Let Your Prospects’ Purpose Set Your Pace


Initial meetings with prospects need to have a different pace, depending on whether they are likely ideal potential clients or simply tire kickers.

  • Know in advance how you will manage the meeting as soon as you determine what this person actually wants from you.
  • Be comfortable being clear, but changing the pace of your conversation as appropriate for the situation.
  • Have your wording dialed in to show tire kickers you’re a professional, you always offer value (as demonstrated by what you will give them to take away with them), yet you have clients who truly value what you do, and you are eager to get back to helping them.

Related: STOP. DOING. THIS. NOW. It’s Not What Your Clients Need Most


When meeting with a prospective client for the very first time, the conversation is often a little more nuanced than what you might expect. Here’s how to make the most of these opportunities.

Advisors often ask me how they can better transition from small talk to getting down to business.

You need to know who you’re talking with, and, obviously, you need to know what they’re actually looking for so you can determine exactly how you can help them. . .

For instance, if you are talking with a referral from a great client, who you already know is likely to be an ideal client, you’re going to first mention that mutual relationship. You want to make them feel that you are interested in and listening to every word they’re saying and that you have enough time to hear where they’re coming from. However, there also needs to be some degree of urgency to get to the point of what they’re looking for and how you can help them, and you need to be direct with those questions. So after you’ve had that initial small talk, maybe mentioning the referral partner that you have in common, let them know, “So what is it we can help you with most?” “What is it that is concerning you most?” or “Tell us more about your financial landscape so we can see if this is really going to be a great fit for you and for us.” These are words you can use to gently transition the conversation, while clearly giving the sign that you’re ready for both of you to get down to business.

If you’re meeting with someone who has set up an appointment with you after simply seeing your website or hearing about you from a casual friend in a social group, or even if they are a referral from a great client but they seem more likely to just want to come in and kick the tires rather than actually seriously consider working with you, you need to ascertain why they have come to see you. So you may more quickly get to the question, “So, how we can best help you?” or “What brings you to us today?” And, then if their answer is along the lines of, “We’re pretty well taken care of. We just wanted to know what you guys offer,” you immediately know you are moving down a specific track where you’re want to be clear, but you also want to possibly end this conversation more quickly. This approach might possibly surprise them, but you want to ascertain how interested they truly are by seeing if they nibble at what you mention about how you help your clients.

For instance, you can simply explain,

“There are two pieces to our business—the financial planning component and the investment management piece. To start with, we see the financial planning component as more important than the investment management side because everything we do hinges on that. We look at issues like cash flow. While the investment management piece is important, it’s most important to know how much you keep of what you gain, which involves taxes and estate planning and things like that. We have conversations with our clients about Social Security, the cash flow implications there, about Medicare. And especially for our clients who are approaching age 64 or 65, we’re getting them ready to take this next step. So those are some of the things that we deal with with our clients—actually, they’re more like family—but those are some of the ways we help the people we work with.”

You’ve clarified enough to show them there might be some issues that they’re not hearing about from their existing advisor. You’ve mentioned Social Security, you’ve mentioned Medicare. And you’ve also added some haste—some intentional pacing—to the conversation, politely signaling that this is going to come to an end fairly quickly.

However, you never want to leave someone who has come to see you empty-handed. So before you end the meeting, leave them with something like a copy of something like this, The Facts of Your Life, a fillable planner, which allows people to record their and end-of-life desires and personal details they want to be able to hand to the person who is involved with their estate planning or who is going to be inheriting their estate, such as a child who will be responsible for taking care of their estate needs. Regardless of whether this person meeting with you comes on board to work with you, you want them leaving with something that shows you’re all about value, and you take these situations seriously.

So to do this most effectively,

1. Be prepared for several scenarios. If the person you’re meeting with is an ideal potential client from a great referral, you know that you are going to be pressing a little more deeply to see exactly how their finances are set up.

2. Be comfortable clearly explaining how you work, but changing the pace. If they’re an ideal client for you, again, the meeting is going to go at a slightly different cadence, where it’s more of a to-and-fro conversation. If it’s someone who’s purely tire-kicking, wanting to know whether you like Google over Apple or what you think Musk might do next, you’re bringing the meeting to a close pretty quickly. They’re not going to be a great fit, so you increase the tempo, provide some important bullet points of how you help, then give them something, and let them be on their way.

3. Have the wording dialed in so as soon as you realize that this isn’t going to be a good fit, you know the track you’re going down, and it’s happening like clockwork. You’re a professional; you’ve got clients waiting on you to get back to their situation. You want to end this meeting appropriately, give them something to take away, and then move on to helping the clients who value you most.