First impressions count so the old saying goes, and the first meeting with a new client is probably the most important interaction in the whole advice process. Get it right and you set up the rest of the initial client engagement; get it wrong and everything can go downhill very quickly.
Have you ever had a first meeting go just perfectly? Communication is easy, you feel comfortable charging appropriately for your work and the client agrees without fuss. A win-win situation all round.
I’m sure you’ve also experienced the complete opposite, at some point. You get sidetracked by the client’s agenda or their aggressive focus on one issue. This can lead to losing the potential client, or worse, running around in circles dancing to the client’s tune (which is no fun and rarely sets up a great ongoing relationship).
How can you ensure more of the perfect meeting scenarios
and less of the disasters? It’s all about the questions.
Asking Great Questions
Perfect meetings become more commonplace when you’re able to control the meeting using your questioning skills.
For example, think back to a meeting with a new prospective client who was focused heavily on investments and investment returns. The challenge here is twofold:
- Getting the client to be honest about their own level of knowledge and past investment experience.
- Getting the client to consider if their investments are structured appropriately to help them achieve their lifestyle goals.
Here are some questions you can ask prospects who come in focused on investment issues:
- What is your philosophy on investing?
- How do you evaluate investments before you buy them?
- Why did you buy this one? (Pick one.)
- Has it done what you wanted it to do?
- Why/why not?
- What about this one? (Pick another.) Has it done what you wanted it to do? Why/why not?
Asking this simple set of questions allows both you and the prospective client to gain a clearer understanding about their investment approach and to determine how robust it may be. It’s also non-confrontational. The questions allow the client to reveal any gaps in their investment knowledge without losing too much face. Rather than telling the client they don’t know much about investing, you get them to ‘fess up’ themselves, which allows them to gain clarity about their own financial habits and level of understanding.
These questions also start to help the client see that the investments they own have a purpose and to evaluate the success (or otherwise) of their portfolio against that purpose. This can be the start of your broader conversation about “Why are you doing all this stuff in the first place Mr/Mrs Client?”
Telling is not selling
If you’ve had any formal sales training, another principle you may have learned is:
“If you say it the prospect can disbelieve you, but if they say it, it’s true”.
This is simply reinforcing the need to control the meeting with questions.
Many advisers are always on the lookout for those ‘killer sentences’ they can say to clients to explain why they are worth the fees charged but the fact is, those sentences don’t really exist. Rather than telling the client about your qualifications, experience, technical skills, investment process and so on, it’s far more constructive to have them tell you what is important. With a sensibly designed proposition you’ll find that for most clients, you will meet all of their criteria.
Here are some examples of better questions for you to ask that really get the client to think about what they are looking for in a relationship with an adviser:
- What value can I add?
- What does good look like as an outcome here?
- Is there anything we can’t do?
- What are the implications of doing nothing?
- What have you thought of already?
- What concerns do you have about resolving this issue?
- How will you measure our performance?
These types of questions will elicit many of the things you are dying to ‘tell’ your prospect or client.
By controlling the meeting with great questions, you help prospective clients think properly about their own situation. This is what skilled advisers do. They don’t debate, lecture or argue with clients.
Benefits on Both Sides
Mastering the questioning skillset allows you to really enjoy your job. When difficult clients come in, you can actually have a good time challenging them politely with questions until they see the real issues. Once they do you can work with them, should you choose to.
By mastering great questioning skills and retaining control of your meetings you get to have more fun. However, you also achieve greater conversion rates and can charge higher prices, helping you to maximise your return on effort. This has the double whammy effect on your profitability.