January 10, 2011

Gaining Clients: What I Do at a First Client Meeting

Perhaps the most important issue to an emerging practice is gaining clients. In this post, I'd like to discuss some thoughts pertaining to this and get your feedback. Here's the scene.

A prospective client enters your office for the first time. They take in the knickknacks on the bookshelf, the pictures on the wall and your credentials, wherever and however they may be displayed. The client has one purpose which is to see if they want to hire you. That's it. How do you begin? What do you say? Remember, you have only one chance to make a good impression and the first few minutes are crucial.

To understand how to proceed, you must understand the client. However, since you've just met, you probably don't know much about them. When you distill it down to the essence of human interaction, the primary issue is what does the client want to talk about more than anything else? Answer this correctly and you will hit the bullseye. The answer is that clients enjoys talking about themselves.

Of course, the degree to which they enjoy this will vary from person to person, but the answer is always the same. Moreover, as someone accumulates wealth, this can become even more pronounced due to the success they have attained. Here's the rub. Advisors are usually taught that displaying self-confidence is crucial—that the prospective client needs to see a confident assured advisor. Yes, they do; I wholeheartedly agree.

However, I would add that the client is completely uninterested in an advisor who is confident, self-assured, but likes to talk about himself or herself. Even a thorough discussion about the advisor’s company may not be the best way to begin.

Step One: Break the Ice

To begin, you must break the ice. How much time should be spent here? It depends on the amount of ice you perceive. Find some common ground. Talk about their successes. Talk about their family, especially if the wife is present (don't ignore the motherly bond with her children).

Step Two: Determine the Fit

After some chit-chat, it's time to move on. This is a very important step. There are probably several methods which could be applied here, but I prefer the questionnaire approach. In other words, I like to have the client answer a series of questions verbally or on paper. These questions center on what I offer and allows the client to look at each item and rank them in terms of their priority. For example, I help clients determine their probability of running out of money. If they give this a high ranking, then I know that what I offer is what they seek. This is only one question, and there are many, but hopefully the point is clear.

How do you approach this in your practice? 

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

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