Social distancing could impact the way financial advisors communicate with clients and prospects. Especially if distancing measures are continued for a prolonged period of time. The timeline could be an extensive one if the virus is reoccurring. For example, its infection rate declines during Spring and Summer and increases during Fall and Winter. This is a key characteristic of the seasonal flu.
At some point, there will eventually be a vaccine that will protect us from the virus. The earliest this might be available is the Summer of 2021. This could extend into 2022. Then it will take time to vaccinate large numbers of Americans.
Maybe we get lucky and one of the hundreds of worldwide labs finds a treatment that prevents infections or makes the symptoms less life-threatening. This partial solution could be available by this Summer.
Regardless of the possible outcomes, it is safe to assume the virus will be around long enough and it is threatening enough that millions of Americans will change the way they communicate with others - including financial advisors.
Investors will have a new choice to make. How do they want to interact with their financial advisors – in person or virtual? They are used to face-to-face communication, but that type of interaction may represent a new set of risks – in particular when it is unnecessary, and they have a simple, readily available option.
The clearest description of this not so new method of communication is if people can have virtual interactions with doctors, they can have virtual interactions with financial advisors.
Just about every financial advisor has remote clients that are serviced virtually. Most of the time, this is a result of existing clients relocating and deciding to retain their current financial advisors. There are millions of these relationships, so we know virtual servicing works.
On the other hand, virtual servicing is based on existing relationships. This means investors and their financial advisors have agreed to virtual communications, but the agreement was between two parties who already knew and trusted each other.
There is another key characteristic of this relationship. Even when advisors and investors are in the same city, some financial advisors meet face-to-face with their clients once a year and communicate virtually three times a year. So, the advisors’ servicing relationships are based on quarterly communications that already include virtual service meetings.
The real challenge for many advisors is not virtual servicing for existing relationships. It is virtual marketing where there is no relationship, trust, or prior communication.
It is safe to say, most financial advisors are much more comfortable in face-to-face interactions for one major reason. This type of interaction maximizes the impact of the financial advisors’ personalities and sales skills. A high percentage of advisors rely on their sales skills to win new clients.
They use this combination of traits and skills to develop rapport, overcome objections, make presentations, and win new business. The impact of personalities and sales skills is diluted when the interaction is on the telephone or Zoom.
It is safe to assume a financial advisor with a great personality and exceptional sales skills will still be successful on a telephone or Zoom presentation. And, since there may be no face-to-face competition the advisors with the best personalities and sales skills can still win, but they will need some new tactics.
Sitting in the background is another challenge for financial advisors who use virtual marketing to win clients.
The source of the challenge is not a person. It is the investors’ online access to information about financial advisors.
Investors can use the Internet to learn more about financial advisors in general before they start their interview processes. This means they will be more knowledgeable and tougher to sell to.
They can visit financial advisor websites to learn more about the firms that employ or license the advisors. In this case, it is important that financial advisors are represented on the website with at least a profile.
They can Google search financial advisor names to find negative and positive information. In their search, they can add keywords (fraud, lawsuit, complaint) that are designed to uncover negative information.
They can also visit third-party websites, such as FINRA, the SEC, and state regulators to check the compliance records of firms and professionals.
Firms tend to think of the Internet as a way to produce new leads for their firms. It is much more than that. It is a delivery system for information about firms and professionals. Investors have access to the delivery system at their fingertips. And, they can maintain their anonymity while they conduct their research.
It is reasonable to assume investors who use the Internet to find financial advisors will also use the Internet to learn more about them.
Enterprising financial advisors are already thinking about how they are going to add new clients during the pandemic and in its aftermath. They are asking themselves what has changed and how those changes will impact them now and in the future.
Their challenges are how they interact with current and prospective clients and do they need short-term or long-term solutions. There is a chance the interactions between investors and financial advisors will revert back to the face-to-face days before the virus. But, advisors should be prepared for virtual interactions and how they will win new clients in a new environment that gives investors more control.
They may need some new tactics that will work better in a virtual marketing environment. At a minimum, the tactics will produce competitive advantage that convert more prospects into clients.
Advisors that own their brands and websites will have a distinct advantage when investors conduct their online research.