Start Your First Meetings With These Questions

When I start a meeting with prospective clients by asking this one question, I am amazed at the response and where the conversation goes. This question works because it’s a fail-safe way to start a chat that quickly turns into a real conversation. And that’s what we, as advisors, are looking for––to invite people to get to the heart of the matter and share what’s most important to them. And, once I ask this opening question, I have a few follow-up questions that I ask.

These questions came from the book The Coaching Habit by Michael Stanier. The book actually includes seven crucial questions for coaches to ask their clients, but I picked out the top ones for advisors. These questions are how we have opened meetings at our firm, Streamline Financial, for the last four years and we have been so encouraged by the relationships with our clients in that time.

The First Question

This first question is very simple. It’s just, “so, what’s on your mind?” Once you say those four words, just be quiet and you’ll be amazed at the information that they start to share with you. Why does it work so well? It’s a question that really says, let’s get to the thing that matters most about you.

I’ve actually never had a dead-end answer like, I just want to plan for retirement, or I just need help with my financial planning. Usually, the prospective client will talk for several minutes and while they’re talking, all I’m doing is writing down what I hear, the problems that they have and what they need help with.

Then there are some crucial follow-up questions that I ask. These questions really move the conversation even deeper.

Follow-Up Questions

Once they’re done answering the first question, I just say, “and what else?” This innocuous question invites them to go a little bit deeper. It helps them to become more self-aware of the problems they want to solve and the help that they might be looking for. And you can actually ask this question a few times, until they say, “I don’t think there’s anything else.”

Then, depending on what came up in answering your initial questions, there are two different questions that you could ask next, depending on which one fits better in your current conversation.

Sometimes I’ll ask, “so, what’s the real challenge for you here?” This is the question that will help them slow down so that you can spend time solving the real problem and not just the first problem that pops into their head.

Or, I’ll ask, “so, what do you really want?” This is direct and has the effect of pulling people to the desired outcome that they’re looking for in working with an advisor. Once you can see the destination, the journey becomes much clearer.

The Final Question

The last question that we ask to close out this series of opening questions is a great one to find out exactly what they would like in a relationship with you. This question is simply, “how would you like me to help you?” This forces them to make a direct and clear request and it stops you from thinking that you automatically know the best way to help them and leaping into action without understanding.

So, there’s a lot of questions to think about, but really the first one, “so, what’s on your mind” has been the best way to start our client conversations and first meetings with prospective clients.


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