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Here’s how to simplify your surge agenda and run a pre-surge dress rehearsal to defeat head trash and improve the client experience.
For those who haven’t read my previous articles, “surge” is a process where client-review meetings are scheduled in succession during a carefully planned period of time.
Surge has been scheduled, the invites have been sent out, and my agenda has just been finalized.
Everything is ready to go, yet I find myself pacing around my office with my hands on my head.
I’m stressing out and rubbing my temples. Even after 22 years inside this practice, I still get those moments of head trash. Holy moly, that’s five minutes of content with the client. What am I going to say for the next 55 minutes? What am I doing?
I sit down at my desk, close my eyes and take a deep breath. Hold on; this is what I’ve been doing hyper successfully. This is what works for me. I have a plan and process that works, and I need to trust it.
Head trash is real for everyone – even rockstars who have been delivering massive value for decades
When the head trash around surge comes on, step back and remember what you’re doing and why it counts. My job, more than anything, is about helping people enjoy the retirement they’ve spent their entire lives working towards.
Every advisor who surges will run into instances where head trash will mess with you and cause you to doubt your work and value.
To help you start your best surge yet, here are two ways to level up your client meetings.
1. Surge agenda
During surge, you’ll have back-to-back client meetings for several hours. Having a set agenda for each client is vital to ensure you stay on time and cover the most critical information.
I’m not talking about figurative agendas. I’m talking about a literal agenda that will be printed and added to every client packet. Once your agenda is set, it's locked down, and you’re not to change it for this Surge cycle.
What goes on your agenda?
While this may sound counterintuitive, covering as much information as possible in the meeting does not equate to delivering more value. It's the opposite – too much information overwhelms the client or bores them, and they gain very little in the end.
What does my agenda look like?
I address client questions and concerns. If a client has a question that I don’t address right away, they will spend the entire meeting with that question held firmly in their mind and unable to focus on anything else. It’s best to discuss their questions and concerns first, so I have their full attention.
I ask my clients how they feel about their cash flow. It is the heartbeat of retirement. Clients struggling with cash flow won’t be able to do what they want to or need to do, and retirement will be a lot less fun.
I usually ask about how well their cash is flowing in a light-hearted way and listen closely to their response to get qualitative cues about their current situation. If the client grimaces and says that they feel squeezed, I know we’ll need to take a closer look at their distributions.
Finally, everyone is concerned about the state of the economy, so I’ll share an aspect of an economic commentary that I feel will be useful for most of my clients. Usually, I pick a big-picture concept that will help my clients see beyond the current headlines and illustrate that the markets have fluctuated and inflation has been high before, but we’ve come out just fine.
My agenda is usually about three bullet points long, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. My client conversations will take up the entire hour, and I have yet to run out of things to talk about.
Do you want an exact copy of my surge agenda? You’ll find it in our BackStage Pass Membership.
Now that your agenda is set, level up your presentation through practice. Office-wide dress rehearsals are one of the most effective tools for combating head trash.
All next-level advisors practice their meeting presentations word for word – so should you.
During the surge rehearsal in my practice, everyone in the office dresses as if clients are coming in that morning – a suit and tie, shined shoes, and a pressed shirt.
I have my team print out complete surge packets for the first two or three clients scheduled. Pen in hand, I sit down at the conference table with a team member and go through the entire agenda – word for word – as if my team member were Bob or Sue.
I pull out papers from the packet, annotate reports, and explain everything while addressing my team member as if they were the client for an entire hour.
Speaking out loud like this can feel silly at first. Still, it's the only way you’ll be able to catch areas where you fumble the delivery or notice that a particular report should be single-sided instead of printed double-sided.
At the end of your practice meeting, you may notice that the documents in your client packet need to be rearranged or that one report didn’t make as much sense as you hoped.
Good news! Because you only printed a few packets, you can easily make these changes before you print out sixty more.
I have yet to meet an advisor who has tried surge and didn’t find the experience transformative. A simple yet effective agenda and an office-wide dress rehearsal are just two ways to level up your surge experience and make 2023 your best year yet.
If you haven’t finalized your surge agenda yet, get on it this week. For most of the profession, surge is just a few weeks away.
Once your agenda has been finalized, block out some time next week to do a surge dress rehearsal with your team.
Micah Shilanski, CFP®, is a financial planner who achieves the impossible. Micah is recognized as a leader in the concept of lifestyle design for financial planners and has spoken at conferences across the country. Micah is an advisor with Shilanski and Associates, a founder of Plan Your Federal Retirement, and a co-founder of The Perfect RIA.
Read more articles by Micah Shilanski