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Practice Management

4 challenges financial representatives face in the virtual environment

Overcome challenges and embrace technology

One of the most important jobs of a financial representative is to keep clients prepared when life turns on a dime. Thankfully, virtual meetings allow you to always be there for your clients and can be just as meaningful as an in-person experience. In fact, research from the Financial Planning Association suggests that virtual meetings are as effective as in-person meetings and provide valuable flexibility.

This means embracing technology is paramount to maintaining a good relationship with your clients. Representatives who adopt strategies for communicating with their clients online may gain an advantage over those who don't.

Of course, change isn't easy, and there are a few bumps that you might encounter along the way as you wade into the virtual environment. Here are four common challenges and tips for overcoming them.

1. Minimizing technical challenges

"You're on mute."

"I can't hear you."

"Your camera is off."

If you have been working in a virtual environment for any amount of time, then you're familiar with phrases like these. And if your client is not deft with technology, you may have found it even harder to connect with them online. Doing so, however, is incredibly important. One recent Forbes survey found that 95% of more than 300 senior executives polled said they believed communicating online can create a greater sense of trust.

  • Try to include web links and dial-in information when sending out meeting information so that it's all in one place for your client. Make sure your client also has a phone number where you can be reached and vice versa.
  • Whether it's Zoom, Google Meet, or another meeting tool, test your system prior to the meeting time, and ask your client if they need help in advance. Consider making the meeting a little longer to allow for solving technical hiccups.
  • Speaking of technical hiccups, if you or your client are having trouble connecting, don't waste valuable meeting time. Hop on the phone to make troubleshooting easier and have a plan in case you need to conduct your meeting without video or screen sharing abilities.
  • Your client may be worried about having a secure connection; be sure that you and your client aren't ever using a public hotspot to conduct business.

2. Reducing distractions

Whether you're working from home or from an office, virtual meetings can easily raise the chances of distraction when your client isn't sitting directly across from you. Everyone loves to multitask, but you want your client to feel like they have your undivided attention.

  • If you're working at home, have conversations with family members about your meeting schedule for the day. If you can, have your own separate space.
  • Keep only your video conferencing system open on your computer during meetings; silence your phone and turn off program notifications on your computer such as Slack and email, especially if you will be sharing your screen. (Limiting what you have open on your computer and silencing phone notifications can also help with general productivity. Recent research from nonprofit research group Screen Education showed that people spend about 2.5 hours per work day on average accessing content not related to work.)
  • Use earbuds or a headset with a microphone to improve audio quality; this can help minimize background noise.
  • Simplify your desk. Have out only what you need for taking notes, whether it's a pen and paper or a blank Word document.

3. Connecting meaningfully

In a virtual environment, it isn't easy to pick up on body language or other subtle clues as to how your client might be feeling, but there are still ways you can cultivate a connection.

  • Don't be afraid of navigating tough emotional issues, even if you aren't in person. While there are tough issues that you and your clients should discuss, such as the death of a loved one, they shouldn't be put off just because you are meeting virtually.
  • Listening is incredibly important — one recent survey of financial professionals showed that representatives who don't listen to the needs of their clients are more likely to lose a client than those who do. You can show your client that you're listening to them by giving more verbal feedback. When it's your turn to speak, paraphrase what you heard your client say before you respond so that they know you've heard them.
  • Prepare an outline or agenda for the meeting with key topics that you would like to cover ahead of your conversation and mention that you'd love their input. Doing so can help encourage conversation and raise awareness of what's currently on your client's mind.

4. Staying connected

There are ways to stay in touch with your clients even when you can't grab a cup of coffee or chat at social events.

  • Post regularly on social media sites, such as LinkedIn. Whether it's something you read or a photo of life working from home, keeping your social media sites up to date will help your clients feel more connected to you.
  • Consider conducting shorter meetings with your clients on a more frequent basis (instead of longer meetings less often). Checking in more often could also increase the chance that you'll be able to help a client when an issue is top of mind.
  • Have you ever thought about blogging or starting a podcast? These tactics allow your clients to hear from you at their convenience and can be especially popular with millennial clients. Creating relevant content is a great way to connect with existing clients on a more casual basis and attract new ones to your roster. It also shows them that you're at the forefront of your industry. Not a writer? If you need help, hire a ghostwriter or editor to help you. While you're at it, take some time to update your social media accounts.

Remember — communicating remotely isn't always easy, but the benefits can outweigh the occasional frustration and even put you ahead of the competition.

Learn more about how to cultivate trust with your clients.

SM.2486518.02.21

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