Developing effective, meaningful relationships with clients and potential clients is a fundamental aspect of building a successful advisory business. Having a good knowledge of the markets, tax planning, managed money products and how to build a solid financial plan is, of course, essential, but without the ability to forge relationships these skills fade into insignificance. From the very first meeting, advisors have the opportunity to engage and build trust with a potential client. So, how can advisors go about making that first meeting as successful as possible?
“At the first meeting, financial planners should do whatever they can to minimize disruption, that means turning off your phone and email and not having anyone come to your door,” explains Grant Gold, a partner at Ricketts Harris LLP. “Even if I don’t respond to my phone or email, I know that every time I hear it ‘ding’, I will look around at it.”
Gold also encourages advisors to closely observe their clients’ body language and to consider what they might not be telling you, as well as what they are. Maintain eye contact and really listen to what they’re saying, while looking for body language that could signal another meaning. “Also, make sure the client feels that you’re not talking down to him or her,” Gold says. “For example, rather than saying ‘do you know what a LIRA is’ try saying something like ‘I’m sure you know what a LIRA is, but let me tell you how I see it, because I want all my clients to be coming from the same place.'”
During that first meeting, advisors should also be sure to confirm by which methods the client wants to be contacted and when they want to be contacted. Do they want to communicate by phone or email? And, is their email account completely private and secure? Maybe they don’t want to receive communications on a specific day or time of day. These may seem like small details, but put together they play an important part in creating the best possible client experience moving forward. Gold says: “In the initial letter that I send out to clients, I always clarify how I will be contacting them in the future. I say ‘you’ve told me I can contact you at a specific email address, and that’s what I am going to do.’”
“Financial planners should also set expectations and realistic time lines at that first meeting,” Gold says. “Build a plan: talk about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to measure its success. Finally, make sure that you’re upfront about fees and your fee structure in your initial meeting.”
“I also think it’s really important that the client meets your staff, especially those who are going to be dealing with them, like an assistant or receptionist.”
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