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Stop Winging Your First Prospect Meeting - Use This Framework

A step-by-step guide to hosting an ultra-productive and highly-professional discovery meeting with a prospect.

Let’s face it, most people don’t wake up in the morning and think to themselves, “I’d love to spend an hour divulging the inner-workings of my personal financial situation to someone.” Instead, people put off these types of conversations; they subconsciously sweep them under the rug. Thus, when someone decides to meet with you, you need to nail it! The following is a step-by-step guide to hosting an ultra-productive and highly-professional discovery meeting with a prospect.

Build Rapport

The first few minutes are critical to the overall success of your meeting. Building rapport before getting into business is essential. Use any intelligence about your prospect to get them talking. Reference people you both know, hobbies you both have, groups you are both involved with, etc. You can also gather intelligence online in advance of your meeting through social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) and Google. The idea is to establish a common ground and develop a connection.

Establish the Timeline

Asking your prospect how much time they’ve allotted for the meeting is highly professional and very few people do it. Not to mention, it’s a seamless way of seguing into the business discussion.

  • “I want to make the most of our time today. How much time did you reserve for our meeting?” 

Use an Agenda

Having an agenda is professional and helps keep the conversation on track. It also shows the prospect you’re prepared. 

Articulate Purpose, Benefit, Check

With a bit of rapport-building and an established timeline out of the way, the next step is Purpose, Benefit, Check. This is self-explanatory and clearly sets the stage for your meeting. Here’s an example:

  • Purpose: “The purpose of our meeting today is…”
  • Benefit: “Through this process we’ll…”
  • Check: “How does that sound?”

Incorporate a Dose of Reverse Psychology

When you hunt, people run. Still, the opposite is also true. If your prospect perceives that you’re selective with new clients, they will be more attracted to work with you. Early on in the meeting, you’ll want to weave in your version of the following:

  •  “There’s no need to make any commitments today—this meeting is really for us to get to know each other. There are a couple of things we’re looking for when starting a new relationship. First, we need to take a look at your situation and see if we can help. Secondly, and equally important, we work very closely with our families so we have to make sure we can have a good working relationship, and you need to feel the same about us. ”

Uncover their “Motivation” for Meeting

If someone has made the conscious decision to spend an hour with you to discuss his or her financial affairs – there’s a reason. We refer to this “reason” as the prospect’s “motivation.”  Put simply, the prospect’s “motivation” is the concern (or opportunity) on their mind that has moved them to meet with you.

Their motivation may not be obvious. The prospect may not even truly know what it is. Here are a few questions you might consider when uncovering their motivation: 

  • What are you trying to accomplish right now with your investments?
  • I assume you must have one or more reasons for taking the time to come in today. Would you mind sharing that with me?
  • What is most important to you regarding your investments in this environment? Preserving your principal? Substantial growth?
  • When you think about your money, what are some of your biggest concerns?

Once you are confident that you know the prospect’s motivation, make sure you validate it. Simply restate what you understand their motivation to be. This lets the prospect know that they were heard and allows you to tailor future questions and advice around their preferences. You might say:

  • “Based on what you’ve told me, this should give me a good understanding of your family’s needs. It sounds like your biggest concerns are … Would you say that’s accurate? Am I missing anything?”

Gather All the Information You Will Need

Some advisors attempt to accomplish this ahead of time by requiring prospects to complete a questionnaire before meeting. We find this puts an unnecessary hurdle in place. 

The truth is, most clients aren’t organized enough to complete the process quickly. Spend time asking questions to uncover everything you need to help them. You might consider actually helping them get organized. In a recent article, Michael Kitces, discusses this concept further. 

Clearly Present Your Differentiators

There is one question on every prospect’s mind. They want to know what makes you different. It’s now time to briefly talk about yourself and your firm. If you have any marketing collateral, now is a great time to reference it.  Every advisor should have a handful of true differentiators that are unique to them. They should be able to articulate them with natural confidence and be able to contrast them with local competitors. 

Use an Assumptive Close

When your prospect is bought into your process, go ahead and close them for a second meeting. You might say something like:

  • “Based on our discussion today, let me conduct some further analysis and determine if we can be of help. My sense is there are probably a few areas we can add value, but we need to be sure. I’d like to analyze your responses and develop some recommendations based on your needs that we can review in a couple weeks. Fair enough?”

These are some of the building blocks for an effective first meeting. Experiment! See what works for you through trial and error. Far too many professionals get stuck doing the same process for years. Continual improvement is more fun and more effective.

@StephenBoswell is President of The Oechsli Institute and author of Best Practices of Elite Advisors@KevinANichols is the Chief Operating Officer for The Oechsli Institute and author of The Indispensable LinkedIn Sales Guide for Financial Advisors.

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