When an advisor prepares to meet a client, is it a logical experience or an emotional experience? I would have to say both, but probably 90% logical and 10% emotional.

When a client prepares to meet their advisor, is it a logical experience or an emotional one? Again both, but the scale is reversed with the emotional side dominating for the client. Would you say there is a bit of a disconnect with the way both sides prepare for and experience the meeting? Absolutely, and whose experience is more important? (Hint: If clients don't like the experience, they can leave). A client meeting shouldn't be planned for like a regular meeting. Client meetings are events.

  1. After the event a client may not actually applaud but ideally they will:
  2. Not fire you
  3. Do more business with you in the future
  4. Refer their friends to you

So how do you hold client meetings in away that creates a positive experience for the client, manages the client's emotional state and focuses on what you can control instead of what you can't control?
First, create a positive experience. The first step in creating a great experience is to pre-sell the meeting. Meetings can sometimes be viewed as an interruption or a necessary evil. The first step you should take is to email the meeting agenda about a week in advance. Seeing the agenda in advance is like seeing the preview at the movie theater, a small synopsis of what is to come.

Next, never make the client wait for you. As soon as the meeting is scheduled to start, it starts.

Finally, you need to look the part of a successful advisor. If you want to know what that means just turn on Bloomberg TV or CNBC. If that is not your style, I recommend it becomes your style if that is how you want to be perceived.

Also, offering refreshments and how you serve them are important, little touches. Knowing what the client drinks without having to ask and serving food and beverages in restaurant quality dishes—not Styrofoam or paper cups—is a subtle but important detail.

Now that you have pre-sold the meeting and set the stage let's discuss the how to manage the emotional side of things.

Never start a meeting with: "How have things been going" or "How are you?"

Boring, stale, heard it before, thank you very much.

Instead, ask an empowering question like, "What's the best thing going on with you since we last met?" or "I know last time we met you said you were going away. What was the most exciting thing you did on your trip?"

An empowering question isn't asked because you want to know the answer. It is asked because it makes the person answering focus on something positive, in turn making them feel good. If you want a list of other empowering questions, just drop me an e-mail and I'll send it. These questions should focus on things other than finance which you think the other person is interested in or even passionate about. Spend as much time as necessary until you see the client is really emotionally engaged. Does this mean you should ignore negative things? No, just don't start the meeting with them.

Once you get into the meeting agenda you may find things come up that are not pleasing to the client. Don't ignore them, don't try to give a glib answer and make sure the client knows you understand how they feel. You do that by listening to what the client is unhappy about. Don't interrupt. When they are completely finished do not jump in with a solution. Instead repeat what they said and ask them if you understood correctly. This means a lot, and only when they agree should you then proceed to offer a solution. When you try this you will be amazed at the results. However, what can you do when someone simply isn't getting the result they want and they feel badly about it?

You need to focus on what you can control, not what you can't control. You can't control the markets. You can control whether to buy or sell an investment, to evaluate risk tolerance, to change an asset allocation and manage cash flow issues. You can help the client control how they spend their money to manage expenses, how to manage risk using insurance and the things they can do now to better manage their tax situation next year. After you address any problems, get back to focusing on things you can control.

At the end of the meeting, always finish by asking what part of the meeting they liked best. That is exactly what they will be thinking about as they leave. If you did a good job and they tell you, it is just like getting a standing ovation.

Remember, this is primarily an emotional experience for the client. Begin by sending the agenda in advance and being prompt for the meeting. Always kick off the meeting by asking an empowering question before getting into the agenda. Once you get into the agenda, listen to any problems the client may be upset about without interruption and spoon it back before offering a solution. Finally, remember to always bring the focus back to what you can control instead of what you can't control.


Todd Colbeck is principal and founder of the Colbeck Coaching
Group, a subsidiary of General Business Center, Inc.
You can reach him at
this email address.