It was less than two years into my career as a stock broker when the Black Monday crash of 1987 occurred. It was the largest one-day market drop in history. I was terrified and looking for answers in consuming as much news as I could. In the pre-Internet era, that meant reading the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and any other financial publication that was delivered to the office.
While my research helped me better understand the reasons for the crash, it didn’t do anything to calm my anxiety. In fact, it created more fear and worry. At some point, my manager walked by my desk and told me to stop reading the WSJ and get out and start meeting with people. He instructed me to talk to my clients about what was going on in their life, what they were worried about and find out how I could help them. Just getting myself out of the office and seeing that the world was still working, that people were driving cars and going to the store and not frozen like I was helped me move past my own sense of isolation and fear.
Even though in this crisis many of us are physically isolated in our homes, it’s still not healthy to over-consume news. We can take advantage of technologies like Zoom to reach out to clients and offer our support, listen to their thoughts, and guide them to ideas and solutions that might help. I’ve found that people are incredibly grateful for what has become an old-fashioned form of communication: actually talking with them, instead of writing a text or email. A simple phone call can really show how much you care about them and their family.
Before getting on the phone or a Zoom conference, try taking 2-5 minutes to get mentally and emotionally prepared. If we are filled with anxious energy, the person we’re speaking to may reflect those feelings back at us. Likewise, we may also be triggered by the worries a client shares during a conversation. To gain control over my own emotions, I take a break before a call to slow down and breath deeply, clearing my mind of external noise, checking in with my own feelings and focusing on what I hope the meeting will achieve. I also pray for wisdom to provide what is needed in the moment, and the ability to hear the other person and not be sidetracked by my own concerns. Recently, I was coaching an executive and we practiced this by taking a quiet moment of mindfulness during our call. When he started speaking to me again after about a minute of silence, his voice was deeper, he was noticeably more calm and centered, and I felt instantly more calm and comfortable too.
The energy, goodwill, and relational dividends of talking with your clients at this time are incredible. I would bet there isn’t a client who asks, “Why are you calling me?” This is when clients need you most, and arguable what they are paying you for. It’s much easier to be an advisor when the markets are going up, and much harder when the news is dire. Use this time to cement your relationships with clients, and you will develop an unshakeable reputation as an advisor whom people trust and want to work with, in good times and bad.