Financial advisors spend a lot of their day in front of people. Whether they are presenting seminars to large crowds or seeing people in their office, advisors log many hours of face time every week.
Many of them excel in this area of their livelihood, but others struggle with the one-on-one setting. They either get nervous and see their performance suffer, or they don’t have a good game plan for success. Both situations point to less-than-stellar results, but both also can be overcome.
That nervous feeling may never go away; some people just get that way. But an advisor who feels butterflies on the inside can still give the appearance of confidence on the outside. A strong handshake and solid eye contact – the old workhorses of business relationships – give prospects the impression that the person they are talking to is in control and knows what he is doing. Those things come with practice, as does a confident tone of voice. The game plan is all about preparation.
What an advisor does before the meeting is probably just as important as what he does during the meeting. It’s called homework. Students from grade school to college know it’s a necessary evil, and advisors shouldn’t think that since they’re adults they’re immune to the “drudgery” of homework. Know the client and his situation. If it’s a first meeting, the advisor should still know a few things from an initial phone call or from a fact-finder that the prospect filled out. If the meeting is a follow-up, the advisor has plenty of information to work with, and he should make that known.
“Articulate what has been discussed previously,” says Liz Manibay, director of coaching services for ClientWISE, based in Tarrytown, N.Y. “This gives the impression you’re prepared.”
Marty Lassen, the vice president of Complete Intelligence in Denver, agrees. “Be prepared going in. Have all of the information pulled together and organized. Make sure it is clear and concise.”
Manibay says one of the most important tasks an advisor can take care of before any meeting – before even his very first client meeting – is creating a clear value statement. What does he do that sets him apart from everybody else? It’s bound to come up.
“Have something compelling and unique to tell them what you do,” she says.
Only after the homework is done and the value statement is ready can an advisor expect to have meetings that move effortlessly, but his work isn’t done by any means.
Even after all the homework is done, an advisor still can set himself up for failure by going into a meeting thinking it will take shape as it goes. Not going to happen. A meeting’s shape can shift a little bit to accommodate a prospect’s requests, but it is much easier to go from one structure to another than from no structure at all to something resembling a meeting. As coach and trainer Sage Freechild says, advisors “have to be able to change and move,” but that implies there were expectations to begin with. Have an agenda set in drying plaster, not dried concrete. That applies whether this is the first face-to-face meeting or a follow-up.
The expectations and purpose for the meeting need to come from both parties, and they need to be addressed before the meeting is off and running. That accomplishes a couple of things. One, it gives the advisor confidence he’s on the right track. Two, the prospect is assured he is working with a professional, someone who has done this before, someone who takes care of his clients.
“State the meeting objectives and clarify [the prospect's] expectations,” Manibay says. “Make sure everything is well thought out. That’s the difference between looking polished and looking unprepared.”
Lay it out for the prospect and let him know he can lay things out, too.
“Before you get too far along,” Lassen says, “say something like, ‘What I’d like to accomplish today is one, two and three. Are there other things you’d like to talk about?’ Set the expectation upfront.”
And once the expectation is set, the advisor’s job is easy. Well, maybe.