Organizing Your CRM—The 11 Items You Must Include

Sep 25, 2020 / By Teresa Riccobuono
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How many of these key data points have you collected? Are they just in your head? Having it all organized in your CRM not only maintains accuracy, it keeps your team informed, and helps you serve your clients more personally.

Advisors and their long-time team members discover quite a bit of information about their clients. However, I often hear from advisors that this valuable information is stored in their brains.

If a new client service person were to join the team, how difficult would it be for him or her to get to know your clients, not having this information available to them?

I encourage advisors and their team to take the time to enter information into their CRM so everyone on the team has access to it.

During Covid-19, many folks are using this time of working from home to get organized. Add organizing and auditing the data within your CRM to your list of organizing projects.

To get started, here’s a list of some of the important information to consider adding, auditing and organizing:

  1. Names and nicknames of clients, name of trust: use a consistent naming convention.
  2. Relationships between clients:
    • Family members with different last names. For example, the married adult daughter of your client would likely have a different last name than her parents. How would a new person on the team make the connection without clear notes in the system?
    • “Referred by” information. This can end up being a spider web of clients and it can be challenging to keep all the connections straight, especially after many years of referrals from referrals.
  3. Names of other family members who are not (yet) clients. A family tree of sorts.
  4. Names of professionals with whom they work: CPA, estate planning attorney, mortgage broker and any center of influence that is pertinent to your business.
  5. Hobbies and interests: wine enthusiasts, golfers, gardeners, hunters, NASCAR enthusiasts, etc. This information is beneficial when it comes time to give a gift or put together an event.
  6. Active versus inactive clients, deceased clients. You certainly don’t want your new team member sending a birthday card or letter to the deceased person, or better yet, addressing a letter to your living client and his or her deceased spouse. It happens!
  7. Active versus inactive prospects. If you have met with prospects you know you will never want to work with, feel free to delete them. Clean house.
  8. If multiple advisors are part of the firm, who is the primary advisor for each client?
  9. Marital anniversaries and/or anniversary of becoming a client.
  10. Add a photo of each client. You can go to Facebook or LinkedIn and pull off a photo, or, preferably, take a photo of the client at your office during their review meeting or at an event you are hosting—in these days of online meetings, this may be a screen shot. In fact, be careful of “pulling off” photos as some clients may think this is intrusive.
  11. Grouping of clients: clients with adult children and/or grandchildren, list of RMD clients, business owners, clients who work for the same company, clients with similar hobbies or interests. The list of groupings is as limitless as your imagination. These grouping are called Tags in Redtail, Sets in Contact Manager, Campaigns in Salesforce.

Ability to run landmark birthday report

With a fully loaded CRM, you can now run a report that highlights anyone turning 40, 50, 60 or 70 years old within the next 12 months. If one of your favorite or top clients will be experiencing a landmark birthday in the near future, you want to have enough advance notice to adequately plan for an event.

Keep in mind the family may be planning a celebratory event to honor the landmark birthday. Work with them so you don’t steal anyone’s thunder or duplicate efforts. If you have the staff and the bandwidth, and the client is someone for which you would be willing to take this on, consider offering to take the lead role in planning the event. Most families are busy and would be thrilled with your offer.

Ability to run financial milestone birthday report

If you want to conduct a campaign, you can run a report for anyone turning 55, 59½, 62, 65, 66, 67, 70½ (now 72), or a child or grandchild turning 18.

There are two reasons age eighteen is an important age for you and your clients. First of all, if the child or grandchild is headed off to college, and even if they remain local, once they turn age 18, parents no longer have legal rights to access medical information or make medical decisions on behalf of their now adult child—unless there is a signed power of attorney for health care.

Think about it: Your client’s child or grandchild ends up halfway across the country. A call comes in that their child has been in an accident. Yet, there’s nothing legally your client can do with regards to getting medical information or making decisions. I haven’t experienced this myself, nor have any of my clients, but I suspect, under the circumstances a doctor may provide some level of information to the parents. Some colleges are now including power of attorney forms in their admissions paperwork.

The second reason age eighteen is important to you as the advisor is the fact that this is a perfect time to start developing a relationship with the next generation. If you wait until the adult children are in their forties or fifties, it may be too late. Adult children at this stage in life may already have a relationship with their own advisor. You have probably heard the stories and the staggering statistics about how much money leaves the advisor when clients die and leave money to heirs. What if you were able to keep that money in house? It all starts when the child turns eighteen.

Consider this scenario: Your client’s daughter graduates from high school and is headed off to college. If you, as the family’s financial advisor, sit down with the daughter and walk her through the financial pitfalls that will tempt her at college, such as credit card companies, you begin to be a trusted professional in the eyes of the daughter. Now, during this conversation, offer to help her work through her employee benefits package when she gets her first job. Now you are even more of a trusted advisor for the family.

As you walk her through the ins-and-outs of her employee benefits, you can begin to discuss her future. Maybe marriage and children are in her future. Maybe she would like to start saving for a home or start a business. Here again, you are positioned as the trusted advisor. Yes, maybe you are doing some pro bono work early on, but who do you think the daughter will turn to in the future? You, of course, because you have been there all along. Now, fast forward thirty years, when her parents start ailing or pass away. Where will those assets go? To another advisor? I don’t think so. They will stay right where they are.

I know I have gotten off topic here, but I think this is valuable information and underscores the importance of being able to track milestone birthdays.

It’s never too soon to start transition conversations

In October of 2017, the Journal of Financial Planning published an article by Mitch Anthony and Steve Sandusky that suggested advisors should start the retirement transition discussion four-and-a-half years in advance of the actual transition to secure a place in the client’s mind as the go-to planner. I would take this idea one step further and start discussing any and all client transitions well in advance of the target or milestone date.

Here’s another scenario to consider: You have clients who are approaching age 65 and will be making decisions about Medicare and Medicare supplement insurance. Along comes another advisor who is inviting your clients to a Medicare workshop. This advisor asks your clients if you have begun discussing their important Medicare decisions with them. If the answer is no, your clients begin to doubt if you are able to help them make these important decisions. Maybe you are the advisor who has helped them get to retirement, but maybe you are not the advisor who can help them during their retirement years.

If you start planting the seed with your clients when they are sixty, and continue to remind them you will be here to help them make Medicare decisions when the time comes, that other advisor can’t place doubt in your client’s mind about whether or not you can help them. You have already let your clients know you can.

Filling in gaps

One strategy for getting this information into your CRM is to do so as part of each client’s meeting prep and/or follow-up. Take an extra five to ten minutes before or after their review meeting to update their client record.

Much of this information is available to you from client records, tax returns—or stored in your brain.

It’s easy to start gathering missing information by steering the conversation in the direction you want to take. For example, if you are looking for information about hobbies, interests, or gift ideas, you can ask, “What did you do this past weekend?” or, if the weekend is approaching, “What do you plan on doing this weekend?”

Let’s say they tell you they went to the movies. Instead of leaving the conversation at that. Ask, “What movie did you see?” “Who joined you?” “Do you often go to the movies as a family?” “Do you make an event out of it and go to dinner afterwards?”

Ask questions in a conversational style, not in a grilling manner. Now you know that this is a movie family and they go to the pizza parlor across the street afterwards.

If you make note of this information in their client record, some day in the future, if you want to send them a gift—just because, as a thank you for a referral, or for some other reason, such as the current shelter in place has been lifted, you can order them a gift card for the movie theater and the pizza parlor.

As advisors, we are used to asking a lot of questions about a person’s financial matters. However, being inquisitive on personal matters is not in everyone’s nature, but just like with any skill, you can improve. If you get into the habit of asking one or two additional questions, you will be surprised by what you can discover about your clients. Get your team members involved as well. There is usually one person on the team who does exceptionally well at learning tidbits about your clients. And then of course, document it!

For more than 20 years, Teresa Riccobuono of Simply Organized has been a practice-management and recruiting specialist to the financial services industry, helping advisors bridge the gap between their existing and their ideal financial planning practice. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area but works with advisors across the country. She is a member of the board of directors of the East Bay Chapter of the Financial Planning Association and is currently the chair of the Public Relations committee. She can be reached at

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