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Shifting From Client Meetings to Client Conversations

Do face-to-face meetings still provide value? On this Elementality podcast, Reese Harper and Chad Jardine discuss how periodic calendared meetings are beneficial, but why they’re no longer the best way to prove your worth.

Meetings allow you to connect with your clients and deepen relationships. That’s why meetings should be used for coaching, therapy, and allowing your clients to express their financial concerns. But Reese and Chad reveal why real financial planning needs to be happening outside of meetings as you move client finances forward. And why reporting back to clients about their progress through more proactive communications is the best way to demonstrate your value today.

 


Podcast Transcript

Reese Harper:
“It’s time to meet, it’s time for quarterly meeting, time for annual meeting, gotta do a review.” Those don’t feel incredibly personal, they feel like you’re responding to an institutional request from your manager or from the company to meet.

Chad Jardine:
Yeah. Like you’re serving the calendar, not the calendar serving you.

Reese Harper:
 Yeah, “The calendar said it’s time to meet, so it’s time to meet.” Well, in that kind of scenario, you actually get very little engagement or you get less engagement. You have clients showing up that are like, “I’m here, man. So you told me to come in, so I’m here, what are we doing?” And then you get people that are really excited, that haven’t seen you forever and they wanna be there. Then you get people that are like, “You know, I don’t even think I’m gonna respond to that request because I don’t know what he’s gonna cover, but I’m so busy that I’m not really sure, it’s worth it.

Chad Jardine:
Yeah.

Abby Morton:
Welcome to Elementality, I am Abby Morton, CFP and producer of our podcast here at Elements. I love being a financial planner, but I know it’s a challenging profession as well. That’s why the number one goal of our show is to help you prosper as an advisor as you better connect with your clients. We know your time is very valuable. Plan on a good return when you spend it here with us.

Reese Harper:
Welcome to another episode of Elementality everybody. Here with Chad in the studio, excited for another big day. What do you got for us?

Chad Jardine:
Yeah, so today I wanted to ask you some questions about advisor-client meetings.

Reese Harper:
Okay.

Chad Jardine:
So this is something that is kind of new to me. Basically, everything we talk about is new to me, so I appreciate the patience as you drop your wisdom on me.

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Chad Jardine:
So as we were talking to advisors, right? It seems like everybody tries to hold at least one big meeting, it seems like that’s kind of like the old school approach was, “Hey, you know, show up. We’re gonna take a couple of hours, I’m gonna drop a gigantic three ring binder on you so you can get this thud factor feeling that I do a lot of work, and then we’re gonna spend this time and it’s gonna be super painful for both of us.” [chuckle]

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Chad Jardine:
But some advisors are like, “Well, actually, I like to meet more often, once a year is not enough. I wanna meet two times a year or three times a year. I wanna meet every quarter.” What’s the right approach to meetings? How often should you be meeting with a client?

Reese Harper:
Let’s tackle this in two ways. When you started saying that, we’re thinking about everything all wrong in our…

Chad Jardine:
Okay. I can already tell this is gonna be good, right? [laughter]

Reese Harper:
Yeah, yeah. Justin and I talk about this at Dentist Advisors sometimes, and by the way, even at Dentist Advisors right now, they’re running a series of meetings every year, that I think there’s value in a meeting. Let me start by telling you what I think the value of a meeting is. I do think meetings allow you to connect with someone whether it’s Zoom or especially when it’s in person, which is something about resetting and hearing someone, reading them. I have a much better time when I’m looking at someone and sitting with them, understanding what they’re going through than when I’m just on the phone with them and I’m just listening.

Chad Jardine:
And a more complete communication, you can read somebody’s body language and gestures.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. I think the relationship is just deeper. Look, your relationships are always deeper with people that you have met at least once in a lifetime.

Chad Jardine:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
And I don’t think that’s ever gonna change, you know? So, I don’t think meetings are ever going away and any kind of… They are never going away in a service industry entirely, especially if one’s a personal one-to-one relationship. If it’s one-to-many, I think meetings could go away. If the service you’re rendering is one-to-many, or if the service is not personal, in a one-to-one scenario, I don’t think meetings are that relevant, but in financial planning, you’re always gonna have this kind of desire to connect with someone at some point. However, I feel like financial advisors have a lot more value that they’re delivering than what shows up in a meeting. A meeting can also sometimes look like it’s an obligatory kind of interaction, so, “It’s time to meet, it’s time for quarterly meeting, time for annual meeting, gotta do a review.” Those don’t feel incredibly personal, they feel like you’re responding to an institutional request from your manager or from the company to meet. But if you…

Chad Jardine:
Yeah. Like you’re serving the calendar, not the calendar serving you.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, “The calendar said it’s time to meet, so it’s time to meet.” Well, in that kind of scenario, you actually get very little engagement or you get less engagement. You have clients showing up that are like, “I’m here, man. So you told me to come in, so I’m here, what are we doing?” And then you get people that are really excited, that haven’t seen you forever and they wanna be there. Then you get people that are like, “You know, I don’t even think I’m gonna respond to that request because I don’t know what he’s gonna cover, but I’m so busy that I’m not really sure, it’s worth it.”

Chad Jardine:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
So, let me contrast that with another example. It’s not a meeting, you know, like, this morning I reached out to a client and I said, “Hey, you’ve been holding on to this stock for a while. It’s reached its point where we can… ” It was a stock that they had had held privately and it’s now public, it’s passed it’s five-year holding period where there’s an exit on private stock, qualified small business stock, if you guys know what that is, after five years there’s a tax-free kind of… You can… All the gains from the time that it was private to the time it went public, if you hold it for five years, then the gains at least while it was a private company are deferred or tax-free.

Chad Jardine:
Yeah. I think Congress is looking at changing this right now.

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Chad Jardine:
Hey, Congress, don’t change it.

Reese Harper:
[laughter] Don’t change it, exactly.

0Chad Jardine:
Leave this part to support small business people.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. So anyway there’s a trigger that shows up in my calendar and I pull up his profile and I just gave him a ring and just said, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about this. The time is now, what do you wanna do?” We had a conversation, he made a decision. And that kind of interaction is 10X the value of an obligatory let’s get together, right?

Chad Jardine:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
Why? Because it’s proactive. It’s about a specific thing that they know you’re going to do that is adding value and making their life better. It’s meaningfully increasing their net worth, reducing their taxes, improving their financial situation. And I just think there’s a big difference between those kind of actions and actions where people can tell like, “We’re getting together for you to discover what it is that you need to do to help me.” There is value in that.

Chad Jardine:
You got built-in relevance in a situation where it’s like the timing for this is actually an externality and it’s not just an arbitrary date on the calendar.

Reese Harper:
Yes. And here is my other challenge that I have with meetings. Again, not saying that I’m not doing them sometimes. I think meetings are sometimes the bailout of… Sometimes meetings are a cop out for financial advisors who know they’re not adding enough value. And so they don’t organize themselves well enough to add value independent of a meeting, so they throw meetings on the calendar to sort of say, “I can’t run a process independent of a meeting.”

Chad Jardine:
So, are you saying that sometimes meetings provide structure in the absence of anything better? If the advisor had access to a better system or process where there wasn’t this arbitrary annual meeting, a better system, better process would maybe make interactions more relevant, less arbitrary?

Reese Harper:
Yeah, like, let’s just think about this, I’m trying to think of a good example here. Let’s say you’re an apple salesman that sells apples from your farm and you show up carrying a box of apples to every house, and when you get there, you find out how many apples they actually need, right? But you don’t know until you get there and you don’t know until you’ve loaded your box, and you’ve driven to the house, and you’ve filled your box up, and walked up to the door, and rang the doorbell, and talked to the person, and then they go look in their fridge, they look at how many apples they got. And you don’t even remember if that person is allergic to apples or if they even like apple pie, but you have to go to every house and every street and bring your box of apples and load it up in your truck because sometimes you dump it, and you can’t bring it back. So you’re like showing up with inventory that you’ve prepped for.

Chad Jardine:
You’re doing a lot of things…

Reese Harper:
To every freaking house.

Chad Jardine:
A lot of things on it just in case basis.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, just in case.

Chad Jardine:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
And then what ends up happening is, it’s just in time and just in case, like everything is just in time and just in case. [chuckle] And then half the people are happy and half of them are like, “You guys are freaking wasting my time.” And half of them are like, “I don’t know. Is this really worth it? Because they didn’t even get to talk about what we wanted to talk about.”

Chad Jardine:
Yeah. I was looking for peaches. [laughter]

Reese Harper:
He was asking me about whether my… He was trying to get all his information and I just wanted to talk about this thing. And so my suggestion would be, when you meet with somebody, I can promise you there’s one thing that they want to do. They wanna talk and they don’t wanna hear you talk. [laughter] And so if you show up and use the whole meeting to get your stuff done and they don’t get to talk, they’re not gonna feel like it was a great meeting. So, I would just suggest that we just need to be careful about how we look at meetings. They’re not bad. But if we use them in a way that is for us to get all of our stuff done and we bring all this inventory that we prepared, that doesn’t apply, but just in case it might and I don’t know what they’re gonna ask, so we prep these investment performance reports and we go and we collect a bunch of information and we try to get all of our projections updated and we’re all ready now for the whatever might happen. It’s like, this is a better way. Now, I’m sorry, there’s not really a better way easily right now without technology, but that’s where I think the industry is going, is platforms like Elements, we’re trying to create this system that says, “You don’t need to go to this house right now. And they like peaches. And you’ll need two. And you can send Tom.”

Reese Harper:
And so it’s not just in time for the meeting, it’s in the moment that it matters. You’re going to deliver value that’s precise to that customer’s needs at the cost that they can afford to pay and so that the customer is getting the right amount of your inventory at the right time in the moments that matter in their life at the cost that they can actually bear, and that way you maximize value across the market, because right now what’s happening is, out of the 120 million households in the country, 10 million of them are getting incredibly over-prepared service at an expense that they can afford, but that eats up all the inventory of all the humans of all the financial planners in the country and the rest of the market is going, “Well, I would love to access that human capital, these smart people that are out there.”

Chad Jardine:
Yeah, the expertise and the experience of…

Reese Harper:
But they’re like, “Well, right now the people at the top of the market are paying for something that… They’re giving us 50 bucks an apple, and we’re just gonna go to one house. [laughter] ‘Cause until there’s more apples out there, they’re being distributed at lower cost, we’re not gonna change. And so I think what you’re gonna see is the price of apples are gonna come down from 50 bucks a bit, and more people are gonna be able to enter the market. But it’s not gonna really change the price for the people at the top either.

Abby Morton:
Do you ever wonder if you do enough for your clients to be worth what they’re paying you for? Do you feel like you’re delivering enough value? Many advisors wrestle with questions like these. I’ve used the Elements Financial Planning System for a couple of years now. With it, I can deliver periodic insight about a client’s financial health and progress by utilizing standardized measurements. They know I’m watching their progress and can actually see how my advice is improving their life. With the Elements Financial Planning System, you can also give your clients consistent planning guidance, and the valuable advice they expect. Check it out at getelements.com/meet.

Chad Jardine:
Well, and just to abuse the heck out of the apple salesman metaphor, which has been great.

Reese Harper:
Which I will say is made up on the spot and there’s probably a lot of holes in it, so I’m sorry for that. I’m trying to think of an appropriate agriculture reference.

Chad Jardine:
But I do realize that it’s getting that information about what’s relevant to each house?

Reese Harper:
Yes.

Chad Jardine:
Also, it means that as an apple salesman, you can go to more houses, right? Because I don’t have to go to this house this week, they don’t need apples this week, or they need peach. So I can actually serve more clients. As an advisor, I can serve more clients by being organized around what their actual needs are instead of the just in time and just in case approach.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, yeah.

Chad Jardine:
So do you think that there’s a place for like a no-meeting advisor, an advisor that takes approach that had, “I’m going to use alternative ways to connect with clients outside of meetings,” or maybe just that there’s a concept there that there’s enough other ways to connect with clients that if you could just imagine a no-meeting advisor, that that helps pull you into a more central spot?

Reese Harper:
Yeah. It’s gonna take technology advancing in a significant way, that’s why Elements is feverishly building our web platform, which is, there’s a future where meetings are actually viewed as… And I’m there, in my own life, my own practice, every meeting I see, I ask myself the question, “Why? Why do I need to get with that person in the same physical space?” Because that requires travel, it requires cost, it’s inefficient for me.

Chad Jardine:
Yeah, and both sides, right?

Reese Harper:
Both sides. Everyone’s thinking the same thing. And when I think about recording a podcast, I’m like, “Oh, that’s worth it, because that’s the human connection that I’m looking for with Chad, like, we’re gonna have a good experience, and the contents can be better, and people will be able to feel that, and I want to go and do that because I enjoy being with Chad.” But that isn’t the whole day, and I just think clients are gonna continue to find value of Zoom meeting and of phone calls and text and messaging and video deliverables, asynchronous…

Chad Jardine:
You’re saying, did I understand you’re right, that you have very few meetings that you’re doing right now?

Reese Harper:
The meetings I have are to listen to people and build relationships. It’s coaching, it’s therapy, it’s not financial planning in the meeting. Although financial planning is happening, Jordan and I are doing our best to… I still think there’s a value in an occasional meeting and you’ll be able to sense it with each client. But it’s more important that they actually see you adding value and doing planning and getting jobs done for them and moving their financial picture forward than it is that you are scheduling time on their calendars. That’s my view, but anyway.

Chad Jardine:
Fantastic.

Reese Harper:
I’m not anti-meetings, folks, but I do think that we have a ways to go in terms of adding value outside of meetings.

Chad Jardine:
Well, it sounds like that by taking advantage of some of the tools and additional approaches, that what you’re actually getting is a situation where the value you hope to get out of a meeting, in the past, you’re capturing that and more and being efficient with both your time and the client’s time, that everybody’s leaving that exchange better.

Reese Harper:
Better off. And the meetings that you do have can just be more impactful, I think so. Anyway, that’s great. Thanks for chatting about it today.

Abby Morton:
Next time on Elementality.

Tim Welsh:
Yeah, we went from DOS to Windows to the cloud, now it’s cloud native, and I’m sure there’ll be another iteration. We’ve been chasing this technology evolution of the operating systems the whole time. And I think what’s always top of mind for advisors is that, “How do I take advantage of this?” I know I’m still in a regulated business, I know I still have documents and affiliate signatures sometimes, but there’s so much more that’s happening and available. So I think our other job here is to try to help transform the industry and move them forward, technology forward. So digital transformation is everything right now. Everyone’s trying to play in this game, the custodians, the asset managers, the advisors themselves, they want a better experience, they wanna offer your client.

Abby Morton:
You can learn more about the Elements Financial Planning System at getelements.com/meet, and schedule a time to meet with me or one of our friendly financial planning experts. Elementality’s executive creators are Reese Harper and Chad Jardine. Elementality is produced by Abby Morton and directed by Jordan Haynes.

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