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Respecting your prospect’s marital privacy

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Perhaps the most common objection levied at any advisor is the understandable but still frustrating phrase, “We need to think about this.”

As so many of us learned early on in our careers, most prospects delude themselves into believing that they’ll actually go home and think about our recommendations, when the reality is that we all procrastinate difficult or involved decisions, and our clients are no different. The challenge we face as advisors, both for their benefit and ours, is in getting them to discuss the information we’ve given them sooner rather than later, privately among themselves, while it is fresh in their minds. Problems that are discussed usually get solved; those that don’t will usually persist or get worse.

Several years ago, completely by accident, I discovered something that happened when I left potential clients in our conference room to have my staff make photocopies of their quarterly statements. Having had to attend to another client who had stopped by with a check and several questions, I was out of the meeting for nearly 10 minutes. When I reentered the room, I immediately apologized for the wait and quickly sat down expecting several more questions — and another 20 minutes of educating before my next appointment arrived. To my mild surprise, the husband instead said, “…So we’ve talked about this and would like to solve these issues. What’s the next step? What do we need to do to get this started?”

Revelation: My delay in rejoining them had given them the time to do what they otherwise wouldn’t have done until perhaps that weekend: Discuss the information I’d given them sooner rather than later, privately among themselves, while it was fresh in their minds.

Imagine the conversation most prospects have in their car on the way to your office for that first meeting: Their life’s savings are up for discussion that day, as are their legacies, bequests, risk tolerance, differing marital perspectives regarding money, along with their in-laws, out-laws and family dynamics. It’s perfectly natural for them to agree beforehand that, “No matter how good something sounds, we’re not going to sign anything today — at least not until we’ve had a chance to go home and think about it.”

Today, whenever possible or appropriate, I respect our prospect’s marital privacy — knowing that it’s in their and our best interest — and leave the room. While we long ago made it a policy never to do business on a first meeting, giving them the time to agree on the agenda for a second meeting is the best way to assure that one gets scheduled before we part that day.

For more from Thomas Brueckner, see:

The road warrior handicap … and the home field advantage

Why specialization makes sense

Branding your practice


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