What we know about a prospect or client is the heart and soul of CRM software. You may use Salesforce or another similar platform to manage client data. These platforms’ robust technologies create a process that uses what is known about a client to drive marketing, sales, retention, and loyalty.

For me, the more vital question is, “How well do you know the client?” The boxes you check when entering information in a database are the “What?” questions. No “What’s?” means no boxes to check. Trust me. There’s more. Much more! 

How do these programs gather data? Is it gleaned from a complicated algorithmic formula that captures consumer behaviors? Did someone gather information from sidewalk surveys in major cities? How was social media used? Were polling services enlisted? How does all this collected data speak to productivity, sales, loyalty, brand recognition, and more? These are the questions CRM aficionados love and are in the data-driven world in which they live.

Now the haunting question. If we validate all the data, what have we learned about the people hiding behind the numbers?  Are there any boxes that can tell us:

□ At age 10, parents divorced after the father lost his job.
□ Client struggles to face fear when investments have a losing month.
□ Enjoys reading fiction and participating in a book club.
□ Not sure about trusting another person with her life story.

The list could go on, but you get the idea. What we know about a client is important, but how we understand the person and their story is vital.

In the preface to their classic textbook, Customer Relationship Management: Concept, Strategy, and Tools, professors V. Kumar and Werner Reinartz claim: “This book provides all the necessary steps in managing profitable customer relationships.” Yes, the book is an encyclopedia of the history, development, and highly nuanced discipline informing all aspects of the CRM discipline. Studies of varying complexity have crunched the numbers and spit out reports. But the boxes checked, and the data compiled on every client in your business will never tell you about the things that matter most to the people you serve.

Now check these boxes:

□ Advisor is in touch with his personal story and how it informs his practice.
□ Advisor continually learns more about the client’s life story and dreams.
□ Client and advisor feel increasingly safe with each other while creating greater trust.

Knowing your clients’ stories, having sat with them as they shared one of life’s disappointments or witnessed their deep joy in welcoming a first grandchild simply cannot be squeezed into any box. Moments with clients when they invite you into their storied lives simply cannot be reduced to an algorithm. Those indispensable data streams gleaned from asking questions from the heart set the few financial professionals apart from the many. 

Going forward, gather all the measurable data you can dump into your CRM platform. But don’t let the checked boxes seduce you into believing you know your client. Go further, ask story-based questions, and notice voice inflection, body language, and emotion. Doing so transforms the word “discovery” from its data box prison into deeply meaningful relationships out of which you will do your best work.

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