5 ways to improve your first client meeting

by Rakhee Ghelani April 6, 2016

You may think you’ve got a great meet-and-greet style with new clients, but there are always ways to improve. Making that first meeting as productive as possible will set you up for a great working relationship. While you already know the basics, here are five further tips for getting off on the right foot.

1. Research

To help you familiarise yourself with your new client, consider sending them a short questionnaire to complete before the meeting. While no one likes filling out forms, most will appreciate your diligence. You can use an online tool like Survey Monkey to create a brief multiple-choice questionnaire about their short- and long-term financial goals.

While you’re reviewing the information you have from them, take note of their specific circumstances and use that as your starting point in the meeting. This will avoid irritating your client by asking them to repeat information they’ve already provided.

Please note that you must comply with privacy legislation when collecting personal information from clients.

2. Set an agenda

After the initial introductions, demonstrate your professionalism by taking control of the meeting and setting an agenda. While you do this every day, some people may get anxious when discussing their finances and feel reassured when they understand what to expect. Outline briefly how the meeting will run, what you anticipate the outcome will be and how long you expect it will take. Also let them know there will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions.

3. Focus on the client’s goals

At the outset make sure you ask them why they’ve decided to speak to a mortgage broker, and then why they chose you specifically. This can help clarify their goals and allows you to find out some useful information, such as whether you’re the first or third broker they’ve visited. If it’s the latter, ask them why they changed brokers so you can hopefully avoid the same issue.

Once you start the meeting, carry out a needs analysis of your client in order to gather the information required to recommend a suitable loan. Make sure you have an appropriate template that covers everything off. Note that this needs analysis is a mandatory requirement for all brokers.

Focus on what the client is telling you they want, not what you think is best for them. Use active listening and open ended questions, like “Tell me about what you would like to achieve”, to let the client lead the conversation. Discuss features that meet their financial situation and goals. If you genuinely feel the client would be better served by reassessing their goals, this conversation needs to be carefully managed. You can bridge the conversation using their goals as a base with phrases such as, “Another alternative worth thinking about given your circumstances is…”

4. Read the client

While your client is talking, be aware of other clues they may be giving you about how they’re feeling. People react in different ways, and an explanation of negative gearing that was understood by one client may not be clear for another. Reading non-verbal cues isn’t easy. Look at their body language. Are they slumped in a chair or tuning out? Perhaps they’re hesitating to ask questions. You can then say something like “It’s a difficult topic; let me explain it another way” to win them back.

If you’re meeting with more than one person, you may also need to work out who the actual decision-maker is. This may not be the person asking all the questions or the most senior person at a business. If you’re still not sure at the end of the meeting, you can always ask them what their decision-making process will be when you wrap up.

5. End the meeting with a summary and next steps

Relaying key information and decisions made during the meeting will reduce any chance of misunderstanding or confusion. A summary email, best sent within a few hours of the meeting, keeps the lines of communication open and demonstrates your positive intent. Reiterate what you will follow up for them, and any information they will need to provide you before your next meeting to keep the momentum going and seal your commitment to them. If you’re on the road a lot, perhaps give them peace of mind by providing them with a secondary contact point in your office as well.

You can also add more value to them at this time by offering to work directly with their other advisors. By liaising directly with their financial planner or accountant, you may not only help them find the best solution, but may also save them valuable time and effort, so ask for these contact details as well.

These simple steps will go a long way towards helping you set a great tone in that all-important first client meeting, and will greatly enhance the chance of having second and subsequent meetings.

If you’d like to further explore ways you can enhance your first customer experience, talk to your Business Development Manager.

Also, if you’ve used some tips or tools to successfully run an introductory meeting, tell us below about your experience.

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Rakhee Ghelani

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Rakhee Ghelani is a freelance writer who also has nearly 20 years’ international experience developing and implementing strategic initiatives for some of Australia’s largest brands in banking, manufacturing and professional services. She has travelled to over 50 countries and has been published internationally.

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