Financial Planning Meeting – First Contact, First Meeting

By: Tamsin Caine
Director of Financial Planning
Smart Financial

Since discovering Lifestyle Financial Planning, Tamsin Caine has believed in it. It didn’t make it any easier to master. She is sure lots of other Financial Planners feel the same. Tamsin explains how she now approaches her first contact and first financial planning meeting with clients.

When I receive an initial contact from a potential client, whether it is by email or phone, my aim is to meet them, and any significant other. I ask what their reason for contacting us is. I explain that to advise them we need to know all about them and we do this by meeting with them for an hour to an hour and a half. Most people will arrange a meeting straight away. We email them to tell them how to get here, where to park and that they don’t need to bring anything with them, although some still do!

I don’t find much out during the initial call. Although I think that I do a good job for my clients and have come a long way since I started, I still need to keep practising and I can always get better. I see everyone who is willing to come into the office for a meeting.

Financial planning meeting – preparation

Our meeting room is set up with glasses of water, tea, coffee, cups and saucers, a plate of biscuits and a platter of fruit. I take some time to prepare myself. My aim is to have 10 to 15 minutes to take some deep breaths and get ready for the meeting. I take a blank sheet of paper and write categories of questions that I want to cover at the top, usually “Work, Family, Spare Time, Helping Others, Legacy”.

The meeting itself

My introduction covers any immediate questions the client might have. I explain the time we will need, the cost of the meeting (FREE!) and that we explain our fees if we wish to work together. I then tell them that I am going to ask questions that they may not expect at a Financial Planning meeting.

I don’t have a set of questions that I always ask. I want to be able to respond to what the client is telling me. I usually begin by asking how I can help them. Some of the questions I may ask I have picked up from other Financial Planners, none of them are particularly complicated or ground breaking, although they can often lead to ground breaking responses from clients. Try asking a client, “What was money like for you growing up?” or “What would you like retirement to look like?” They are not earth shattering but can give you a real insight into the people sitting in front of you.

It is clear that the questions are important but more important is listening. Not just hearing the words but engaging. Being present in the room and following up with questions that show you have heard and check that you have understood. Leaving a longer silence than feels comfortable can draw more information. The potential clients fill the space, often with deeper answers than given before. This gives you time to gather your thoughts, reflect on what has been said and form your next question. All of this takes practice.

The last question should be aimed at making sure that nothing is missed. Whether you ask, “What else should I have asked you?” or “What is your one financial priority?”, you need to make sure that your client has nothing else that they need to tell you.

Be yourself

When I started on my journey as a Lifestyle Financial Planner, I found it incredibly difficult. My biggest issue was wanting to slide back into problem solving, which I’d been used to doing previously as a Mortgage Adviser and Financial Adviser. I turned to some well-known names to provide me with guidance and even scripts. I soon discovered that churning out the words of others lacks authenticity. You need to find your own words to ensure that your future clients see that you believe in everything you are saying. This also helps when talking about what you do at networking events, or to friends.

Summarising

Once the questioning is done, it is important that you summarise what has been said and explain how you will help them. There are many ways in which this can be done, from drawings to sketching graphs to just explaining in words. Whilst I was learning, I think I tried all of the possible methods. I found using someone else’s method stopped me from sounding credible. I tend not to use pictures or diagrams because I am not comfortable with drawing. I talk clients through their situation, what they want to achieve and how we can help them.

Talking about money

We all find it difficult to explain our fees to clients. If you want to work with them, know that you can add value to them, know that they can afford your fees and are sure that you can change their lives, be confident in stating what they are. You know that the difference that you can make to their lives will be worth every penny.

Work with those you like

It is important that you care about whether the people you work with achieve their goals, succeed with their ambitions and get to do all the things they want to do. You are less likely to care if you don’t like them. I would suggest that if you do not wish to work with them, that you introduce them to another firm or adviser. I try to signpost clients even if we do not agree to work together. You never know what might come from these meetings!

Some Suggestions

  • Practice makes (almost) perfect.
  • Keep at it.
  • Giving yourself quiet time before the meeting helps you clear your mind so that you can focus entirely on your prospect.
  • The only question you really need is the first one. The others should flow from what is said to you.
  • Avoid slipping into short term problem solving.

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