Dealing with Over-needy Clients

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

We have too many clients who are needy and require a lot of personalized service. I know we can expect to spend 80% of our time servicing 20% of our clients, but the 80% seem to demand more and more from us.

Kevin P, New Orleans

Dear Kevin,

Sounds like you need to do some re-training. Have you set clear expectations for your clients? Do they know when they are asking for too much? In too many cases the client says, “Jump!” and the advisor responds, “How high?” without qualifying the cost of or the implications for the jump.

I don’t mean to imply that advisors are driven by the whims of clients when it comes to making good investment or planning decisions, but I have observed too many situations where they are spend time researching information, talk to clients who simply need an ear and generally respond to out-of-scope requirements.

In short, they don’t set limits with clients.

Clients are like our children– give them an opportunity and they will take advantage of it. Just as you would set parameters with your children, start doing so with your clients. Lay out what the client should expect, and what your “norm” for client servicing entails. When the client crosses the boundaries, it’s easier to say “no,” or “yes, but…” in response to their requests.

Many advisors tell me that their clients expect high-touch service and they need to give it to them – but in truth, if you give people something for free without any expectation of something in return, they do not appreciate what they have been given!

Dear Bev,

I am writing my first book about what I have learned as an investment advisor. I want to help other advisors learn from my mistakes. I see that you are a published author. What is the best way to tell people about my book? Will advisors buy something from another advisor?

Mark F, Boston MA

Dear Mark,

Congratulations! I know firsthand the writing of a book takes diligence and commitment. One surprising thing I learned is that the marketing of it requires as much, if not more, effort than writing. You are smart to be thinking about this now.

Establish what you want your book to be, and what you want it to do for you. Are you writing it just to write it? Do you hope it will increase your business? Do you want to become known as an expert in some area? Is it for public relations and promotional purposes?

A book is no different from any other initiative – you want to establish its goal and purpose before you invest any time or money in promoting it.

To market effectively, you first need to establish your audience – why would advisors benefit from the information in your book? What will they learn? Be clear about the value proposition in the book.

Establish your credentials – why are you the right person to teach them? What background do you have that makes you credible? Be clear why readers should listen to you.

Create your promotion plan. You asked about the best way to tell people about the book. You want to establish a budget. You can do a lot for free, such as writing articles, blogging, posting to social media, sending emails to people you know, or you can spend a lot more and hire a PR firm to get you radio and television interviews. You can also hire a social media expert to introduce you to industry conferences.

There are many ways to waste money on promotion, so be sure you are clear what you want to accomplish and what ROI you are hoping to achieve.

Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal,, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.

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