June 18, 2020

When a Client Doesn’t “Fit” Your Process

Written By Charesse Spiller

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As a business owner, there’s a temptation to accommodate every new client who walks through your door. While this is admirable, recreating a custom process for every challenging or complex client can become a financial and emotional drain on your practice.

The financial planning profession is very focused on providing niche-services to a specific clientele. Whether you focus on a particular type of financial planning (like retirement preparation), or you only work with a certain type of client base (like physicians), you likely work with a “niche” group in some capacity. Usually, this is positive for both your clients and your business. You’re able to provide exceptional, in-depth services to a client base who appreciates your expertise, and your skill set can be refined to create scalable processes that positively impact your clients.

However, every once in a while, I see financial planners run into a situation where a new prospective client doesn’t fit the streamlined processes they’ve built. As a business owner, there’s a temptation to accommodate every new client who walks through your door. While this is admirable, recreating a custom process for every challenging or complex client can become a financial and emotional drain on your practice. 

Why Custom Processes Aren’t Efficient

Creating a fully custom process for every single client you work with can be exhausting. You’re essentially recreating the wheel each time you partner with someone new. This can cause both you and your team to create complex processes and systems that can’t necessarily be reused. It can also impact your service quality because you’re too focused on structuring each engagement, instead of your expertise and providing the client with what they truly need. 

What if a Client Wants a Custom Process You Don’t Provide?

Unfortunately, even if you know that custom processes aren’t efficient, you still will run into some clients who require a semi-custom process. In these cases, our team recommends starting with a standardized approach to all services. This includes services that you might view as “add-ons” to your typical service structure. Then, when a client needs a different package or wants extra assistance, you can leverage both your typical service structure and any standardized add-ons you have available. 

For example, you may have a new prospective client who doesn’t need everything you provide in your standard financial planning package. If you have a standard process for each phase in your planning service, you can create a “custom” plan specifically for them without dramatically adjusting how you and your team operate. You’ll be able to accurately project a new timeline and price the custom engagement accurately.

When Should You Walk Away?

You can do everything you can to streamline and to create modular service offerings that make customization easier on you and your team, and you’re still going to run into prospects who don’t fit what you do. The best time to walk away is when a prospective client doesn’t believe in what you do. If your philosophy and process directly conflict with what the client is looking for, the engagement won’t be successful. For example, if you work with clients in a planning-first capacity but a prospect is exclusively interested in investment assistance, you won’t be a good fit in the long run (even if you can break the investment portion of your engagement out as a modular, custom service). 

Another time when it’s critical for advisors to walk away is if a prospect can’t afford you. If a client is price haggling, that’s one thing. However, if they want a limited engagement because your services are way outside of their budget, the value you provide may not be worth the expense they’ll need to pay upfront.

Finally, if you run into a prospect that wants more than you’re willing to give, they are likely someone you need to walk away from. Anytime you sense scope creep beyond the services you’ve worked to standardize, it’s time to find a referral who better fits their unique needs. 

Further Recommendations

One key thing to remember is that if you have a prospective client who needs a custom engagement, you may want to offer the service at a premium. Even if you’ve standardized the modular package they’re requesting, it still may take your team longer because it’s outside of your “usual” way of doing business. Even building the custom proposal takes time – and your time is worth appropriate compensation! 

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