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How to successfully interview prospective clients

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

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. It was not until I examined my practice and started asking, “Whom do I really like working with? Whom do I serve best?” that 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.

Related: Come join my HAPPY group of clients

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 portfolio, as I have. Maybe it sounds crazy, but this philosophy has 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. Thereafter, 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 or anything else. I simply try to connect more personally. Below is a general outline of key areas I like to discuss. 

(1) Share the same values 

(a) How do they view money? If all they care about is their money, then 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. 

(b) Do they have a budget or belief 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 are not going to succeed in the future. 

Related: What is your narrow road?


Asking a question about a client’s past experience is very powerful if you take the time to dive deep and listen well. (Photo: Thinkstock)

(2) How they view investing

(a) 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.

Related: These 3 questions will make you a better advisor

(b) 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) What their exceptions are

(a) 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. 

(b) What kind of returns are they hoping to achieve in the future to help support their goals? The more specific, the better.

(4) Talk about how you are paid

(a) 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 bring real value, then be proud of how you are compensated. If you are fee-only or commission-only, let potential clients know so that moving forward the air is clear about this topic. 

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

More columns by Jason Jenkins: 

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