When talking to advisors, I consistently hear that when a client is first onboarding, there are multiple meetings between the initial meeting and when the first plan is delivered. I understand from an entirely analytical perspective why you should wait to deliver the plan. To fully assess a situation, there needs to be a clear understanding of the clients’ goals, cash flow, and full financial picture; doing this process correctly takes time. However, in the time following first contact with a prospective client, the client’s main concern have not yet been addressed. Therefore, the clients are still not completely sold on why they should be working with you. This means that all the work you are doing could be for naught.
Quickly turning a prospect into a client
Let us take a look at this from a different buyer journey. For example, instead of starting to save for retirement, I am looking to buy a house. I call my realtor and say, “Hey Jim. Courtney and I are ready to buy. When can we start looking?” He responds with, “Hold on one moment. Before we can start looking, we need to make sure you can afford a house, that you are approved for the loan, and that your down payment is in order. Once we compile that information, we can then look at houses.” Despite all these things being important for me to actually purchase the house, my main concern was never addressed. This leads me to start looking at realty websites on my own because I want to know what is out there. In doing so, I realize I can do this on my own and don’t need Jim’s help.
That conclusion is not entirely true, because Jim provides many services that the online system does not, but I do not know that. All I know is that Jim did not directly address my concern and asked me to do a bunch of seemingly unrelated things. This could have been easily corrected. When I called Jim, he could have said, “Great, let’s look at some neighborhoods and see what you like.” This wouldn’t have required anything more than a car ride. We wouldn’t have to schedule showings or look at specific homes. The goal here would have been two-fold. First, he would have gotten me engaged in the process. I could have seen a few neighborhoods and started picturing my family living there. Second, at this point in time, I was his customer. I hadn’t bought anything yet, but I was working with him. We were partners because he helped address my immediate concern. In this scenario, when Jim asks to get that paperwork together, I am all over it. I can see my dream home and, because of that, I am not doing work to make Jim’s life easier; I am doing work to buy my dream home.
A first meeting plan has a similar effect. A good friend of mine tells me to go talk to Bob about my retirement. I walk into his office and ask, “Bob, can I retire?” Bob can explain that to better understand my financial picture, we need to use different statements and fact finders. From there, we will roll over your 401k and IRA. After all these steps, I can finally answer your question. Same as the house purchase example, I am going to leave Bob’s office and search “retirement” on the internet. From there, robo-advisors and local competitors are going to bombard me with phone calls. However, Bob could have said asked me to sit down and talk with him. He could have asked from some basic info on what I do for a living, how much I earn, if I own a home, and how much I have saved. Using a forecasting tool, Bob says, “based on this information, you are close to that retirement goal, but not quite there. Let’s spend a little more time working through this with some more detail.” In this scenario, when I leave his office, I do not turn to the internet to figure out how to retire. Instead, I fill out that fact finder and gather the appropriate paperwork. I am already thinking of Bob as my advisor, even though he hasn’t done much more than offer a high-level answer to my question.
Simplified fact finding
For most advisors, fact finding will never be fun. It can, however, follow a smooth process. For example, consider the house buying scenario. When I was immediately asked for the loan documents, it felt like work I was doing for Jim. Conversely, when he got me dreaming about the future, I was working toward realizing my dreams. The fact is that people are generally self-serving. When I have to do work for you, it is low on my priority list (even when it ultimately benefits me). However, when I perceive that same work as important for myself, it is very high on that list. Now, I need to get those documents for you so I can live the retirement I’ve always dreamed of.
Qualifying potential client
This is just an added bonus to addressing clients’ needs. You receive a quick look into who they are, what their net worth is, and how serious they are about achieving financial success. Whether you are accepting everyone who walks through your door or are turning away lower net worth individuals, this can be a useful element. It is always helpful to know the worth that a prospect or client is bringing to your firm.
First meeting plans can seem like a small irrelevant part of the advisory process. They are the quick start to a relationship, but the five minutes it takes to craft one will pay dividends on how the on-boarding process goes for you and your clients.
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