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How to interview prospective clients successfully

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Over the last several months, I have broken down the process my brother and I use when we implement educational workshops into our practice. I hope there have been some fresh ideas for you to implement. 

Here’s what the first meeting with a prospective client should be about and how I try to identify whether our firm is going to be a good fit.

When I began working as an investment advisor, I would take on anyone as a client, as I felt these prospects were the only ones doing the interviewing in that first meeting. But, when I examined my practice and started asking, “Whom do I really like working with? Whom do I serve best?” I realized there was more going on in these meetings. My brother and I decided we wanted to build a firm that clearly identified those whom we could serve best and would enjoy advising over the many years to come. 

My goal for the first meeting is to determine whether I can be of value to the individual. If you ask the right questions, you can get to this answer. Bringing value is more than just growing a client’s assets. There is something deeper you must discover.

Answering “yes” to prospective clients is not about how much money they have. You have to be able to say “no” to someone who has a 10-million-dollar portfolio.

I have.

Maybe it sounds crazy, but this philosophy created an extremely successful practice for my brother and me as we know whom we serve, how we serve them and why we serve them. 

The very first question I always ask when I first sit down with someone is, “What brings you into our office today?” This is about them, so find out what they would like to accomplish with the time they have with you. After they have answered that question, I might have a couple of follow-up questions to clearly identify their goals. From there, I let them know I have some additional questions I would like to go through with them to make sure we can serve them best. I do not grab statements. I simply try to connect more personally. Here are key areas I like to discuss.

1. Values

How do they view money? 

If all they care about is their money, they are not a fit for our firm. We love to serve those who believe there is more to life than the size of their portfolio.

Do they have a budget or believe in operating with one?

We have found that clients who believe in a budget allow us to be great partners with them. If you establish a plan, but the client does not have the habit or willpower to follow it, then you and the client will not succeed in the future.

2. Investing

Do they want to be hands-on?

We work with clients who want us to take on the day-to-day worries about their financial future. We have found that the day-trading type does not fit with whom we serve best. 

When they think of the stock market, what are their thoughts?

This is a broad but important question for you to use to get to know your potential new client. If they say “scary,” or something along those lines, go deeper and ask what specifically makes the stock market scary.

3. Expectations

Ask about their past experience. 

This is a very powerful question if you take the time to dive deep and listen well. Ask potential clients if they have had advisors in the past and, if so, what they did and did not appreciate about what the advisors did. Spending time here allows potential clients to tell you what they really want.

What kind of future returns are they hoping to achieve to help support their goals?

The more specific, the better.

4. Payment

Share how you believe you can help, and explain how you are paid.

Every person walking into your office is asking this question, so address it in the first meeting. As with any service, if you are confident about what you do and feel you bring real value, be proud of how you are compensated. If you are fee or commission only, let potential clients know so moving forward the air is clear.

This is a general outline that we use in our office to help us identify those we can serve best. As always, I look forward to continuing to share different strategies that will help you grow your practice.