How Top Advisors Build Strong Relationships in the First Meeting

If we don’t connect with new clients in the first meeting, we don’t really have a chance at helping them. There’s a simple strategy that we’ve been using at our firm to connect with people who we’ve never met before, whether it’s in person, over the phone, or on a video call.

Our industry has been at a disadvantage this year, really, since March 2020, when we had to move everything virtual. We’re not having many first meetings in person anymore. Not being in the same room with someone, whether it’s a first or second meeting, really make it a lot harder to connect. But there’s a simple thing that we can do to really build a strong relationship in that first interaction, even if it's on the phone.

It all has to do with the questions that we ask. It has less to do with the credentials behind our name, or the big firm that we work for, or even how smart we think we are. But the person that we are talking to feels connected when they know that we care; when we know something about them, their situation, or a problem that they have. There’s a specific question that we ask to show we care, but you actually really do have to care. You can’t fake this. Asking a question without being genuinely interested in the person sitting across from you or talking to you on the phone doesn’t work. You have to make sure that you’re fully present and you have a mindset of giving versus taking.

Here's the framework that we have been using and the question that we ask.

We used to ask this question very early on in the conversation with new prospective clients, but now we’ve moved it towards the end of the meeting because it really ends the meeting on a positive note. And we have a better chance of that happening when we ask this question at the end of the meeting.


“People won't remember what you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel.” ––Maya Angelou


What we do first is find out what’s most important to our new or prospective client, whether it’s a couple or an individual. In the meeting, as we’ve been talking, they may have mentioned their financial goals or the things that they are dreaming about which need money and planning to achieve. But just talking about goals doesn’t really get to the real motivation behind the things they’re planning for. In order to really connect, we need to know the why behind that goal. We need to know the emotional element that’s driving the financial goal. That makes a big, big impact if we know what that emotional part is. So, if you can encourage them to share their emotional connection, you’ll be doing something that most advisors are not doing.

You and I both know that we spend money on what we value most. And so do our clients. Some people might value family vacations, so they’re going to spend a lot more money on vacations than other people. But the people who are spending money on vacations don’t necessarily value the destination, or event, or the specific period of time. They’re really buying the memories that they’re creating and the bonds that they’re building with their family members.

So, how do we get to our clients’ values?

After going through our normal meeting and financial questions, once we have a pretty good idea if we can help them and what their next steps need to be, we ask if we can ask them a non-financial question. When they say, sure, we say, “Everybody has different perspectives when it comes to money and planning. Mine is different than yours, and I'm thinking about putting some recommendations together. But, before I do, it can really be helpful to understand your perspective around money. So, what's most important about money to you?”

And you may have heard this tactic before, from either Bill Bachrach or Carl Richards, but really this has been a great ending to the meeting. The client will usually need to think about it for a minute, and then respond with something about security or freedom, some base level need. Think of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, that first level. So, you follow up by saying, “that's interesting. What would you say is important about security to you?”

What ends up happening is that they move up the Hierarchy of Needs and the answers get more and more meaningful to them. They're sharing things with you that they're not sharing with other advisors they may be talking to. And this is how you build a strong connection in that first meeting.

Make sure that you write down the quotes, the things that they're saying specifically in this part of the meeting, and use those quotes on the One-Page Plan or whatever your next presentation is. This shows the client that you listened and you understand what is important to them which can go a long way in building a strong, connected working relationship going forward.

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