The ability to run a fantastic first meeting with a new prospective client is arguably the most important skill an adviser can have. The first meeting with a new client should blow them away. They should walk out with their jaw dropped, a glazed look in their eyes thinking: “Wow. That was something else.”
There are four aims for a successful first meeting:
- for you to gain an understanding of the client’s issues
- for the client to gain an understanding of what their actual issues are (which may not be what they initially came in for)
- to demonstrate to the client they have come to the right place (that you’re a credible and competent person to work with)
- to outline the terms on which you will do business strongly (so you are paid fairly for your expertise)
How do you achieve these aims?
1. Understanding the client’s issues
The first aim is achieved by asking great questions and exercising well-honed listening skills.
2. Identifying the real issues
The second aim is achieved using exactly the same skill; asking great questions. As the client answers your questions, they reveal to themselves what their actual issues are.
3. Demonstrating competency
The third aim comes from your experience and technical expertise. Explain to the client where you think the quick wins are at that first meeting. Great advisers know enough to provide some answers and insight on the spot at the first meeting (without giving it all away for free, of course). For example, continuously building cashflow models gives you a very good feel for ‘how much is enough?’ for your clients. This allows you to provide some hope at the very first meeting for clients who look like they have enough.
The proof …
I received an email from one of my consulting clients that highlights how a well-run first meeting can lead to an amazing experience for the client and the adviser. It read:
“I had a first planning meeting yesterday with a lady referred to us by an existing client. It went well and the highlight (bearing in mind the long hours she works, the stress she deals with, the fact she doesn’t much like her new boss and ‘would retire tomorrow if she could’) was the part where I was able to show her that she could go ahead and retire if she wanted to. The look on her face, seeing the weight visibly lift off her shoulders, the excitement that poured out of her was just great. It was something akin to giving a child the keys to the sweet shop and having them ask “so I can go in and have whatever I want; I won’t be in trouble, I won’t get fat, I don’t have to worry about the money – I can just do what I want to do and everything will be ok?”
That story definitely qualifies on the “wow, that was something else” front. It’s clear that this adviser’s questioning revealed the key issues for the client, but also demonstrated that he was knowledgeable enough to state that she had enough money to enable her to give up the job, if she wanted to.
4. Setting the terms
In this instance, achieving aim four is a walk in the park. By delivering so much value (via great questions, actually listening, and demonstrating right then and there that you know your onions) your prospective client will pay whatever you ask to get everything sorted and organised.
Mastering this skill is what makes the job so amazing. If you need to build your skills (or the skills of your advisers) in this area, get cracking!