Some financial advisors have worked with clients and their families for years without ever having visited their homes even for a cup of coffee. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic shuddered America’s foundation to its core and virtually changed everything.
Using today’s online meeting software, Hefren-Tillotson advisors have maintained regular face-to-face contact through it all. Connecting with clients in their living rooms, kitchens and patios, and enjoying coffee together, we have been invited into their homes and gotten a glimpse into their private spaces by way of computer and smartphone meetings.
That We Do It at All is What Matters Most
By now, you know Hefren-Tillotson’s ability to return to the office has expanded, and an option for in-person client appointments for more essential needs exists. However, as a firm, we encourage the continuance of virtual meetings where possible for a while longer.
I ask my clients: “What is your comfort level? Do you want to have a conference call or would you rather have a GoToMeeting?” The overwhelming majority prefers virtual face-to-face meetings. So, one good thing that has come from virtual meetings is confidence – or reassurance – that we are there for our clients during the most trying times.
When “New” Becomes Familiar
Virtual meetings and webinars are strange at first, but they can provide meaningful value. Because of the newness, it places some people (including advisors) outside of their comfort zones. Even so, working remotely and conducting virtual meetings is a sign of the times, a new normal way of educating, conducting business and interacting with a virtual audience.
As humans, we crave that interaction. Personally, I don’t like the term “social distancing,” because I really think “physical” distancing is more accurate. Virtual GoToMeetings and webinars allow us to socially interact with our attendees even though we are not physically with them. Clients and prospects appreciate these meetings and being able to see other people and have conversations with them.
Normally, our client conversations are based around the investments. But honestly, only around 10 percent is about the numbers, the rest is what’s going on in each other’s lives! Mainly, a lot of people have had the realization of how important this type of interaction is due to the environment we’re living in. They know the importance of getting their things in order and striving to be financially secure. Let’s face it; it’s hard to read people from behind a phone. We don’t know what they are doing or if they are really paying attention. We’re doing the exact same things as face-to-face meetings except for the distance between us.
People Have Gotten Comfortable With It
Our virtual meetings are successful because people can participate in these important financial conversations while in a safe and comfortable space. Most have had exposure to virtual meetings in some way shape or form, so we don’t really need to go over any ground rules whenever we hold a regular meeting. We cover what it is we want to achieve – and also find out what it is that they want to achieve as well.
When we do our MASTERPLAN® meetings through the online platform – which is a little different than a normal review – we are establishing an upfront contract and presenting the materials they have in front of them. They can stop us at any point if they have questions. We go through the information while also seeing their facial expressions and reactions to it.
You know, technology is great when it works; it’s not so great when it doesn’t. So, when dealing with technology you always have to have more preparation time. Believe me, it’s okay to be overly prepared! We have to make sure that everyone is able to connect and also be ready for anything that goes wrong. If the system goes down, we can call for assistance. But for the most part, when my dad, Al Weber, and I do these, we make sure we have all the materials we could possibly need right in front of us.
The Real Truth
The real truth is: I love the virtual aspect! Accessibility is the hugest part. It is difficult to schedule a time for an in person meeting when there are multiple parties involved. But now I can literally set up a virtual meeting for the same day as the initial call.
What I miss is the one-on-one contact. We are getting part of the human interaction, but it is obviously not the same. It is also harder to read people. If we’re screen sharing, I can’t see their faces. When people are behind a screen they can sometimes hide their true feelings, zone out, or even multi-task.
This current environment is not leaving, and a version of it is here to stay. If we don’t adapt to it we are going to fall behind. In our jobs, we need to stay current with the times, continue to be relevant, and keep up with what people want.
Seminars are now interactive webinars, for the time being. If you would like to attend an upcoming event, contact me below. I would love to meet you!