15-Step Client Onboarding Checklist: Onboarding Process for Financial Services
NOTE: If you’re a new financial advisor, make sure you check out Your First Year As A Financial Advisor, where I reveal several things every new financial advisor ought to know.
A financial advisor’s client onboarding process is one of the most important parts of an advisor-client relationship. That’s why it’s crucial to get the process down to a system.
Following a uniform process ensures that you keep your business running smoothly; following a routine procedure is healthy and helps you keep everything organized. When it comes to client experience, quality and consistency are both important. The best way to consistently facilitate a high-quality client experience is to rely on systems.
Delivering a superior client experience is not an event. It’s a process, which should have clearly defined onboarding phases in which the client must be moved. The entire client onboarding process should be written down and documented; using an onboarding checklist is the way to go.
The following template is just a foundation for you to customize and tailor according to your individual needs.
Before The Meeting...
1. Record the details.
First of all, you should record all of your client’s basic information. Ideally, you should be putting everything into your CRM. If you don’t have a CRM, I recommend Capsule.
ALSO READ: Is This The Best CRM For Financial Advisors
2. Set proper expectations
When you're onboarding a new client, it’s important to set the right expectations from day ones. The bulk of advisor-client issues can be traced back to unmet or unclear expectations.
Whenever someone enters a new relationship, whether it’s personal or professional, they enter it with certain expectations. Whether or not these expectations are realistic is another story. If you aren’t clear with your clients about how to do business with you, you will be held to an unknown standard. Not good.
Plus, The Financial Advisor Client Experience Report by Qualtrics reports that these are the top three reasons why people switch financial advisors:
These three reasons are all indicators that clients' expectations aren't being managed.
Because fees should be clearly disclosed at the beginning and clients should be made aware how they'll be served and whether or not it will be personalized.
Managing expectations has a lot to do with perception. When you go out to a fast food restaurant, you aren't expecting your food to be handed to you on a silver platter. However, if you go to the fanciest restaurant in town, you'd be disappointed if your food was plopped on the table in a greasy bag because your expectations wouldn't be met.
Unfortunately, some financial services professionals oversell themselves so much that clients end up disappointed. It's like going to a fancy restuarant and getting fast food treatment.
3. Send a personal welcome letter/email.
This letter should not sell anything. All it should do is thank the client for expressing interest in your services and fill any silence before you meet with them.
I always recommend sending a handwritten note to the client. It doesn’t have to be long – just take two or three minutes to write a note and send it to them. It means a lot and it helps you stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Here's an example of what your welcome letter might look like:
We at XYZ Financial would like to express our appreciation in your choice to meet with our team. We look forward to meeting with you.
If any questions arise, please do not hesitate to contact our office so we can assist you. Because we work as a team, please feel free to let the first person you talk with know how we can help you.
Also, we hold a variety of events throughout the year. We will keep you informed about these upcoming events and we would love for you and your family to join us so we can get to know you better. If you see an event you would like to attend, just ask.
Again, we appreciate your interest in meeting with us.
This is a good example of integrating multiple marketing strategies. By talking about your client appreciation events, you are planting the seed for future referrals AND showing your prospect how well you treat your clients.
4. Connect with them on social media.
If your client is on social media, offer to connect. If you are on the same social media sites, connecting with them proves that you are taking an interest in them. Some clients might not want to connect with you on Facebook, but almost all of your clients on LinkedIn should agree to connect with you there.
Connecting with clients on social media can provide valuable information about their lives, including job changes, promotions, new children/grandchildren, and any other important life events. Plus, it gives you another chance to remain top-of-mind.
5. Send any applicable contracts.
Any contracts you may have for the client should be sent at this stage of the client onboarding process. Make sure you have several copies for safekeeping and future reference.
Give them as much time as they need to read and look over the contracts. Give them about a week to call you and if you don’t hear back from them in a week or so, make the follow-up call yourself.
6. Send over a questionnaire.
Many financial advisors do not include a questionnaire as part of their client onboarding process – this is a mistake! Using a questionnaire is the most efficient way to gather a large amount of information from your client. It requires very little effort on your part. It will help you profile the client and understand his/her situation in more detail.
Here are some things that your client questionnaire should cover:
ALSO READ: 12 Best Financial Planing Questions To Ask Clients
7. Make sure they have proper directions/address to your office.
Your address and directions to your office (from north, south, east, and west) should already be on your website. If they aren’t, stop everything and add them now.
In any case, make sure that your clients know exactly how to get to you with the least amount of hassle. If you know any shortcuts or tips, be sure to share them. If you aren’t highly visible, make sure you point out any easily recognizable landmarks. Not much is more frustrating than being at the correct address but not knowing it because you’re missing a vital piece of information. Make sure your clients have everything they need to get to you.
8. Prepare your office.
First impressions are everything. If your office is cluttered or dirty, you will make a bad first impression. Make sure everything is clean and comfortable.
Also, make sure that your support staff knows to expect a new client. Your receptionist, for example, will be the first point of physical contact between your company and the client. At the very least, your receptionist should know the new client’s name and when he/she is expected to arrive.
9. Confirm the agenda and meeting time.
I haven’t found any formal studies on the number of advisors who confirm appointments, but my experience tells me that somewhere around 30-50% of advisors confirm appointments.
I used to not like confirming appointments because I thought I was just giving people another chance to cancel. I had my thinking backward. I thought that “no” was a bad thing. It turns out that “no” is a great thing. If you get rid of the “no’s”, you save time and resources for prospects who are likely to convert.
Likewise, the confirmation serves to again insert you, your company, and your services into the client’s mind, which is always a good thing. I recommend confirming the appointment via phone two days in advance. Do not leave a voicemail on your first call – if the prospect doesn’t pick up, call again the next day.
Voicemail should always be your last resort after you’ve attempted to reach the person twice. If you are forced to leave a voicemail, go ahead and send an email as well. It’s a nice touch, and some people (like me) don’t always check their voicemails.
During The Meeting...
10. Eliminate any distractions.
The client should have your complete and undivided attention. Anything less isn’t just rude, it’s counterproductive. Put your phone on “do not disturb”, mute all your computers (I strongly dislike all the “dings” I hear in offices these days), and make sure nobody enters the room while the meeting is in session.
Your goal with the first meeting is to understand your prospects as people. Your questions should go beyond mere money and finances. You want to learn about their family, health, interests, goals, etc.
In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes financial advisors make is neglecting to learn more about their prospects in the first meeting. Some advisors are so passionate about telling their own story that they fail to hear their clients' stories. Don't do this - the first meeting is all about them, not you.
11. Go through your prepared agenda.
First of all, you should have an agenda prepared for each meeting. That’s part of having a systematized client onboarding process. It provides a clear checklist for both you and your client to follow.
While the nature of every client meeting is unique, you should have a typical outline in mind for your meetings. A sample agenda might include a financial snapshot, cash flow analysis, goal review, market review, investment review, and total investment review. You can add insurance, education, philanthropy, etc. as you see fit.
By the way, keep it low-tech. I know you think it’s cool to use fancy gadgets, TV screens, PowerPoint presentations, and flip charts. But the most important thing is the relationship between you and your client.
Nothing beats having a quality conversation across the table from clients and really getting to know them. However, you should still stick to your agenda and provide your clients with any papers they need to reference.
12. Review any action steps you have for the client.
This is where a lot of financial advisors drop the ball. Remember how I said that the bulk of advisor-client issues come from unmatched or unmet expectations? Make any applicable action steps crystal clear to your clients. They should know exactly what to do upon leaving your office.
13. Schedule the next meeting.
If you don’t schedule the next meeting at the end of your first meeting, you will have to start calling the person later on to schedule it. It can be difficult to reach the person and nail down a specific time. All in all, it’s a big time waster. Don’t do it.
A killer tip is to set aside an entire week for nothing but client meetings. This will help you standardize the process and become extremely efficient.
After The Meeting...
14. Update your client’s profile and information.
During the meeting, you probably learned a lot of information that will allow you to properly serve your client in the future. An important part of financial services onboarding is to keep a database with relevant and current information about clients.
Take a quick look at the financial profile you have and compare it with what you learned. Identify any insurance needs, outside assets, legacy need, philanthropic needs, etc. and make note of them in your database.
15. Follow up.
You should send a follow-up email and/or handwritten note. Your follow-up should be done no later than a few business days after your meeting and it should review the main points you covered in the meeting. Encourage your client to stay in touch with you with any additional thoughts.
I personally believe that the handwritten note is the king of personal communication. It’s a surefire way to stand head and shoulders above your competition and show your clients that you care.
If you're scheduling a second meeting (which you should) then it should be within a week of the first meeting. You either want to continue getting the details you need to create a financial plan or you want to present the financial plan itself, depending on how far along you are with your prospect.
P.S. If you're a financial advisor who wants to get more clients from LinkedIn, make sure you check out How to Get Clients With LinkedIn: How Financial Advisors Can Set Appointments and Convert Prospects With LinkedIn