How We Changed Our First Meeting

In a first meeting with new clients, here’s what I used to do. I thought I had to prove credibility with some letters after my name, years in the business, or how much I knew. But clients in the first meeting or on the first call don’t care about that stuff yet.

We used to talk a lot and explain what we do and how awesome it is. But now, we try to talk just about 10 percent of the time and everything we say is just a question.

When it came to solving problems, we tried to explain our value to the potential client by helping them and actually giving advice in the first meeting. Now we don’t do that. It's like something Carl Richards will say about a guy who goes to the podiatrist because his foot hurts. And right away, the podiatrist writes a prescription and gives advice on what to do, without even hearing exactly what the problem is. We don’t want to prescribe without thoroughly diagnosing, so we don’t solve problems anymore in the first meeting.

The First Meeting

We don’t invite anyone to the office for this meeting–we have an intro call. We realized there are people calling in who we can’t help, so we want to help who we can, but we also need to pre-qualify them. The first meeting call does that and it’s free.

What we want to find out on this call is first, where are they coming from? Maybe a CPA relationship or a client referral?

Second, the kickstart question, comes from a book called The Coaching Habit which outlines the only seven questions you need to ask somebody when you’re in a consultative arrangement with them. And this kickstart question is for anybody who calls in or even someone I meet at a networking event. A lot of times when I’m talking to someone and mention that I’m a financial guy, they’ll say, oh, I really need to talk to someone like you. The same question I ask all the time is, Oh, what’s on your mind?

It's that simple. That’s the question I open every conversation with. It’s amazing what they’ll start talking about. Their first thing is often a base level (consider the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) or what they need immediately. Then I follow up by asking, And what else? And I’ll actually ask that three times and we learn so much from clients. It’s amazing the sort of stuff that comes out of such a simple question. We learn how much debt they have, what they’re looking for, and goals they have.

The final question I ask is, How would you like me to help? The clients will say exactly what they’re looking for from me, and we can move forward together. It sounds simple, but it’s really been working for us.

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