In recent years, financial advisors have increasingly recognized that making a personal connection with prospective clients early in the process (as soon as the very first introductory meeting) can make it more likely that the prospect will eventually become an engaged, motivated client. And so advisors often get personal with prospects early – in many cases asking them questions about their personal memories, attitudes, and psychology around money (e.g., “What is your earliest money memory?”) – with the aim of showing interest in the prospect as a person beyond the numbers on their balance sheet (which would theoretically serve to build an open, trusting relationship, and the kind of personal connection that the advisor wants to develop).
But in reality, asking such personal questions in an initial meeting (before any foundation of trust is built) can ironically have the opposite effect of what the advisor intended. Because diving into personal psychological profiles when the prospect may already feel anxious and vulnerable about meeting with an advisor could – from the prospect’s perspective – feel overly intrusive and ultimately put them off toward the advisor.
Furthermore, prospects also may have priorities on their minds going into the initial meeting other than their psychology around money. Often, there is a significant, concrete problem in their financial life that has pushed them to reach out to a financial advisor. And when solving this problem is foremost in a prospect’s mind, having the conversation shift to money psychology can feel to the prospect as though the advisor is not listening to what they have to say – the exact opposite of the feeling of open communication that most advisors hope to invoke in prospective clients.
In the initial prospect meeting, then, all that really matters is answering this question for the prospect: “Can – and how – will this advisor solve my problem?” The advisor can help the prospect answer this question by focusing on that problem for the entire meeting: first, by learning what caused the prospect to initially reach out and exploring that problem in depth; then by describing the advisor’s services and planning process as it relates to solving the problem. And by focusing solely on the prospect’s problem, advisors can hold an efficient initial prospect meeting – lasting around 30 minutes – that gets to what really matters for the prospect and gives both parties the information they need to decide how to move forward.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that prospective clients often want to talk about the problem that has caused them to reach out – after all, that’s what pushed them to overcome any fears and schedule a meeting with a financial advisor in the first place! And keeping the conversation centered around that problem helps to keep the prospect talking, continually reinforcing that they have a problem that indeed needs to be addressed (and that the advisor can help them solve it!). Letting the prospect talk freely about what is important to them in that moment – with the advisor listening empathetically and reflecting that information back to them – can establish the strong personal connection that many advisors seek, creating a foundation of trust to build on, which can – at the right moment – include discussions of money psychology… but only after building up enough trust and preparing the client for having those conversations!