As we transitioned from in-person and telephone meetings in the post-pandemic world to Zoom and other forms of virtual meetings, there was a significant degree of concern in whether, as financial advisors, we would be able to continue to effectively communicate with our clients. What we learned was that not only would we be able to continue to provide effective guidance, but that we would be taught several valuable lessons in how to be better communicators going forward.
We all learn in three main ways: visually, auditorily or tactilely and there is a long-standing general belief as a result of Edgar Dale’s research that we recall:
- 10% of what we read
- 20% of what we see
- 30% of what we hear
- 50% of what we see and hear
Any advisor who has attempted to walk a client through a number’s presentation via the telephone without the benefit of a visual aid can attest to these figures. Virtual meeting platforms, such as Zoom, and their screen-sharing tools have enabled advisors to introduce more visual aids to their presentations and foster a more dynamic learning environment. As financial planners, being able to interactively show a client on the cusp of retirement the effect a 1% variance in growth will have on their portfolio assets and lifestyle is very powerful. Virtual meeting software allows us to be more responsive to client concerns and questions during meetings, which in turn allows clients to make faster and more informed decisions.
While Zoom has enabled us all to “run” from meeting to meeting, without so much as even needing to get up from our dining room chairs, we have become more cognizant of the realities of “Zoom fatigue”. As we transition to shorter meetings to combat this drain, we noticed a natural evolution to more frequent client meetings to compensate. So instead on one meeting every quarter for 90 minutes we find ourselves having 2 or 3 meetings of 30 minutes instead. The upshot of this transition is more frequent client contact, more productive meetings and increased accountability on all parties to follow through and keep plans on track.
Additionally, we found that there are a few “softer” issues at play that can have a significant impact on the comfort a client or prospect has with the advisor. For instance, avoiding virtual backgrounds and allowing people a small window into how you live injects some normalcy into what can be an awkward way to meet someone and can help breakdown some of the barriers to connecting with people in a professional relationship. To the benefit of our relationship building, we have learned to ask questions about that painting in the background of a client’s frame or to embrace the curious 7-year old child’s video-bombing of a meeting.
Virtual meetings also provide clients with greater control and flexibility in where and when meetings take place. Not being limited by travel schedule restrictions and conference room availability allows clients more comfort in being able to schedule meetings on their terms.
Through this and past upheavals, financial or otherwise, it was immediately evident post-crisis that the advisors who were able to effectively communicate and lead their clients through troublesome times separated themselves from the pack and gained valuable customer loyalty. We are doing our best to make sure the pandemic is not time lost, but an opportunity to learn valuable lessons we can take with us into the future.