The ultimate objective of an Exit Planning Advisor is to enable their business owner clients to shift their perspective of them from “service provider” to “most trusted advisor.” The key to earning this outlook is for advisors to constantly work to deepen the relationships with their clients.
After all, working with clients to create, modify, and implement an Exit Plan is far more than a one- time transaction and typically spans the course of several years. This long-time work relies on deliberate and impactful relationship building that drives client satisfaction and connection.
In a 2020 study on the future of client-advisor relationships conducted by The American International Group (AIG) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, it was reported that the value of advice is evolving and increasing rapidly. This study of clients of financial professionals between ages 30 –75, revealed some key indicators required for client trust and satisfaction regarding their financial advisory relationships. These indicators go beyond an advisor's client list and portfolio performance. In this post, we will expand upon those factors in the scope of Exit Planning, to include:
Understanding Client’s Financial & Life Goals
Ability to Explain Things
With these in mind, Exit Planning Advisors can capitalize on their conversations to drive deeper connection and better highlight their value proposition to their clients.
Professional Exit Planning Expertise
As mentioned in last week’s blog post on referrals, clients typically buy-in to your services to solve a business problem or to seize an opportunity. Advisors would be stuck in a sticky situation if a client presented them with a business challenge without having enough information first to provide feedback to that challenge.
Since the exit path of the business owner is driven by their goals, advisors must have enough knowledge, or access to support, to work with owners to create a customized plan for their business, no matter what their chosen exit path. Once data is collected and challenges are identified, Exit Planning Advisors must be able to determine the gaps that exist between the owner’s current resources and those they will require to achieve their desired post-exit life. Having this ability to acknowledge gaps and share Exit Planning knowledge, which most business owners don’t have, will boost credibility and ultimately, strengthen these client-advisor relationships.
Understanding Client’s Financial & Life Goals
Presenting clients and prospects with expertise will only be well received if the time is taken to gather useful information about the business owner’s goals and resources – both regarding their professional and personal life. In a recent BEI podcast episode, “Creating a Partnership for Life,” it is discussed that the initial conversation with a prospect can be make-or-break in forming a relationship that leads to an Exit Planning client.
Some tips shared on the podcast were to spend a lot of time at the beginning, making the most of the initial Exit Planning conversation. Begin with asking positive questions about their business, particularly; how and why they got started, what is going well with the business, their involvement, what the business means to their family, etc. These questions often lead to more broad discussions about their personal aspirations and what is important to them and their family while they are still involved with the business, and after they plan to leave it. By avoiding jumping right into the challenges and concerns and instead asking about things that are easier for the business owner to talk about, it allows you to get to know them on a more personal level.
Good questions drive better and more in-depth Exit Planning conversations and showing genuine interest and curiosity about what they do paves the way for a deeper understanding of a client’s financial and personal life goals.
Ability to Explain Things with a Proven Process
At BEI, we believe in the power of a well-designed process. The typical Exit Plan takes 5-10 years to fully implement considering all the work that must be done following the initial conversation mentioned above. To maintain momentum over the duration of an Exit Planning relationship, advisors are encouraged to use a written plan. This plan maps out recommendations, roles and responsibilities of the business owner and other advisors, timelines, deadlines, and expected results, allowing an opportunity for a clearer understanding of the process.
Instilling a process will show clients the road between their pain points, the solutions that will solve them, and the way to achieve their post-exit life. Being able to provide stability, sound advice, and project management through the duration of the plan will show your clients that their needs are important to you and that you are there to make sure they are met.
Conclusion & Takeaways:
In a world that is automated in so many ways, constantly seeking more efficient ways to simplify transactions, there is still high value in personal aspects of relationships, especially conversation.
The ability to foster connections and lifelong partnerships can be just as much of a differentiator in the eyes of a client as your Exit Planning expertise can add to your practice. In order to create a partnership for life, remember a few key takeaways:
Gaining expertise in Exit Planning will help to build credibility in the eyes of the client.
Expand the conversation to include more genuine and personal topics to deliver more value to clients.
Take the time to explain the process to clients in every step so they view themselves as a partner in the Exit Planning process.
Re-imagine the long-term relationship with the client of the future by having an open mind and keeping your client’s relationship needs at the forefront.