From First Consultation to Lifelong Partnership: Building Lasting Client Relationships

The first consultation with a potential client is like a first date. It’s a chance to make a strong impression, build trust, and pave the way for a deep and lasting relationship. However, while some first dates lead to lifelong partnerships, others might end in a simple handshake with no follow-up. The difference often lies in your approach and genuine interest in that first meeting. 

For financial advisors, the stakes in the first consultation are high. It’s an opportunity to transform a lead into a client, and more importantly, to cultivate a long-term mutually beneficial partnership.  Except in the case of hourly or one-time planning services, signing a new client is rarely a transaction resulting in payment for a deliverable.  Multiple years or even decades of income are on the line.

Make the most of your consultations 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to increase the successful outcomes of this crucial meeting:

1. Pre-consultation communication

The prospect’s experience prior to the consultation can be as important as the actual meeting.  

  • Have you screened appropriately, either through questions on your scheduling form or by an assistant asking questions before putting someone on your calendar?  
  • Are expectations for the meeting clearly set?  Have you sent an agenda for review?
  • Did the prospect receive a welcome kit to help them understand how you help and what their investment is prior to the meeting?  
  • Do they know what information to provide prior to or at the meeting to make it worthwhile?  
  • Has your assistant confirmed the appointment to elevate the commitment of the prospect? 

2.  Your pre-consultation homework 

Before your meeting, spend time researching your potential new client. While you may assert that learning about the client is the purpose of the consultation, take a few minutes to see what you can learn about them in advance.  Five minutes on Linkedin and a quick google search can make all the difference.  This preparation shows your interest and gives you more context to shape a meaningful conversation.

3.  Make the environment comfortable 

If you’re meeting at your office, be sure to take the full experience into consideration from the time the person enters the building through to when they leave.  What do they see?  What might they feel or hear?  Set up an environment that is welcoming and comfortable. Consider the examples in the picture below.  

A zoom or phone meeting also requires intentional design.  Are you in a quiet place?  How is your sound quality?  IF you’re on camera, do you have reasonable lightning?  Is your background neat and professional (if not, have you turned on the blur)?  Make sure if you use a branded background your logo facing the right way for your viewer.    

4. Be on time 

With many more first-time meetings occurring on zoom or over the phone, make sure you give your potential client the courtesy of showing up on time.  They should not have to sit and view a “the host will let you in soon” message for more than the few seconds it takes to connect them.  If you are meeting at your office, be available a few minutes early so you are ready to go when they arrive.  

5.  Relieve the tension upfront 

Before launching into the meeting agenda, make your guests and yourself comfortable by stating upfront what will happen at the end of the meeting.  If your process does not including ask for commitment in a consultation, be certain to say at the start, “I will not ask you whether or not you want to work with us in today’s meeting.  It is simply for us to get to know each other.”  If you do invite someone to become a client during this meeting, eliminate the mystery and tell them, : “I want to be transparent from the start. At the end of this discussion, we will explore whether this is a good fit. But there’s no pressure to make a decision on the spot.”  

6.  Lead with listening

The objective of the consultation is for you to demonstrate value whether or not you work together.  This starts with listening. Hearing where they feel pain and understanding their aspirations will set the stage for the rest of the conversation.  Actively listen to their responses, refraining from interrupting or immediately offering solutions. Instead, take notes, paraphrase and ask for clarifications. By leading with listening, you not only gather critical information that will guide your subsequent recommendations, but you also build trust and rapport, positioning yourself as an advisor who genuinely values helping people.  

7.  Make the next step clear

As you near the end of the conversation, it is time to be clear on what the next step is.  If you believe this prospect is a good fit, say so. Invite them to take the next step. It may be to schedule the next meeting in your process or to review and sign an agreement  If they are not yet ready to commit to an action you’ve offered, let them know when and how you will follow-up.  For those who are not a fit, provide any resources you believe would help them.  In either case, express gratitude for taking time to open up about their financial life.  

8. Follow up with value

After the consultation, send a personalized thank-you note that reflects back what you heard from the conversation and briefly reminds how you can help. Include links to content or resources if you have any that align with what concerns or interests them. This not only shows your appreciation but also reinforces your expertise. (For those who are not a fit, simply send a concise thank you and any follow-up information you promised).  

9.  Persistence pays off

Even the most interested prospect may go radio silent.  More often than not, they get distracted by something else in their life and feel unable to focus on their finances.  Do not assume their silence is a no.  Follow-up at least three times within the first two weeks after the consultation, and then check in again each month up to six months.  Then, set a task to reach out every six months until you hear that they’ve hired someone else.  Of course, they will still receive your calendar-based communications that you send out to your list.  

First-time consultations are the foundation of a potential lifelong partnership. By focusing on genuine engagement, personalized solutions, and consistent value addition, financial advisors can transform these initial interactions into lasting relationships. 

Related: The 3x3 Rule for Maximizing Advisor COI Collaboration Efforts