Financial advisors often set up meetings with potential clients in the hopes of attracting more business. But many advisors end up scaring off more folks than they bring in.

It’s not easy to know the best approach to take with potential clients, but here are a few tips that may help to guide advisors in figuring out what they should and shouldn't do when approaching prospects. (For related reading, see: Top 5 Mistakes All Financial Advisors Should Avoid.)

Don’t Do the Hard Sell

Much like political candidates, many advisors are inclined to try and impress potential constituents by reading off a laundry list of accomplishments. They tell these newbies where they’ve worked, what they’ve accomplished and the amount of money they have managed or advised on. But if these would-be clients know little about the industry or the business, the bullet points on your resume will be meaningless and will do little to impress your audience.

During an introductory meeting, advisors often sing their own praises by breaking out spreadsheets and slide presentations to show how successful they have been in managing estates and portfolios. Again, much of these figures will be above the heads of prospective clients who have never worked with an advisor before. Hopefully this is all information that they will soon learn to understand once they start working with you—but confusing them with numbers and statistics and financial terms from the get-go will only serve to make the prospective client feel lost and possibly insecure about his or her own lack of financial knowledge.

A better tactic would be to go over some of the basics with would-be clients about how the financial advisory business works and what you can do for them over the long-term. Then spend the rest of the time answering their questions.

Choose the Right Marketing Strategy                  

Many potential clients come to you because they don’t know much about what a financial planner can offer them or what you actually do on a daily basis. They may also feel somewhat suspect about anyone who works in the finance and investment industry. So it’s important to not sell yourself as a Wall Street wizard. (For related reading, see: 6 Essential Marketing Tips for Financial Advisors.)

A better path would be to talk to them about how you work with people to help them plan their financial futures. People who don’t work in the financial sector often tend to mistrust people who do, fearing that they will try to sell them something they don’t need or trick them into investing in a bad deal. The huge losses that Main Street took during the financial crisis only served to deepen that view.

So when explaining what you can offer to your clients, it’s important to sell yourself in a way that is not confusing to people and that won’t come off like you are out to make a quick buck. You want to present yourself as someone who has clients' best interests at heart and can help them to avoid getting into bad deals or making bad financial decisions.

Rise Above the Robos

As everyone in the industry knows, the use of robo-advisors is on the rise. It’s easy to understand why. These online algorithm-based financial wizards are less expensive to use than signing on with a human professional, and they tend to offer many similar services that their human counterparts do. It’s up to the people who actually work in the financial advisory business to prove to potential clients that they can offer more than a robot can.

For example, a computer program can shuffle a bunch of numbers around and come up with an appropriate investment portfolio for the client to try. But it takes a human being to really sit and analyze what is best for a particular client based on his or her goals, dreams, work prospects and the lifestyle he or she is looking forward to living. (For related reading, see: What Advisors Can Learn from Robo-Advisors.)

Advisors can also offer a whole variety of services that robo-advisors can’t, like face-to-face meetings to discuss insurance policies and tax planning. Advisors should make sure to emphasize these services as much as they can during the initial meeting with a prospective client. 

Be Upfront About Fees

Again, having lived through the most recent financial crisis, many people today are suspect of the financial industry and want to make sure they aren't being taken for a ride. So it’s up to the advisor to be very clear when explaining how they charge clients. Will they charge a percentage of a client's overall portfolio? Will clients have to pay a retainer? Will they be charged by the hour? If you are clear with potential clients about how your payment structure works, they won’t have to spend time wondering about it.

The financial advisory business is a serious one. It’s about protecting people’s hard-earned money and helping them figure out a path toward a successful financial future and comfortable retirement. But if the talk you give to potential clients is too doom and gloom, you may end up scaring them off. Try to make a first meeting enjoyable, positive and fun. Lighten things up and let people know that the services you are offering them are meant to help them accomplish their dreams, not destroy them. Let people know that if they feel lost in terms of their financial prowess that it’s not a problem; that is what you're there for.

The Bottom Line

When talking to potential clients, make sure you answer all of their questions and delineate the services you can provide to help get them back on track to accomplish their goals. Be accessible and forgo the sales pitch. (For related reading, see: How to Help Single Clients Plan for Retirement.

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