What are the ‘Magic Words’ to Re-engage Past Clients?

September 16, 2014

by Beverly Flaxington

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Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

My partner and I left a firm where we worked with clients for years on planning and investing. It’s very disheartening to both of us how few of our former clients have followed us to our new firm.  I know it should not be personal, but it seems that way. In some cases, they won’t even return a phone call. What magic words or approach can we use to get them re-engaged with us?

Peter J.
Dear Peter,

Ah, the “magic words” to force someone to engage with us. If only I had learned those after almost 30 years of sales and marketing experience! Of course there are ways to open dialogue and forge engagement with some of these folks, but probably not with all. I’d ask you keep a couple things in mind. In your clients’ perspective, you left them. They might have liked working with you very much, and now you’ve made it more difficult, because they have to go to the trouble of leaving a place they may feel comfortable to follow you.

Next, people typically don’t make a change unless the burr in the saddle gets uncomfortable enough or they see a great opportunity they just can’t pass up. I’m assuming — because you’ve had difficulty getting these former clients to transfer — that at your former firm, they worked with several people. When there is a team of people, your ex-clients may feel loyal to others on the team as well.

That said, don’t give up – you can do a few things to forge engagement:

  1. Simply keep in touch. If they tell you loudly and in a nasty way to go away, I wouldn’t be in touch anytime soon, but others who are still cordial to you may change their minds at some point. Keep offering the opportunity to grab coffee, check in with them to see how they are doing and send notes or articles they might find interesting.
  2. Follow their activities. See what they are doing on LinkedIn or with Google Alerts. If they make a change in job or situation, call to ask if you can celebrate with them. Stay abreast of who they know and are connected to, then network with those people.
  3. Make it about them. Say you want to keep updated on their lives and their activities, instead of telling them you want to sell them on your process and approach. Often times the more interest you show in someone else, the more interest they will have in you.
  4. Keep a running list in a client-relationship management system or even just an Excel spreadsheet. Order it by name and probability of interest. Keep working the list in accordance in order. It’s really a game of numbers and time. They won’t all move, but some will – just keep at it and stay positive.

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