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By David RichmanManaging Director, Advisor Institute

Do many of your first meetings end with the prospective clients saying, "Let us think about it"? If so, you may have what we call mushy pipeline syndrome—a devasting disease that can zap your spirit and time efficiency.

The seeds of a mushy pipeline are sown in a first meeting. Many advisors admit to simply "winging it" in first meetings based on the direction the prospective client seems to want to take things. Whether a first meeting occurs in person or virtually, we believe the same fundamentals apply for running purposeful, coordinated, and conclusive first meetings.

Let's look at the flow for an hour-long meeting:

  • Step 1.With the rarest exception, first meetings start with small talk. It gets things started and is especially important for establishing rapport in virtual meetings. Limit it to five minutes or fewer.
  • Step 2.Articulate the purpose of the meeting. This should take about two minutes; however, we suggest you allow for five, as there's a good chance you'll run past five minutes of small talk. Make sure that by the end of 10 minutes, you've finished the small talk, described the purpose of the first meeting, and importantly, gained the prospective client's consent regarding the meeting's purpose.
  • Step 3.The client interview is at the heart of a better first meeting and takes about 40 minutes. By the end of the client interview, you should have developed a historical perspective of and strong insights into how the prospect's life and money intersect with their past, present, and future.
  • Step 4."Why us?" This should only take five minutes. This is the time to succinctly spring your value to life within the context of what you just learned is most important to them, peppering in specifics of their story. Delivering this eloquently likely creates a moment of inflection as the prospective client begins to understand and appreciate what you could mean in their lives.
  • Step 5.We're down to our last step—only five minutes to go or no-go. This is when you ask, "How do you feel about taking the next step?" In contrast to asking, "What do you think?", asking people how they feel takes them to another place—a deeper, more personal place.

Note that the "close" in a first meeting should actually happen during the client interview (step 3), with you focusing on deep discovery, forging strong connectivity, and developing great chemistry.

Bottom line: Grow your business without being perceived as a salesperson by following these five steps to better first meetings.