Do you ever wonder why some advisors are more successful than others? What’s their secret to success? It’s not because they’re the smartest, funniest or even the best looking advisors. The vast majority of them would tell you, however, that they use fact finders with their clients and prospects.
With very few exceptions, top-performing producers engage with a prospect and take the potential clients through a fact finder. In other words, if the prospective client does not want to go through the sometimes arduous task of completing a fact finder, guess what the advisor does? He or she walks. They literally walk away from potential business.
Why? Because more and more, the best advisors have come to understand that consistent success does not come from making the biggest sales. It actually comes from having the strongest relationships with what we call in our firm the “client family.”
I do not want a client who won’t take this time with me. I can’t do a great job if I don’t have the right information, so I’d rather walk away in a polite manner so I can leave the relationship open for the future.
I often liken this situation to the doctor/patient relationship. When we go into a doctor’s office for the very first time, we don’t know the physician very well, especially if it’s a specialist, which are seen for only specific health concerns. Yet we don’t think twice about providing very intimate health and lifestyle information to a stranger. We trust that the doctor needs this information to help us. We trust that it is confidential. Advisors also need certain information to help clients, and without it advisors risk their reputation and ability to serve the client.
Words do matter
Before I entered the financial services world, I was an editor for a publishing company and then later an advertising consultant. The words used with clients, prospects, business partners and home office absolutely matter toward success and growth. That’s why specific words used when talking a client through a fact finder are so important.
Fact finding is one of the only activities at the intersection of professionalism and profitability. This means that completing a fact finder is the right thing to do for clients, for your professional reputation, for your compliance requirements and for your revenue growth.
The process I’ve found to be most successful consists of two meetings, with the fact-finding portion taking between 90 minutes and 2 hours, and then a follow-up review meeting. The fact-finder time frame can be daunting for advisors. Some worry that this may take too much time and will jeopardize the sale, but it’s vital to realize that it’s not the sale that’s important. It’s the relationship and what can be found out about a client early on that can result in even greater success for everyone involved.
Some language to start with: “I am so glad (name of person) introduced us. I have been looking forward to meeting you. Let’s start with you telling me what you are looking for in this meeting.”
See related: 3 keys to successful fact-finding conversations
After listening intently, I offer three promises to the client:
- I will ask you questions, but this process is also designed to elicit questions from you. I promise to answer all questions. Sometimes, I may not have the answer right now, but I will always get back to you with answers.
- You control this meeting. At any time, if you are not comfortable or don’t feel I am providing what you want, I promise to end this meeting immediately. I will give you the incomplete fact finder and simply wish you well.
- My third promise involves the potential for a follow-up appointment. My hope is that once we have completed this fact finder, you will see the value of meeting again so that I may present the first draft of your financial needs analysis. However, if I have not proven the importance of that second meeting, and you decide not to proceed, I promise not to badger you. I will respect your decision and again wish you well.
It’s wise to have a support person in the room for the interviews. This person inputs data on a real-time basis, which is highly efficient. It also allows the advisor to focus exclusively on the client. I work through the fact finder page by page and step by step, and rarely veer from the format to avoid missing any opportunities.