Getting your first client meeting right
Converting leads into satisfied repeat clients is an art, and you’ll have to perfect it if you want your career as a financial advisor to thrive. The point of initial customer contact is especially vital, and getting it wrong can mean losing a lead. Keep reading to find out our expert guidance on first meetings with new clients.
Who makes the first move?
Healthy, productive communication with your clients is vital to ensuring your success as an advisor.
It can make or break your firm in a climate where only 10–20 per cent of financial advice businesses in America survive their first three years of practice.
In the case of initial customer contact, clients will generally prefer to approach you rather than be approached by you about your services.
You can certainly make the first move, but if you do, it’s essential to remember that your potential new clients want to feel that they have control.
They don’t want to feel overly pushed or harassed by too hard a sell.
Getting it right from the first meeting
Once a client has agreed to a first meeting with you, you should view that meeting as part conversation, part job interview.
Yes, you want to gather information about your client’s finances and needs, but you also want to show them how you, specifically, will be able to support those needs.
You want them to leave your meeting with a clear sense of:
1. Why they should choose to work with you over another advisor
2. How you’ll serve them effectively if they do decide to work with you
3. How you’ll be able to listen to their needs, respond dynamically and make them feel heard
Clients want a lot from their financial advisors, but most of all, they want to feel heard.
This is why it’s essential to strike the right balance between marketing your services and engaging in non-sales conversation.
A spark of genuine interest and connection can go a long way.
The five best practices for a great first impression
1. Do your research – By showing your new client that you understand them personally — their interests, their future plans, their priorities — you’ll show them you’re ready to provide personalized, high-quality support.
Find out what you can in advance, and ask plenty of questions when you’re in the room together to fill in any gaps.
2. Maintain an air of friendly professionalism – Customers always value professionalism, especially when it comes to their financial advisor and money management.
Make it clear that you enjoyed meeting your client, but never step over the line and become too familiar.
Be open and genial without becoming overly casual.
3. Get the housekeeping right – 62 per cent of financial advisors still believe face-to-face meetings are the best way to guarantee a good client relationship.
If a first meeting is taking place at your office, ensure you’re on time, your new client is greeted courteously and your workspace is clean and tidy.
Don’t miss a single experience-impacting detail.
4. Forget your preconceptions – This follows on from a point made above about the need for balance between a sales mentality and a desire to communicate straightforwardly.
If you’re too focused on the conversion and making significant recommendations based on assumptions, it’s easy to put a client off.
Let them lead. Follow gracefully.
5. Quiz yourself on your suitability – While listening to the client and learning about their needs, ask yourself some questions to figure out the fit of your relationship:
What are their motivations? Can I improve their situation? Am I best suited to offer this kind of support? Do I feel that we can build a strong, trusting relationship together?
Finding the right client-advisor fit is a must
At the end of the initial meeting, you and your client both need to know how you can add value to their financial life.
If it isn’t clear how you can help, something’s gone wrong along the way, and it may well be that this client isn’t quite right for you.
Reduce the likelihood of failing to find the right fit by asking plenty of questions and listening attentively to the answers you receive.
Make notes. Repeat statements back to your client to make sure you’ve interpreted their meaning correctly and are 100 per cent on the same page. Be honest about your particular strengths and niche areas of expertise.
Like any relationship, building a solid foundation between client and advisor takes work.
But if you want to stand out in an increasingly saturated industry — the US financial planning and advice market has grown 3.4 per cent every year between 2017 and 2022 — it’s essential, highly valuable work.
How frequently should you make customer contact after your initial meeting?
Having successfully converted a lead into a client and completed your first meeting, you can’t stop thinking about customer contact!
One of the most commonly asked questions among new financial advisors is, “How frequently should I contact my clients?”
Most advisors say they were contacting their clients less frequently two years ago than they are today.
Meeting once a quarter is a general yardstick. However, open communication with each client is still essential to determine whether they would like a different amount of contact than the norm.
The more you can avoid generalizing and instead treat every client you work with as an individual, the higher your satisfaction rates will rise.
In 2022, 59 per cent of Americans wanted financial advice but weren’t sure how to get the guidance they needed.
Show them how, with a transparent and communicative approach.
Provide bespoke, sophisticated support accounting for a client’s unique boundaries, needs and goals.
Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.