Special thanks to Jeb Blount’s Virtual Selling and James Jaderborg
North Star started Q1 with a professional book club studying Virtual Selling by Jeb Blount. James attended this series with 39 other North Star financial professionals, and he was kind enough to share some of what he learned there for this month’s issue!
A year ago, financial professionals across the U.S. were left with little choice but to go virtual with prospecting and client meetings. Some already had experience helping clients virtually; some had to learn fast to catch up.
Now, even as some states begin lifting restrictions, virtual meetings seem to be here to stay, and no matter where you rate your virtual meeting skills today, this article is sure to provide an opportunity to reach to the next level:
Along with preparing background information, research, and the talking points and questions you want to cover with the client, you should also make sure your technology is in order.
Jump on early to check that your camera, sound, and mic works, and don’t forget to turn off notifications on other apps and silence your phone so you aren’t distracted during the call.
Do your best to recreate an in-person feel. Start every virtual meeting with your camera on, especially for first meetings when initial trust is built.
Not all clients will be comfortable using their cameras, so it may not be an effective strategy to require or even request that they use it. However, if you plan to have your camera on every time, even if it feels strange, they may become more confident doing so themselves.
Whether your client uses their camera or not, you can replicate eye contact in where you look during the meeting. Rather than looking around your screen or worse, around the room, try to look at the camera.
If your client is showing their camera, some video conferencing tools give you the option to make their picture smaller and center it under your camera so you can still catch their facial expressions and reactions without losing eye contact.
Hand gestures can make your presentation and conversation more engaging but be aware of what the camera catches. You may need to make motions higher than normal so your audience can see them in frame.
Shaking hands may be a thing of the past, but nonverbal greetings are still important. Waving on a video call creates a welcoming environment, especially if the audio is still booting up and they don’t catch your verbal Hello. Wave goodbye also to reinforce your connection.
Likewise, remembering to smile throughout the meeting—especially in the beginning and at the end—helps create a positive social connection when so many of our usual ways of interacting are dulled by the online atmosphere.
Dress how you would for an in-person meeting or even one step up from normal. You may have gotten comfortable working in your pajamas at home, but your appearance on a call can communicate to your client the professionalism you still bring to the virtual environment.
You already know how important it is to listen to your clients, but virtual meetings require that you also look like you’re listening. When your clients cannot see what it out of screen, make sure you communicate when you’re taking notes, pulling up a document to share, or even addressing any distractions that come up.
When you ask a question, look at the client when they answer rather than taking notes right away, and then let them know you are going to take a note when they finish, “Jane, you mentioned you may like to move in retirement, I’d like to make a note of that to look at more later.”
Whether you’re taking notes on paper or on your computer, this lets them know why you’re looking away for a moment.
When you enter the meeting early, check that you are seated where you are in the center of the frame. You can also adjust your camera to ensure you are not looking down at the client or looking up at the screen.
Then, look around you. What is in the background? Remove any piles of dirty laundry or messes that may be distracting. You may want to include books, pictures, or other décor in the background, but be sure it is something you are okay with the client noticing and mentioning.
Some professionals use video backgrounds, but sometimes this can look unnatural or be distracting. Alternatively, you can purchase a photo background to set up behind you for the same feel without the technical issues.
Virtual meetings have unique benefits when it comes to sharing resource in real-time. At North Star, financial professionals have access eMoney and other online tools to share personalized illustrations and projections for their clients. With the help of our Financial Planning Resource Center, they can set up advanced planning techniques for their clients to interact with during a virtual call.
Doing these exercises with clients face-to-face allows you to see their reaction to different risks and possibilities and provide guidance based on their response.
Last year, we all started somewhere different when it came to virtual meetings. Maybe even now, you are nervous each time you have a video call on your calendar.
Hopefully, though, you received some insight and tips here that can help you feel more confident serving clients online. Ultimately, it is about finding what works for you and your clients and replicating to serve more people with life-changing financial guidance.
Finally, if you are interested in learning more about North Star book clubs that offer this kind of in-depth practice development insight and collaboration with other financial professionals, contact our professional development department to get plugged in to all North Star has to offer.
James is a registered representative and investment advisor representative of CRI Securities, LLC and Securian Financial Services, Inc.3503882/DOFU 3-2021
This interview was originally published in North Star's Advanced Advisor Insights. Sign up for the newsletter to receive monthly articles and resources like this, designed for experienced financial professionals.