Your first in-person meeting with a potential client is important because it’s where you present yourself and your ability to serve your clients’ needs. But impressing a potential client needs to happen before the first handshake. In fact, there are several steps you can take to show your best face to a client even before you meet in person.

Do Your Research

Well before the first meeting takes place, it’s your job to do some research on the potential client. Find out what this person cares about most. What is he looking for in terms of financial and estate planning? Also, what are his hobbies, interests and dreams for the future? All of this can come into play when you discuss financial planning options. It also will show that you care about the individual as a person and are curious about his goals — not only as a client, but also as someone seeking a fulfilling life and a secure financial future. (For more, see: What Kind of Financial Plan Makes Sense for You?)

You may be able to read about your client and their interests on the various social media platforms online. You also should do some research on the individual's place of work by looking at the company’s website. Where a client works can tell you a lot about the type of pressures the individual may be under and how she looks at the marketplace. It also may show you what some of her concerns may be about the business in which she works. (For more, see: 5 Services to Usher in New Clients.)

Reveal Your Professionalism

Once you’ve had an initial phone conversation with your client, it can’t hurt to send him a personally written letter or email, expressing that you enjoyed speaking with him, and that you look forward to meeting him in person to discuss his financial future and goals. You also should send him your business card and provide all your contact information, in case he wants to reach you before the first meeting. Sending your own bio or curriculum vitae to a potential client is also a plus, as it allows the client to learn more about you and your qualifications and to see that you are a person who has built a career, just like them. (For more, see: Financial Planners: Practice What You Preach.)

It’s also a good idea to send all potential clients a financial questionnaire to fill out, which they can return to you for review before the initial meeting. After reviewing the questionnaire you will be better prepared to talk about how the client may want to move forward in terms of placing her assets and managing her estate. Other documents you may want to request the client bring to the first meeting are her tax returns and account statements. And be prepared to answer questions. By reviewing the client’s answers to the financial questionnaire you should be able to foresee what some of her questions for you may be. (For more, see: Vital Questions Advisors Should Ask New Clients.)

Make It Easy to Find You

Before the first meeting, double check with the client to ensure that he knows exactly where you are meeting him, be it at your offices or some other location. Provide the client with directions and a map, so there is little chance he will get lost. It’s also a good idea to give the potential client a call the day before the meeting to remind him of the time and where the meeting is taking place and to find out if he has any other questions for you before the meeting. Don’t forget to express that you look forward to meeting him and let him know that you are confident you will be able to meet his financial planning needs. (For more, see: Top Tips for Winning New Clients.)

Prepare for First Impressions

If you are meeting in your office, let your staff know the name of the potential client and the time she is expected. This way she can be greeted immediately and in a personal manner when she enters the office. Have someone on staff offer her a beverage and, of course, make sure you are on time. You don’t want a potential client to have to wait for you, before she has even met you. And don’t forget to dress in a professional manner and make sure your office is clean and organized. (For more, see: Why Clients Fire Financial Advisors.)

Bottom Line 

First impressions do count, and that’s why you have to prepare for your first meeting with a client. Get to know as much as you can about a prospective client before you meet her, and let her know you are preparing for the first meeting and are ready to answer her questions.