45 – Your client process – ‘onboarding’
Handling client enquiries
Your client’s experience with you actually starts before they make contact. Almost certainly, they will have looked you up online or spoken with someone about you. This is especially true for clients under the age of 50.
When client’s first make contact with you, this becomes a critical time in your relationship. Something about what they have seen or heard has made them want to talk to you. They have a problem and they want to see if you can fix it.
You can make or break the potential relationship right there.
Dover’s advice: try to convert every client enquiry into an initial client meeting. The easiest way to do this is to not charge for that meeting. Simply ask the client to come in for a no-obligation conversation about what they need and how you might help. If they say no to that, then they were never going to be your client anyway.
The first meeting
When clients make enquiries you do not know what they have in mind. Research has suggested that the most common reason that people contact a financial planner is to access assistance with budgeting and debt management – neither of which have traditionally been seen as the main interest are for financial planning assistance. (Think investment and insurance products when you think about what financial planners thought they were doing).
As a result, the first client meeting is not an opportunity for you to start telling the client that they need new or better life insurances, or that they are in the wrong super fund. Clients have their own understanding of what their problem is, and you will gain their trust and confidence much more quickly if you can solve that problem as a priority.
To do this, you need to listen more and talk less, especially to begin with. Sit your potential client down and open up the meeting with a simple: ‘how can I help?’ Let the client tell the story in their own way. Interrupt only if you have to, and only to get more clarity about what your client is saying.
Then, when it comes time for you to speak, address what the client has told you. Solve the problem, at least to the extent that you can. This is the best way to bring that client on board.
Sure, you will have some meetings that do not result in billable work. But, done well, the meeting will at the very least make you a friend. Even if you cannot help that person, the fact that you took time to hear about their problem gives you a chance of having them recommend you to someone else. And every client can teach us something; an hour spent with a client is never a waste of time.