In our profession, clients and prospects have a choice to select the advisor they trust with their financial well-being. Therefore, making the best possible first impression is critical: you only get a short time and one chance to do so. From there, developing a strong rapport with clients and prospects, both on a personal and professional level, will help your relationship stand the tests of time and the market.
A first-time meeting to discuss financial affairs can be extremely nerve-wracking for a potential client. Interestingly, most people assume they are in worse shape than they actually are. They are often embarrassed, thinking they should know more, they should have more money and they should have been more responsible with their finances. Our goal is to create a favorable first impression and to reduce any anxiety a person may bring to an initial meeting.
In my practice, we aim to be consistent in all we do and create a very professional environment. Naturally, we want to avoid having people come into our office and see chaos or lack of preparation. Beyond our inviting reception area and conference room, clients and prospects do not enter our workspace. Making an orderly and calm first impression can help put our guests at ease.
Part of making an impactful first impression is making sure you as an advisor do not appear haphazard in any way. When a potential client comes into our office, we strive to make them feel as if they are the most important person we’ve ever worked with – it’s all about them. Once a first-timer has entered our office, and has been warmly greeted and led to the conference room by a staff member, I head toward the room. Prior to entering, but within earshot of the prospect, I address our staff, make a comment about how pleased a client is about something specific and I thank the staff member for helping. First impressions are registered with your ears as well as your eyes. This technique creates a first impression that shows we care, we work as a team, we are here to solve our clients’ problems, our clients like working with us and I am approachable.
Some people will want to make small talk and discuss everyday subjects before diving into their finances. Others will want to get right down to the nitty-gritty. You have to be able to read body language and distinguish different personalities in order to make the correct approach. Regardless, it is vital that you build a strong rapport within minutes to be able to get to the heart of a prospect’s concerns fairly quickly. Look for common ground to build upon, but don’t stay in the safe zone for long. Move forward by asking more questions specific to why they are seeking your help. A positive response from you to the information they provide will strengthen the trust they have that you are the advisor for them.
When I have a meeting with both a husband and wife, I quickly try to get a sense of the more dominant spouse. Then, I always sit directly across from the less assertive of the two. It’s automatic to make eye contact with the person sitting across from you, which is important if the other spouse is controlling the conversation. The quieter partner feels included, and I can sense from facial expressions whether clarification is needed on something the partner might not bring up.
Once you’ve determined their needs, try to connect with prospects on a more personal level. I enjoy reading, so I’ve used that as a connector. My clients who enjoy reading as well will suggest books to me. I make sure to read them so I can send an e-mail thanking them for the recommendation, and then I make a point to discuss the book the next time we see each other. And, I always dictate meeting notes including all soft information so I can reference it in our next meeting. “How’s your daughter doing away at college?” “How was your trip to see your grandkids?” “You were going to your son’s softball game after our last meeting. How’s his season going?” It’s such a simple concept, but it can have a significant impact. Establish unique ways to make a lasting first impression. It can be the difference in getting and keeping business.
Nan M. Zimdars, CFP, CLU, ChFC, is a 31-year MDRT member with four Court of the Table honors. She is a financial planner specializing in assisting people with a goal of becoming financially independent through personalized retirement plans, investments and insurance. Her company, Nan M. Zimdars Inc., is located in Madison, Wis. Nan can be contacted at [email protected].