Money is an emotionally charged topic, so advising people on how to invest, what to spend and when they can retire can be a challenge. Perhaps the most challenging part is easing into the topics that need to be discussed. In this article, we will take a look at how to handle your first meeting with a client. (For more, see: Advisors: Preparing for an Initial Client Meeting.)

Set the Right Boundaries for the Meeting

In order to have an efficient and effective first meeting with your client, you need to set the expectations from the start. Rather than inviting the client to lead with what they want and what their financial goals are, it often works better to outline what you do and do not offer as far as services. (For more, see: Want to Impress Clients? Show Your Due Diligence.)

For example: “I’m an investment advisor and I specialize in helping clients allocate their portfolio between different financial products in a way that meets their investment goals without taking on unnecessary risk. I don’t do comprehensive financial planning dealing with insurance needs, estate planning, or anything beyond the investment side.” This helps the client narrow in on what, specifically, they hope to get from you and saves you from a lengthy discussion about other aspects you don’t help clients with. (For more, see: Vital Questions Advisors Should Ask New Clients.)

Be Clear on Costs

Even if they don’t come right out and ask it, your potential client is wondering how much your help costs. Again, the safest thing is to be upfront about how you are compensated, whether that is commissions or fees. If you offer a wide-range of services and they have different compensation structures, this topic can get complex. (For more, see: Top Tips for Winning New Clients.)

The solution is to have a few typical customer examples – different services mixes and assets under management – to provide ballpark costs for those scenarios. This is enough to give the client an idea of the cost of the service you will provide and move the specifics to a later discussion once you know which services the client actually needs. (For more, see: How Advisors Can Fight Shrinking Management Fees.)

Relate the Numbers Back to Real Life

When a client says they are looking for a 10% annual return, they are really saying they have no idea what they actually want. Numbers only make sense in the context of a real life financial goal. (For more, see: Advisors: Have Clients Try on Retirement for Size.)

Encourage your clients to speak in terms of when they want to retire or what milestones they want to hit – debt free in x years, vacation property in the mountains, an annual family trip, paid education for kids, and so on. With this information you can provide some of the numbers that feed into these financial goals. (For more, see: How Advisors Can Help Clients Stomach Volatility.)

The Bottom Line

The key to any first meeting is setting expectations. By being upfront with your prospective client about your services and fees, you are framing the conversation for them and making sure that your time and theirs is being respected. (For more, see: Financial Advisor Tips: Talking to Clients.)

After that, it is all about understanding their goals and then figuring out the options to get them there. This may take further meetings to a complete picture of their financial activities, but from the start, the focus is on helping them meet goals – not just throwing around numbers. (For more, see: How to Impress Clients: The First Meeting.)

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