What’s Working Now: Looking for a shortcut to efficiency? Here’s one advisor’s way. With Pulse360, he has become more organized, automated note-taking and workflows, reduced anxiety and stress and freed up valuable brain space. Plus he’s able to delight clients by following up meetings almost immediately with a pertinent summary.
Editor’s note: In this edition of What’s Working Now, an AdvisorRADIO feature in which Horsesmouth members tell us about recent success they have had running and growing their businesses, we hear from advisor Jonathan Howard, who is a big fan of the practice management software Pulse360 because it reduced the time it takes him to do meeting notes by more than half.
There are innumerable ways to differentiate yourself to existing and future clients. Most likely, you are already doing one or two things that set you apart.
Here’s one more way.
What if you meet Joanie and Johnnie BigBux for the first time and within an hour of the meeting’s conclusion you send them a detailed and professional summary of the meeting? And what if you’re able to compile this summary in about five minutes?
Impressive? Helpful? Differentiating?
Well, this is what Jon Howard is able to do with his new practice management tool, Pulse360. Pulse360 is an all-in-one documentation system that automates and streamlines your meeting prep and follow-up. No more redundant double-work. No more Rube Goldberg-like, topsy-turvy meeting documentation workarounds that waste time, energy and your valuable brain space.
In fact, Jon reports that whereas he once dreaded the laborious meeting follow-up tasks, he now looks forward to them with anticipation and glee.
If your interest is piqued, you can listen below to Jon describing how Pulse360 has transformed his practice—he demonstrates the software live in the video. Or you can read the highlights in the following article.
Well, I’m relatively new in the business. I used to be a visual effects artist out on Hollywood, which has paid some dividends in this business in terms of being really comfortable picking up new pieces of software, figuring how they work and how they can enhance the business. And that transition happened a little over four years ago.
Advisor: Jonathan Howard, CFP
Years in business: 5
Firm: SeaCure Advisors
What’s working now: Using Pulse360 to whip up a meeting summary and sending it to clients immediately after talking with them.
Since then I’ve gotten some licenses and my CFP designation, and I live in Lexington, Kentucky. Our business has two offices, one in Sarasota, one in Lexington, and we focus on comprehensive planning, but specifically within risk management, investment planning and retirement income.
Listen at 02:17
Before Pulse360 came into the picture, it was just this sort of hodgepodge. And it’s actually kind of funny looking back at my oldest clients. In my meeting notes folder, I have like four or five different styles of meeting notes, going back through the years with them.
So, I’ve tried a bunch of different things, starting from just a text edit file. I use Mac computers. So people familiar with Mac or Apple will be familiar with the text edit application, just a very bare-bones, rich text editor. So just quickly jotting meeting notes down and then copying it into the CRM. The very earliest stages were just handwriting meeting notes during the meeting, scanning them after the meeting and then dropping them into the client folder.
But at some point, I became familiar with the practice of actually generating meeting recaps and sharing them with clients. I was trying for a few months to generate something that was time-efficient, generated a nice deliverable and would also have the compliance requirement of getting into the CRM and saving easily into the file system.
Prior to Pulse, my system was that I would take a meeting, and I would have my meeting notes, handwritten. If I had a meeting recording, say from Zoom, I would also generate a transcript of that, a written transcript through otter.ai, which is a pretty low-cost and effective transcription service that uses the Google translate widget. Anyway, I would have all the audio file, handwritten notes, and then I’d sort of combine everything into an Evernote document, which I would save as a PDF into my file system, and then copy and paste that into my CRM.
Generally, I would have, over the course of a week, a big pile of handwritten notes and then use Friday and Saturday to get those notes into the system. And it was just always a chore, I hated it.
But we’re a pretty barebone’s office, we don’t have any in-house assistance. So the meeting notes are something I really want to make sure are correct, so I do them myself.
I had read had about Pulse360 on the Fintech blog that Michael Kitces puts out and was really interested that someone was actually just trying to tackle meeting notes. Because it was so onerous, I hated doing them.
When I saw a demo of Pulse360 and I started using it myself and right out of the gate, it was saving me even at the very, very early stages of the software. It was saving me about 25%–30% of my time that had been spent doing meeting notes.
The software has improved as I’ve gotten more familiar with it, and time has continued to be shaved down. So now it’s taking me anywhere between 50%–75% less time to do meeting notes.
And if it’s a review where I almost without question know exactly what we’re going to be talking about, it only takes me five to 10 minutes to do, not just meeting notes, but a deliverable for the client that automatically syncs with the CRM using Pulse360.
So it’s a huge time saver and the interface of the software actually is really enjoyable. They’ve done a really nice job with the UI, so it’s actually kind of inviting and fun to use it. So meeting notes are no longer something I dread. In fact, I enjoy it.
Tune in to the video at 07:55 to begin seeing Pulse360 demonstrated.
Now I actually keep the Pulse360 window open 100% of the time and whenever I need to make any note on a client record at all, I’m doing it in Pulse and it syncs to the CRM. One hundred percent of the notes that I ever take for a given contact record are all searchable and Pulse’s search is phenomenal. Like I can just type in a fraction of a word and it pulls up everything having to do with that word. So it’s a very, very powerful, deep search going back however far I’ve used it with a given contact.
So right now we’re looking at the Quick Notes interface. You have Quick Notes, All Notes and Event Notes. So, for example, if you had called me about an investment, if you’re a client, I could very quickly come in here, do a new note that we talked about investing in Apple and just add that for a single use. You can tag it, which I’ll get into in a little bit using some different flags here.
I could trigger a workflow, like if there was an account opening workflow. Let’s say I’m going to need to open an account based on this note, create a task, open a position in Apple for Chris and assign that to me, high priority, pretty much all of the fields that I would normally have in my CRM are all here. And I can just send that straight to the CRM from Pulse360.
View at 09:09
Back to the notes, I can also add pre-filled things. So I do a bit of work with college planning. So if you were calling me up, letting me know that your child had a new score in the ACT. I could just type ACT and pull up this template. So I could say, Johnny’s ACT score has been updated and you got a perfect score. You got a 36, I’m just going to add that.
And when I close that, this note is here and it’s already been tagged with the category of college planning, it’s in my Quick Notes. And so it doesn’t happen immediately, but we could pop over to the CRM like an hour or two and this note would be in your contact record. And the same exact thing holds true with meetings.
So if we’re doing events, if we have had a meeting, I could do a meeting note, and then be able to output a deliverable. So the way that would work, same exact thing: let’s stay with college planning and say you tell me in the meeting your son is working on scholarship applications. So I type “Chris has been working on applications for private scholarships,” and that’s it. That’s the content of our meeting. So I’m just going to wander over here and make sure everything is tagged as a summary. And now I can create a document in my default document format.
I’m going to add some more notes from my library. I’ve made collections. So this is something I add for all my meeting notes. Let’s see here, add all these to contact, close this out, and now I can fill those fields. So the meeting attendees, that’s going to be me. You’re the attendee. That’s the first one down. This is a zoom meeting and then this is a Pulse360 overview.
Once again, tagging all these, and then coming over here to create a document. And I just need to refresh this with a meeting template and now all this new information is here. And so from here, I can save it as a PDF.
So I save this as ‘Chris Holman meeting notes, 2021, 10/11.’ Now, here we go. You end up with this really nice deliverable. So anytime I have an interaction with a client, a meeting with a client, I’ll output a meeting summary, a meeting recap, and send that off. It gets them engaged. I’ll ask them to look it over, let me know if they need me to correct or add anything, and they do. I’ve gotten a couple comments since I’ve started using the software, they wanted something changed, but it’s been a fantastic tool for client engagement.
Listen at 13:10
It shows them the diligence that I’m putting into working for them. And then for me the best part is, now I have a record of all the notes that have ever taken of our engagement. So if I know that we talked about an ACT, what was that? I can search ‘ACT’ and now I’ve got all the notes I’ve ever taken dealing with the ACT. So if we had had a multiple-years-long conversation or engagement, this could be a huge time saver trying to find that one line, that one bit of information, which had the ACT score.
And then of course using the same exact system showing all notes, especially when combined with tags, like if I wanted to send a yearend tax summary, I can tag a note with just my tax tag. And then at the end of the year, be able to output a summary of all the tax planning recommendations that we’ve made and what we’ve implemented. I mean, it goes on and on and on. So you have so many opportunities to create additional deliverables for clients, as well as showing someone the value that you’ve brought to them through the engagement. So really, really, really like it very powerful.
I do something called surge meetings, where I sort of condense all of my reviews meetings over two six-week windows, one in the spring and one in the fall. And right now I’m in the midst of my fall surge meetings as well as submitting financial aid applications for college planning clients. And so, normally I’d have just hours worth of meeting notes to do because of all of the meetings that I’m having right now and all the work that I’m doing, updating people’s records and so forth. But I’d say from start to finish over the course the entire week, I might be spending two hours on all that, maybe an hour and a half. So Pulse is an enormous time-saver.
Demonstration starts again at 15:38.
If we were in a review meeting, Pulse has this system called collections. So if I want to create a new note in collections. So I have annuity and investment reviews. Let’s say we want to add just all the investment review notes to this, immediately we have a bunch of fields to fill.
You can see there’s several notes that have been populated here. So this is going to go right in and fill the fields. We reviewed your IRA accounts. Let’s say for Q3 of 2021, that’s the first one we reviewed the beneficiary designations on Chris’s IRA, no changes needed at this time, update that. We reviewed the fees that Chris paid during Q3 of 2021. And then a nice little note there after the fee thing, then our next meeting will be in spring of 2022.
At 17:35, Jon demonstrates presets and templates that make writing meeting notes a quick procedure.
And so that’s why I have all these general notes. And it’s just so dang fast to just pull up the general note, you click a button, you enter in what you need to enter. You close it. It’s going to sync automatically with the CRM, you tag it as a summary, you create your document, your meeting notes and you’re off to the races. It’s so fast. So it really has been an enormous time saver. And it also got rid of this rain cloud that was over my head whenever it was time to do notes.
Notes are just not something that’s stressful anymore. It doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s like this thing I get to do instead of a thing I have to do. And this idea of having a field that you just enter in a data point and you see it populated and it pops up. It’s just so satisfying. I don’t know if it’s just the way my brain works, but I think maybe other financial service professionals probably have a similar rash they like to scratch.
The client feedback has been…really positive. Most of the time I don’t hear anything back, but at the very minimum, I’ll often get a thank-you. And several times I will actually have clients send me an email back when I send off the recap, thank you, looks great, this is really a very impressive document, thank you, no changes. That’s like the best I’ve ever gotten, which has happened a few times—which is more times than it ever happened before! Not too many reasons to give compliments on a meeting recap!
I mean, the number one reason clients leave advisors is a lack of touches, a lack or reaching out. So it’s an organic touch. I complete a meeting recap, I send it off to them and ask for their feedback. So I’m not forcing the issue.
I’m not saying like, oh, I found this amazing article online about Roth conversions—here’s an assignment, read this over and let me know what you think! Instead it’s just like, here’s this conversation that we had, did I hear everything correctly? Let me know if not. And to me it’s been a good relationship builder. Something that I didn’t think of before and it’s sort of forced me to think about it.
Listen at 23:53
It’s a great organizational tool. It’s not inventing some new thing. It’s taking something that already existed that a lot of people have to do already and it adds as much value to that as it possibly can. Short of just reading your mind!
I review all this stuff before the meeting starts, so it helps me prepare for meetings, it helps me demonstrate value to clients and then it actually helps me confirm with the client that I understand their situation accurately. And it’s funny because I never even appreciated how many of these aspects of a client engagement can all connect back to meeting notes. So it’s that sort of unexpected critical point of analysis where you can stop a train with your pinky finger, if you just hit it the right spot.
This is financial planning. It captures everything I do, just sort of, as far as an engagement standpoint, all in one place. And it’s supercharging the CRM. So the compliance aspect of it can’t be overlooked either.
Listen at 26:23
The software, I’ve been using it for about a year now, a year-plus I’d say, so I haven’t used the feature where it can give you a summary of all your engagements. I don’t have that depth with it yet. But I could tag all my summary and agenda items and I could generate a document from that at the end of the year.
So as long as something has a tag, you can generate a document. For instance, you have a ‘client to-do’ here. You could output a document, showing a client everything that they’ve done that year, showing them: “Look at all the ways you’ve helped yourself this year!” with those client to-dos.
If I wanted to have an advisor accomplishment tag, I could pull up everything with that tag over the course of the entire engagement and just send that summary out to the client once a year, showing them “Here’s all the things that we’ve done for you.”
And then something I mentioned before about the software and talking to others about it, which is a real nice change of pace is that it is so flexible. There’s so many different things you can do here. Another case in point is a handwritten note, like if I had a tablet with a stylist, I can replace a notepad with this and it actually saves it, so I can close and save this handwritten note. And even with a handwritten note, you can actually open that back up and edit it.
But the bottom line is Pulse conforms to the way you want to work, not the other way around. A lot of work that we do, we’re having to learn how a software operates and then work according to how that software wants you to work. Of course, there are some rules here that you have to abide by, but once you sort of wrap your head around the broad umbrella of how Pulse works, you can get it to do anything.
You can generate financial plans with this. You could, which I do intend to do, actually, especially since if you’re working in a niche and you’re using the same thing over and over again, those micro templates are just going to save you so many hours, so many hours. So I really do think it’s one of the most remarkable tools that I use.