Eagle Talk

Sustaining and building client relationships during a pandemic

Dear Friends,

In today’s challenging and complex world, I believe you will find these “words of wisdom” from my client, Kevin Winters, extremely valuable and well worth taking the time to read and reflect upon as you go forward seeking to navigate your own Best Action Plan in this Pandemic Environment. To each of you I say, be astute, be wise, be safe and be a Leader in all you do.

— Bob

Kevin Winters
Kevin Winters

With more than 21 years of investment, relationship, and product management expertise, Kevin Winters has earned a solid reputation for developing strong and trusted partnerships with Institutions, RIA’s and family office clientsproviding strategic insight, guidance, and plans for growth. Kevin started his career in 1999, as a Financial Advisor with Morgan Stanley, and held a number of increasingly responsible leadership roles with nationally recognized investment management firms before joining PIMCO in 2006—where he excelled to EVP and RIA Channel Head in just six years. In this role, he personally managed RIA and office family clients, in addition to overseeing a team of account managers across the U.S.—with assets under management totaling $75 billion. Currently, Kevin is an alternative and private credit strategist specializing in distribution of PIMCO’s registered and private market strategies to global wealth management clients. Drawing upon experiences from his accomplished career, Kevin is best known for his visionary leadership, keen strategy skills, and ability to develop new business.

The current global pandemic has set in motion a wave of new client engagement methods. From Zoom to Microsoft Teams, Blue Jeans and Webex, we have all grappled with “true” connectivity with our clients, associates, family and friends.  We now rely on the business relationships we have worked to build over the years, to be a platform to continue to deepen client relationships.   However, this path of sustaining and building has shifted from a transactional path, to one of emotional breadth and depth.  This leads us to a discussion on building and nurturing emotional ties with clients to the benefit of both parties, business opportunities and individual careers.  Over the course of 25 years in building client relationships, I have found that solid emotional engagement leads to longer and more sustainable relationships.

Clients want validation that they are seen and heard.   Countless times I hear colleagues ask surface-level questions and not express a real interest in the response given.  For example, “How are you?” is a simple question to begin a real dialogue or elicit a polite banter.  I have found that asking a common question as such, enables you to gain perspective on their point of view or begin to see the environment they are currently facing.  Furthermore, asking follow-up questions (i.e. certain projects at work, homeschooling, work/life balance), often times opens up a variety of topics to build a common ground and sets the stage for earning trust.  Most importantly, it shows you are listening, engaged and interested in what they have to say. It is the most basic, and yet most effective, way of communication, particularly in such a digital world.

Another reason emotional engagement with clients is so important, is that it allows you to really get at the core of what is motivating them. One way to do this is by engaging with clients on how they measure success both personally and professionally.  This cannot be done without knowing their short-term and long-term business and personal goals.  It is crucial to learn the “why” behind what they do.  Now, you can gain a better understanding of how you can help them with that goal. 

With “Virtual Meeting” fatigue setting in, I ask more personal questions to strengthen client relationships.  Specifically, questions that you have already touched on in prior discussions, to keep building the relationship and before diving into future business and another power point presentation.  The mistake I see people often make is to assume that the other person has tunnel-vision and solely focused on their job.  However, we often fail to realize that they have much more on their mind like the rest of us (i.e. their job, family, health, kids returning to school) and various other factors that drive their day, week and month.  In my experience, this personal approach generates better outcomes when you take the time to demonstrate a level of empathy that builds trust.

In closing, I challenge the readers of Eagle Talk to build a comprehensive overview of their top business relationships and friendships, to determine what you really know about an individual both personally and professionally.  First, create a document that demonstrates your knowledge of the individual. Second, revisit the document two months from now, and again six months later. Third, track what are the common “gaps” that are consistent across the list.  This will provide some insight on where to further engage or alter your true commitment to really understand someone.  Remember, it is human nature for individuals to do business with those they like and trust.  Your path to gaining trust is demonstrating that you truly care about that individual at the personal and professional level.

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