have to re watch me make them.

Julie [:

Your choice!

Libby [:

No I, I have definitely, like a sense of wonderment. So I wouldn’t want to go to the future because I really I kind of like the unknown of what’s going to happen and taking things one day at a time. Even as a planner, which I think is really weird. So yeah, I would probably have to go to the past and probably I would probably just observe and laugh at myself and be like, Yeah, you thought that was a great idea. Let’s see how that one works out for you.

Julie [:

Or that was really a messy to do list. That’s what I would be saying about myself. Oh my gosh, you should have rewritten that.

John [:

My last question. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

Libby [:

I think dark chocolate is for people who hate themselves. I am a milk chocolate girl all the way.

Julie [:

And my last question for you is, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grow up?

Libby [:

Oh, that’s really funny. So I actually my whole life I was going to be an entrepreneur of some kind. I was the kid who asked Santa for fax machines and business cards and office supplies my entire life. But I did think I was actually going to own like, some sort of really fun, holistic spa place where I would just get spa treatments all the time. And then I learned that’s not exactly how running a business works. And I was gravely disappointed.

Julie [:

We must have been the two young girls asking for all the office supplies growing up. I actually was very angry my parents were not buying me the cash register back in the day at Costco, so I could just type the numbers. And I mean, it was very it was a very poignant moment in my life when they didn’t think I needed that. And I felt that I really did so well up to catch up on that later.

Libby [:

Yep. Santa did not deliver on the fax machine and I was pretty darn disappointed.

Julie [:

It was kind of unacceptable in my opinion, but I know we can talk about that at another time. Well, let me thank you so much for joining us here today on the Human-centric Investing podcast. And for those listening that are interested in hearing more about Libby’s work and thought leadership, be sure to visit her podcast, The Efficient Advisor Podcast, or check out her LinkedIn profile or her efficient advisor community on Facebook. In addition, Libby has also put some thought leadership into a white paper that can be found at Hartford Funds dot com about how to build an onboarding process that creates lifelong clients. Thank you again, Libby, for all of your insight today.

Libby [:

Thanks for having me. I love what you guys do for the industry and I appreciate it.

Julie [:

Thanks for listening to the Hartford Funds Human-centric Investing Podcast. If you’d like to tune in for more episodes, don’t forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube.

John [:

And if you’d like to be a guest and share your best ideas for transforming client relationships, email us at guest booking at Hartford Funds dot com. We’d love to hear from you.

Julie [:

Talk to you soon.

John [:

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the guest who is not affiliated with Hartford Funds.