6 Tips for Making the Most of a CRM System in Your Practice

May 1, 2016 @ 12:01 am

By Kol Birke, CFP®

As the financial services industry has become more sophisticated, so too has the technology financial advisors use to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. One piece of software in particular that has evolved to offer more advanced functionality is the customer relationship management (CRM) system. In fact, advisors frequently ask me whether they should start using a new CRM system or how they can better leverage the one they already have.

First, it's important to understand what issues an advisor is trying to solve for. Armed with that information, I can offer several tips for making the most of a CRM system in your practice.

Identifying the Problem (and the Opportunity)

For many advisors, a common list of problems might look something like this:

• Things fall through the cracks.

• It's harder than it should be to get to folks' contact information.

• I forget what we talked about last time we met.

You might be thinking that none of this applies to you—you've got systems for all of it! If so, perhaps you're all set. On the other hand, maybe you'd like to dig deeper. You might want to:

• Automate service and/or have smoother handoffs between staff and advisors

• Optimize for the value of your practice when you ultimately sell or, perhaps more important, make sure that your clients have a smooth transition when you hand off the practice to someone else

• Be more proactive in your outreach to clients and prospective clients

• Be efficient enough to compete with robo-advisors

Of course, the list could go on and on. CRM systems can be an effective solution for all of these goals, functioning as the “brain” of the office to route important information, remember crucial details, and ensure swift coordination. But how can you go about tackling the daunting task of using a CRM system to help with these tasks, while making sure that you don't spend more time and energy than it's worth? The answer is fairly simple: take it one step at a time.

1) Manage Meetings

Once your CRM system is in place, and basic contact information has been entered, use the CRM system for meeting management. CRM systems designed for financial advisors should already have the functionality to remind you when you should next meet with a given client or reach out to him or her. It should have the fields you need to make your life easier and more efficient.

2) Track Client Details

Next, go deeper with clients. Track their likes and dislikes, their concerns, details about their family, and important dates in their lives—for example, the junior prom that their precious Angie is nervous about. This way, you can reach out to them and seem like you simply remembered.

You'll also want to record little things (like what drinks they prefer when they come to the office) and big things (like decisions they've made), so you have everything all in one place. Again, unless you're a tech tinkerer, it's far better to find a CRM that is already tailored to financial advisors, rather than putting in the hours to customize it only to have a future upgrade break those customizations.

3) Appoint a CRM Evangelist

Another tip is to appoint one person in the office as the CRM “evangelist.” This is the person who should attend CRM-related trainings and have experimentation and evolution as part of his or her job description. The evangelist should endeavor to leverage the best thinking of other offices already using this CRM.

4) Take Advantage of Integrations

If your broker/dealer or RIA custodian offers a CRM, see if it's a good fit for your practice. If it is, you are likely to benefit from integrations. These integrations might be as simple as the ability to push CRM information into the account-opening process. Or they might go further, enabling you to search and filter by both financial and CRM information (e.g., giving you the ability to send a letter to all of your A clients who have more than $10,000 in XYZ security) or to automatically print review materials for upcoming appointments!

5) Consider Accessibility

Any solution you have or are looking at should have the graceful ability to let you work wherever you are, on whatever device you have in your hands. Features like two-way, automatic synchronization seem like they should be table stakes. But you'd be surprised how many CRM systems rely on you using Outlook—or even having it open—in order to synchronize e-mails, appointments, and contact information.

Finally, if changing CRMs, your next CRM should be able to convert your data with ease—be it from Outlook, your phone, an Excel spreadsheet, or certainly another CRM system.

6) Don't Settle for “Good Enough”

Commonwealth is on our fifth generation of CRM in 10 years. While I tend to subscribe to the saying “if it ain't broke, don't fix it,” I also believe in pushing the envelope. Since a CRM system is such a valuable and vital tool for an efficient office, we keep moving forward in order to offer the industry's most integrated, seamlessly connected, and best supported CRM, built in-house and customized for our advisors.

6) Outsource to a Trusted Partner

Commonwealth is on our fifth generation of CRM in 10 years. Since a CRM system is such a valuable and vital tool for an efficient office, we keep pushing forward in order to offer the industry's most integrated, seamlessly connected, and best supported CRM, built in-house and customized for our advisors . . . and your CRM vendor should be doing the same.

If you'd like to learn more about a fully integrated and intuitive technology platform that can power your practice for years to come, download our Total Technology Solution guide.

This post originally appeared on Commonwealth Independent Advisor, a blog authored by subject-matter experts at Commonwealth Financial Network®, the nation's largest privately held independent broker/dealer–RIA. To subscribe, please visit http://blog.commonwealth.com/.

Kol Birke, CFP®, is senior vice president, technology strategy and a financial behavior specialist, at Commonwealth Financial Network®, member FINRA/SIPC, an independent broker/dealer–RIA. He is available at kbirke@commonwealth.com.

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