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What’s an adviser’s most important skill

Brett Davidson, MD FP Advance selects one skill that, he says, “has got to be up there above all others for any successful adviser”  

If you had to rate one skill as more important than all others for a financial adviser, the ability to run a fantastic first meeting with a new prospective client would be right up there.

The first meeting with a new client should blow them away. They should walk out with their jaw dropped and a glazed look in their eyes as they think, “Wow. That was something else.”

What does a successful meeting achieve?

There are four aims for a good first meeting:

1. For you to understand something of the clients issues

2. For the client to understand what the real issues are that they are facing (which may not be what they came in to see you about in the first place)

3. To demonstrate to the client they have come to the right place (that you are a credible and competent person to work with)

4. To set up the terms on which you will do business strongly (so that you can get paid fairly for your expertise)

So how do you achieve these aims?

The first aim: ‘Understanding something of the clients issues’ you can achieve via great questions and well-honed listening skills.

The second aim: ‘For the client to understand what the real issues are’ is achieved using exactly the same skill; asking great questions. As the client answers your questions they reveal to themselves what their issues really are.

The third aim: ‘Demonstrating to the client they have come to the right place’ comes from your experience and technical expertise. You can explain to the client where you think the quick wins are at that first meeting. Great advisers know enough to provide some answers and insight on the spot at meeting one (without giving it all away for free of course). For example, once you have built a lot of cashflow models you will get a very good feel for ‘how much is enough?’ for the clients that come to see you. This will allow you to provide some hope at the very first meeting for clients who clearly have enough.

The proof

Here is an email I received from one of my consulting clients that highlights how amazing a first meeting can be for the client and the adviser if done really well.

“I had a first planning meeting yesterday with a lady referred to us by an existing client. It went well and the highlight – bearing in mind the long hours she works, the stress she deals with, the fact she doesn’t much like her new boss and “would retire tomorrow if she could” – was the part where I was able to show her that she can go ahead and retire if she wants to. The look on her face, the weight visibly lifted off her shoulders, the excitement that poured out of her was just great; something like giving a child the keys to the sweet shop and them asking “so, I can go in and have whatever I want: I won’t be in trouble, I won’t get fat, I don’t have to worry about the money – I can just do what I want to do and everything will be ok?”

I think that qualifies on the “wow” front. It is clear that this advisers’ questioning revealed the key issues for the client, but also that he was knowledgeable enough to state that she had enough money to give up the job if she wanted to.

In this instance achieving aim four, ‘setting up the terms on which you will do business strongly’ is a walk in the park. By delivering so much value (via great questions, actually listening, and demonstrating that you know your onions right then and there) your prospective client will pay whatever you ask to get everything sorted and organised.

Don’t delay

Getting this skill mastered is what makes the job so amazing.

If you need to build your skills in this area, or those of the advisers that work for you, get cracking.

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