Forming relationships with family members of existing clients can be an excellent way to grow your practice. But developing a rapport with your clients’ children or parents is not always an easy transition, says Nadira Lawrence-Selan, marketing and communications consultant with Hathleigh Consulting in Woodbridge, Ont.
“It can be quite challenging,” she says. “You might be dealing with members of various generations: the parents of baby boomers, baby boomers, Generation X and millennials.
“What works for your older clients,” Lawrence-Selan adds, “might not necessarily work for their children and their children’s children.”
Adult children often do not want to work with their parents’ advisors, she says. “They have different attitudes toward investing, prefer different communication methods and are more digitally savvy than their parents.”
But if you put the right measures in place, you can build relationships with your clients’ family members that can eventually lead to working with them as clients. Here are some strategies to woo them:
> Get to know family members
You should already have some knowledge of your clients’ families as a result of the discovery process you conducted with them at the beginning of your relationship, says Lawrence-Selan. In that process, clients should have shared information about their children and dependents and their expectations for them.
She suggests acknowledging special occasions in the lives of these family members — such as graduations and birthdays — with cards or small gifts. These gestures will give you a chance to make an impression and to let them know who you are.
> Include them in client events
Invite your clients’ children to your client events such as picnics, seminars and holiday parties. Send them tickets to shows and sporting events.
> Hold family discussions
Lawrence-Selan suggests that you invite family members to meetings to discuss financial matters that pertain to the entire family, such as estate planning and the wealth transfer.
“Make [your clients’ children] aware of the role you play in the financial affairs of their parents,” Lawrence-Selan says. “Let them ask questions if they choose to, and provide them with answers they can understand. This will give you an opportunity to earn their trust and confidence.”
You don’t have to divulge any specific information, such as the amounts of money involved, if the client wishes to keep these matters private.
> Stay in touch
Communicate regularly with family members by sending them relevant information, without overwhelming them, says Lawrence-Selan.
“Focus on educating them about matters that might be of interest,” she says. For example, you may wish to send children preparing for college information on various schools, student budgeting and tuition costs.
“And don’t forget to leave the door open for them to call you for more information or if they have questions,” she adds. Such a rapport can be the start of a good relationship and reinforce your value as a trusted advisor.
> Consider generational differences
You will find that that the strategies you use to deal with your existing clients might not work with their family members, Lawrence-Selan says, because they may have different values.
You should make an effort to address the various generations “even if it means hiring younger staff whom your clients’ children can connect with,” Lawrence-Selan says. You might also have to begin using new platforms, such as social media, to connect with various family members.