Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives. Dan Richards

Time is our scarcest currency.  We must be cautious about taking on significant new commitments, and the only exception is when there’s absolutely clear cut evidence of a substantial return.   That’s why a simple way to get your top clients to look forward to your meetings is incredibly important.

Late last year, an advisor told me about how he formulates action plans for top clients in 30 minutes.    He has seen an overwhelmingly positive response from clients and significant progress in his business as a result. 

The concept behind these plans is simple: If you’re an account manager working for Procter & Gamble with responsibility for managing the Walmart or Costco account, every year you’ll spend 30 days developing a comprehensive, 200-page business plan for that account.

It clearly doesn’t make sense to develop a 200-page business plan for even your largest clients – but how about 30 minutes to develop a four-page plan? This advisor attended a workshop in 2009, in which he saw the template for a short plan for use with key clients. The plan summarized the client background and identified opportunities and setting out specific actions.

In early 2010, this advisor and his team developed these plans for their top 20 clients – they took about half an hour each initially per client, with a further 15 to 20 minutes to update them a year later. 

At the start of each quarter, this advisor sits down with his team and reviews the plan for each client, identifying things that have to happen in the next 90 days. As a result, his activity with top clients is more proactive and focused.  Both he and his clients are better off as a result – one outcome is that clients generally see more concrete results from meetings and as a consequence are more enthusiastic about future meetings.  In this advisor’s view, the time he and team spend compiling, reviewing and acting on these plans is his highest-return activity.

13 critical plan elements

The first step is to concisely summarize the key background for each top client. Here’s what the background portion of the plan template might look like, documenting client information in 13 areas. Use this as a starting point for your own top-client plans, modifying it to your own situation.

  1. Current situation – a short summary of key trends in assets and revenues:

    For 2009, 2010 and 2011, show your revenue for each year from this client, as well as assets at the end of the year.

    In addition, document how long you’ve been working with this client – and how you came to work together.

  2. Financial priorities

    Summarize this client’s top three financial issues and priorities.

  3. Assessment of client satisfaction – how satisfied is your client with your relationship?

    On a scale from 1 to 5 (where 1 is low, 5 is high), write down your assessment of how satisfied your client is on key dimensions of your relationship:

  • Performance of investments
  • Confidence that the client is on track to achieve goals
  • Frequency of communication
  • Quality of communication – feels listened to, key questions and issues are addressed
  • Overall relationship