Initial outreach to a financial advicer rarely (if ever) results from a prospective client waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because they just figured out that they're in desperate need of a comprehensive financial plan. Rather, prospects often reach out to set an initial appointment only when they realize they have a specific pain point that they need an advicer's help with. It's during that first meeting that an advicer has an opportunity not only to demonstrate how they can help the prospect solve whatever problem they may be experiencing but also to gain valuable insight into the prospects themselves so that they can begin laying the foundation for what could evolve into a long-lasting professional relationship. Apart from spending time during the first meeting only to gather facts about the prospect, advicers can also utilize a variety of techniques to focus on who the prospect is, start building rapport, begin to establish a meaningful connection, and even set the stage for emotional buy-in.
In a discovery meeting, advicers have a short period of time to gain a deeper understanding about the prospect and establish a connection that will motivate them to become a client. And by asking good questions during that initial meeting, an advicer can learn about a prospect's main concerns and what sort of advice they need. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by asking questions that encourage the prospect to pause and reflect more deeply on the issue at hand. Such 'reflection' questions ask an individual to reflect on whatever information they've just offered in order to find personal meaning in what they've shared and why it's important to them. They are particularly effective in building rapport, because the simple act of asking reflection questions shows that the advicer has been listening closely and is interested in the prospect as a person, not just a potential client.
At a basic level, reflection questions are often framed as "this or that" statements which offer 2 ideas for the prospect to consider. Part of an advicer's job is helping prospective clients gain clarity around their goals, and it often takes several meetings for those goals to become well-defined. However, "this or that" questions can help break down daunting issues (like what a fulfilling retirement might look like for the prospect) by offering just 2 scenarios that they might consider as viable options for what their future might look like, with the caveat that alternatives are always available if neither felt 'right'.
Alternatively, advisers can introduce reflection questions using the phrase, "it seems" as a way to rephrase and summarize something a prospect said in order to elicit additional thoughts. The "it seems" framework is particularly useful when prospects need help prioritizing multiple goals. For instance, an advicer might observe that "it seems that saving for your child's education is important, but it also seems that you're concerned about whether or not you'll be ready for to retire when you want." Notably, such reflection questions aren't meant to tell the prospect which issue is more important, but rather, are meant to help the prospect identify their own reasons for how they should prioritize their goals.
Ultimately, the key point is that reflection questions can be used to help prospects identify the actions they can take to make progress toward their goals, narrow down which of their goals will be the most impactful, and offer prospects the motivation to stick with their financial plan. Finding the motivation to move forward is challenging when the path is unclear, and reflection questions can help prospects find clarity around their values and goals, which can also help them appreciate the value that a financial advicer brings to the table as a valued partner in their journey towards their long-term goals!