Advisors are most successful when they do one thing above all else: work in close partnership with clients over time.

To ensure you are consistently giving this close attention, you should take them through a series of five relationship-building meetings that are designed to win, service and retain clients. And they could ultimately lead to numerous opportunities for referrals.

Let’s take a close look at each of these crucial meetings, and how they should be run to achieve the best results.

1. The Discovery Meeting
The foundation of true wealth management is the ability to accurately uncover clients’ key financial and personal needs. Without this skill, all the specialized financial expertise in the world won’t matter.

To comprehend a prospective client’s full situation, your first meeting should be a total-profile interview. Ask questions that will reveal their values, goals, key relationships and interests, as well as their assets. You should also ask them about any other advisors they work with, and try to understand what they value about these advisors.

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The 5 must-have meetings with clients
Taking a strategic approach can earn referrals and more assets to manage, according to columnist John J. Bowen Jr.

Sometimes a prospect will wonder why you ask for such detailed information during a first meeting. But after you present them with a plan that reflects their answers to those deep- discovery questions, they will usually see the value.

2. The Investment Plan Meeting
Here you present the prospect with a detailed investment plan based on what you learned in the discovery meeting. The plan will establish you as a knowledgeable and thorough professional, and also serve as a financial roadmap for prospective clients.

The plan should include:

  • The prospect’s long-term needs, objectives, values and time horizon.
  • The level of risk the prospect is willing to accept in any one-year period without terminating the program.
  • The rate-of-return objective and the investment methodology and asset classes that will be included.

After you have presented the plan, ask the prospect if they feel positive about going forward with the relationship. Many prospects will respond yes.

But this doesn’t mean you have to ask them to come aboard as clients just yet. Instead, ask them to take the plan home and review it carefully so they can be sure they want to proceed. This, of course, goes against the conventional advisor wisdom of “always be closing.” But it tells the prospect you are not just a salesman, and helps set groundwork for a trusted long-term relationship.

3. The Mutual Commitment Meeting
As the name suggests, the goals are to make the commitment to work together and execute all agreements needed to do so. You can also use this meeting to obtain introductions to other qualified prospects.

Open it by asking the new client whether they have any questions about the investment plan. As you respond, be ready to offer proof statements, such as articles and books that are aligned with your philosophy and that address any issues the prospect might raise. Then execute the documents. You should be sure to have all paperwork prepared in advance.
Once your prospect is a client, you should immediately begin to leverage the relationship by asking for introductions to other potential clients. Because your new client is impressed enough to trust you with their financial future, they may be very willing to provide the names of qualified prospects. The best approach is to offer a complementary second-opinion portfolio review service for the client’s friends and associates.

4. The 45-Day Follow-up Meeting
It’s easy for a new client to become overwhelmed by financial paperwork in the weeks following the implementation of the investment plan. This fourth meeting allows you to help the client understand and organize the forms.

To do that, create in advance a tabbed organizer with sections for statements, your regular progress reports and any other types of communication you offer (such as your newsletter). Explain what each tabbed section is for, and place each document in the appropriate section, showing the client how to read each one as you do.

Finally, set up the next meeting, explaining that it will be your first review of the client’s progress toward meeting their goals. Let the client choose the time interval for these regular progress meetings. If the client is unsure of what the timeline should be, recommend that you meet quarterly.

5. Regular Progress Meetings
Here you’ll assess the client’s progress by taking these steps:

  • Ask about major changes in the client’s personal or financial life. A job change, divorce or recent death in the family, for example, may all require adjustments to your client’s wealth management plan.
  • Review the client’s investment position and progress relative to the investment plan. Have the most up-to-date information available about the client’s current position. Review their progress, pointing out any significant changes since your last meeting. Explain performance, both absolute and relative to the appropriate market benchmarks. Contrast this performance to the expectations outlined in the wealth management plan.
  • Review advanced planning needs. Use these meetings to discuss the client’s advanced planning priorities, such as estate planning or charitable gifting. Offering full, personalized service has become an important differentiator for any advisor. For example, you might consider reviewing a client’s needs in partnership with a team of experts in areas such as tax and estate planning.
  • Ask for additional assets. This is the time to do what few advisors ever do: Ask the client, who should now have full trust in you and your abilities, if they have additional assets you can manage.

Clearly, this wealth management process requires more time than some other methods. But this time spent yields substantial dividends.
Advisors who hold these meetings are perfectly positioned to build high-quality relationships with their clients, which should lead to more referrals, greater revenue and a healthier practice overall.

John J. Bowen Jr.

John J. Bowen Jr.

John J. Bowen Jr., a Financial Planning columnist, is founder and CEO of CEG Worldwide, a global coaching, training, research and consulting firm for advisers in San Martin, California. Follow him on Twitter at @CEGAdvisorCoach.