Depending on the size and scope of your practice, you likely only have one or two face-to-face meetings with each client annually. That fact makes those interactions exceedingly precious opportunities – to uncover new goals, hidden needs and growing concerns, and to reinforce the client’s trust in you and your firm.
Far too many advisors spend the lion’s share of their client meetings espousing long and detailed investment performance reviews, without ever truly taking the time to connect with their client on a personal, human or emotional level. Consider letting the famous words of Diogenes set the tone for future client meetings: “we have two ears and only one tongue in order that we may hear more and speak less.”
As advisors competing for AUM, basic human nature drives you to want to demonstrate your intelligence and financial savvy. But for the vast majority of clients, sound financial advice has increasingly become a commodity. What differentiates and cement a “trusted advisor” relationship are the intangibles. Does this advisor really understand me? Are they attuned to my needs, aspirations and fears? Do they honestly care? The following seven tips can help both you and your client get more out of your meetings:
- Listen, listen and then listen some more. The more time your client spends talking during a client meeting, the more successful the meeting. Listening is a practiced skill. Your feelings and experiences must take a backseat to the client’s perspective. Strive to see the issues through their eyes, not yours. And don’t make the common mistake of listening with the intent to reply – listen with the intent to understand.
- Hear what isn’t said. Often it’s the information that the client omits that will give you the best indication about their greatest areas of concern.
- Help your clients look ahead, not back. Rather than focusing on past performance, emphasize the dynamic nature of the planning process and ask important questions in that regard. “What’s changed for you since the last time we met?” “What life transitions are you expecting down the road?”
- Take time to prepare. Block off enough time in advance of each meeting to review previous conversations. Prepare a client meeting checklist and agenda to help guide the conversation. Organize the client file and all reports. Reserve a conference room and inform the receptionist of your guest’s arrival. Mail or email detailed directions (with a map link) to new clients and prospects in advance. And if other team members will participate, make sure to conduct a team meeting to discuss roles and responsibilities.
- Be genuine and positive. While clients don’t expect you to always paint a rosy picture, they do value enthusiasm and positivity. Keep friendly, open conversations going by maintaining a caring, engaged, accepting and nonjudgmental attitude. And above all, be yourself at all times. Let the client see you as a real person, without putting on different facades for different clients. They’ll see through that every time.
- Always put the client first. Let the client talk. Don’t interrupt, and take copious notes. Strive to ask open-ended questions that will draw out additional client information. Be careful, however, to avoid conducting an interrogation. Mix questions and statements into a dialogue. And try to avoid leading questions (e.g. Don’t you think that…).
- Focus on goal achievement. Greater client intimacy and trust is built on achieving goals that have previously been put in place. Highlight those areas where considerable progress has been made. Work with the client to choose a particular area for extra focus in the coming year or quarter, and set out specific goals and action steps.
Coaching Questions from this article:
- How much do you really know about your clients’ personal lives beyond their financial issues?
- Are your client meetings focused on looking back or looking forward?
- How good of a listener are you? Do your clients typically spend more time silently nodding than they do talking?